discovery story of Poecilia reticulata
All started when Julius Gollmer, a pharmacist from Germany, living in Caracas (Venezuela), caught some colorful little fishes in Rio Guayre (near Caracas) at 14/05/1856.
The passion of Gollmer was biology and therefore, in the years 1857-58, he sent some shipments with preparated animals of all kind, living animals and plants to Berlin to the Zoological Museum, the Zoo and the Botanic Garden.
The first delivery was honored with praise and 100 "Reichstaler" (bucks), but the Museum did take fundamentally less notice of the succeeding deliveries. Maybe they found too few highlights in them, or it was because the institute had to go through a change of the director. (W. Peters succeeded Mr. Liechtenstein who had died in 1857)
So the shipment that included the 61 little fishes from Venezuela was just put to the archives. The contact to Gollmer ended and Gollmer was not happy at all about this development. He eventually died 1861 in Venezuela without ever foreseeing the career his little Poecilids should make in the future.
In 1859 Peters examined the fishes
at last and made the first scientific description of them. He named the
species as Poecilia reticulata, but surprisingly he only described the
In 1866, Reverend John Lechmere Guppy, a mission on Trinidad, sent some fishes (males and females) to London, where A. GŁnther named the species Giradinus guppyi (not recognizing Peter's earlier description to be the same species). This was therefore the first scientific description of the guppy males.
In the museum collection in Berlin only
Gollmer's females were listed as Poecilia reticulata, two of Gollmer's
jars that contained also males were registered as Giradinus guppyi, which
obviously could only have happened after 1866.
The reason for leaving away the males by Peters is not understandable today. Gollmer was certainly no fish expert, but when catching the animals he should have noticed that the colorful males tried to mate with the females (which is always the case with guppies, even in a bad surrounding). Although he put both sexes in the same jar, a sign that he held them for one species.
The reason for the wrong sorting of the two jars containing both sexes in the collection was perhaps the lack of communication between Berlin and Gollmer. Peters should have known about the sexual dimorphism of Poecilids in 1859, as Heckel has described the two sexes of the green swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) as early as 1848, but without knowing that these animals are livebearing. This fact was recognized much later when Poecilids were kept in aquaria. (Another contribution from amateur aquarists to the biological science!)
In 1908 there was the first import of
living Guppies (as Giradinus guppyi) to Germany by Siggelkow. In the
following years the fish itself and the trivial name Guppy and
successfully spead worldwide and even survived C.T. Regan's revision of
the Genus Poecilidae in 1913 among fanciers. Then both the stocks from
Berlin and London were recognized to be the same species and renamed
Lebistes reticulatus (Thus acknowledging Peter's description as the first