Curator of Ichthyology
Texas Natural History Collections
of the Texas Natural Science Center
Section of Integrative Biology

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RESEARCH - My research focuses on conservation, ecology, evolution and biogeography of freshwater ecosystems, particularly those of North American deserts.

CUATRO CIENEGAS - Much of my time is now being dedicated to this incredible place about which you can learn much more via the web pages I publish. A series of videos, slide shows and stories produced by University of Texas also provide nice background, especially for the complex sustainability issues that confront the valley. Researchers should check the bibliography section, which I try to update regularly. You'll also find information there about the November 2005 meeting of the Desert Fishes Council meeting that I hosted in Cuatro Ciénegas (and will repeat in 2008). In 2004 I hosted the first meeting of Cuatro Ciénegas researchers. More recently, in May 2006, we opened the Cuatro Ciénegas Research Station. My own research has focused on the fishes, but I've recently diversified into invasive plant control since I'm afraid Arundo donax may one day severely impact the unique aquatic habitats of Cuatro Ciénegas. We're always open to including new participants in our projects. Subscribe to our Cuatro Ciénegas volunteers e-mail list if you'd like to receive notices of upcoming volunteer opportunities.

The following older links provide more information about Cuatro Ciénegas and the work that I am doing with colleagues and students:

  • Presentation at the 1998 meeting of the Desert Fishes Council
  • in press in a book to be published in 2006(?) gives a somewhat more recent overview of our work.
  • Radio Expeditions, a program of National Public Radio and National Geographic Society reported on our project and conservation in general in Cuatro Ciénegas in August 2001 - listen to the complete 9 minute report in RealAudio online.
  • An Earthwatch SCA project every year 2001 - 2004 took many high school students from around the U.S. to Cuatro Ciénegas.
  • Volunteers - We have involved many voluteers in Cuatro Ciénegas. We're always open to including new participants. Subscribe to our Cuatro Ciénegas volunteers e-mail list if you'd like to receive notices of upcoming volunteer opportunities.

CHIAPAS CATFISH - After about 5 years of work leading up to it, the mysterious Chiapas catfish is finally less mysterious, or at least has a name. On May 27, 2005 it was officially christened Lacantunia enigmatica, a member of the new monotypic family Lacantuniidae. A copy of the paper is freely available to anyone from the journal's web page ( - it's issue 1000). We have additional information on the All Catfish Project website ( - click on Lacantuniidae in the phylogeny), the Digimorph site (, and there's a Tree of Life page. More recently we've figured out via molecular techniques that the closest relative of Lacantunia is endemic to Africa! We're now looking into various hypotheses regarding that biogeographic conundrum.

MEXICAN TROUTS - I've also long been interested in the systematics and conservation status of Mexican native trouts. The most recent chapter in this story is discovery of the long-lost and now much endangered Conchos Trout (where you can find out how to help with this important project). A bit earlier we put out a review paper. These neglected, beautiful fishes are threatened in many ways, and we will continue work on them for many years. Joe Tomelleri has been our artist for this project (could anyone ask for better?), key field hand, and archives researcher. His own Mexican trout pages now have much of the story of this project.

MEXICAN BLINDCATS - Students and I have been working for a number of years on Prietella phreatophila, the Mexican blindcat, it's relatives and other critters that live in some really cool habitats. Check out information and images from our 1997 expedition. UT Digimorph kindly provided really cool high-resolution CT scans of the rarest of the two members of this genus that should facilitate future osteological studies. Our phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences of North American catfishes, including the two Prietella species (pdf), had some surprising results, and in summer of 2000 a pair of P. phreatophila kept in the lab surprised us by spawning, but then almost immediately consuming their eggs! Watch for our soon to be published blindcat webcam that we hope will help us (and others) keep a closer eye on the spawning pair. We will continue experimenting with these fascinating critters and continuing explorations for some time. More information about our work on cave critters in México can be found via  Jean Krejca's web pages, and in our 2001 overview paper on Prietella in Environmental Biology of Fishes. With some luck, our cave catfish/invertebrate work will expand into the Edwards Aquifer in the San Antonio region in the near future.

FISHES OF TEXAS - Work also continues on "The Freshwater Fishes of Texas" project: a book, CD-ROM, Web pages, online database, and museum exhibit (a preliminary version of which is already up in TMM). Watch for the public website for this project to appear soon!

TEACHING: I teach Ichthyology (in spring semesters) and Natural History Museum Science (fall) in the Section of Integrative Biology, where my official IB web page resides. I've also taught summer ichthyology at Texas State University in San Marcos in recent years and am adjunct faculty in Aquatic Biology there.


Graduate students:

  • Laura Dugan (Ph.D. program starting fall 2006)
  • Jean Krejca (Ph.D 2005) - biogeography and phylogenetic relationships of  cave catfishes and cave invertebrates as indicators of subterranean hydrologic relationships
  • Jennifer Howeth (Ph.D. program - Population biology and conservation of Terrapene coahuila, the endangered, endemic Cuatro Ciénegas box turtle.
  • Matt Stephens (M.S. 2003), Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos) - morphology, ecology and biogeography of the Cuatro Ciénegas cichlid, Herichthys minckleyi.
  • Dawn Johnson (Ph.D. 2001) - Acoustic behavior and geographic variation in longear sunfish Lepomis megalotis.
  • Adam Cohen (M.A. 2001) - behavioral ecology of the Cuatro Ciénegas cichlid, Herichthys minckleyi.


  • Jenny Birnbaum worked on age determination and growth rate reconstruction in the Cuatro Ciénegas cichlid, Herichthys minckleyi
  • Megan Noel (2003) continued Jenny's project.
  • Katrina Cohen worked on variation in oral jaw morphology in Herichthys minckleyi.and behavior of the Mexican blindcat.


DFC: I am former president, and currently editor and webmaster for the Desert Fishes Council.

UT Environmental Science Institute:Formerly Associate Director of this Institute created to facilitate and obtain funding for interdepartmental, multidisciplinary environmental research.

ASIH: I was Secretary of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) from 1995-1998. If you arrived here looking for ASIH information, see the ASIH pages.


VCard (.vcf format)
University of Texas J.J. Pickle Research Campus
Texas Natural History Collections

Building 176 / R4000
10100 Burnet Road
Austin, TX 78758-4445
Section of Integrative Biology
ESB 320
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station #C0930
Austin, TX 78712

phone (512) 471-9774; FAX (512) 471-9775
e-mail: deanhend at mail dot utexas dot edu (note that you'll have to replace "at" with "@" and "dot" with "." for this e-mail to work. This is just my probably futile attempt to thwart spammers).

PERSONAL: see the Hendrickson family Web page.