South America Caribbean Drainages - Trinidad




Paulo Petry, Jennifer Hales


Netherlands Antilles
Trinidad and Tobago

Major Habitat Type

Tropical and subtropical coastal rivers

Drainages flowing into

Caribbean Sea

Main rivers to other water bodies

Río Unaré, Río Upipe, Río Tocuyo, Río Aroa, Río Gupo, Río Uchire, Río Guaribe, Río Guare, Río Prespantal, and Río Ortoire



Encompassing a narrow area along the Caribbean coastal slope of northern South America, this ecoregion extends from the northern and eastern slopes of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (~730 W), the Guajira Peninsula of northeastern Colombia, across northern Venezuela to the Paria Peninsula draining the northern slope of the Perijá Andes and coastal ranges, and Trinidad Island.


This ecoregion contains the isolated mountain range, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, as well as the northern tip of the Cordilla de Perijá and coastal ranges, which are extensions of the Andes. Elevations range from sea level to over 5000 m in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Freshwater habitats

In the western deserts many aquatic habitats are ephemeral. The ecoregion includes many short, independent, usually clear and shallow rivers; coastal wetlands consisting of shallow bays, some with mangroves and/or salt flats; and some swamp forests and marshes.

Terrestrial habitats

Lower elevations are dominated by dry forest and xeric scrub and shrublands. Montane forests and páramo occur at higher elevations. Moist forest is found on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago as well as on Cerro Cerrón.

Description of endemic fishes

The endemic freshwater fish fauna from the Caribbean coastal drainages is dominated by Siluriformes with 17 species (55%), most notably 11 endemic species of the Loricariidae armored catfishes family. There are also endemic species of the genus Chaetostoma and related genera Cordylancistrus and Lasiancistrus.  Characidae is the second most specious group of endemic fishes, with the genera Bryconamericus and Creagrutus being the most notable.

Ecological phenomena

Two species of the migratory catfish genus Pseudoplatystoma occur in this ecoregion: P. metaense and P. orinocoense.

Justification for delineation

This ecoregion encompasses a group of drainages flowing directly to the Caribbean Sea that have a unique assemblage of fishes isolated from other large river systems in northern South America. It lies primarily within the Costa del Caribe ichthyographic province identified in Ringuelet (1975).

Level of taxonomic exploration



  • Buitrago–Suárez, U.A.;Burr, B. M. (2007). "Taxonomy of the catfish genus Pseudoplatystoma Bleeker (Siluriformes: Pimelodidae) with recognition of eight species" Zootaxa 1512 pp. 1-38.
  • Hijmans, R. J., S. Cameron and Parra., J. (2004) \WorldClim, Version 1.4 (release 3). A square kilometer resolution database of global terrestrial surface climate\ "<"[]">" (16 July 2009)
  • Lasso, C. A., Lew, D., Taphorn, D., et al. (2004). "Biodiversidad ictiológica continental de Venezuela. Parte I. Lista de especies y distribución por cuencas" Memoria de la Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales 159-160 pp. 105-195.
  • Lasso, C. A., Alonso, L. E., Flores, A. L., et al. (2004) Rapid Assessment of the Biodiversity and Social Aspects of the Aquatic Ecosystems of the Orinoco Delta and the Gulf of Paria, Venezuela 37> Conservation International : Washington, DC
  • Reis, R. E., Kullander, S. O. and Ferraris, C. J., Jr. (2003) Check List of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America Edipucrs : Porto Alegre, RS
  • Machado-Allison, A.;Fink, W. L. (1996). "Los Peces Caribes de Venezuela: Diagnosis, Claves, Aspectos Ecologicos Y Evolutivos" Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela.
  • Ringuelet, R. A. (1975). "Zoogeografía y ecología de los peces de aguas continentales de la Argentina y consideraciones sobre las áreas ictiológicas de América del Sur" Ecosur 2 (1) pp. 1-122.
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (2001) \Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World\ "<"">"