As the second largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca stretches for more than 2 million acres with about 700 miles of shoreline on the borders of Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains. At 12,500 feet above sea level, it's also the highest lake that is still accessible to larger boats. The lake is also stocked with a number of fish, although most are not native to the waters.
The Orestias is one of two remaining fish native to the lake. A type of killifish, a number of Orestias still exist, although some are quite rare and one of the larger varieties, Orestias cuvieri, is most likely extinct. The last Orestias cuvieri, or Titicaca Orestias, was spotted in 1939. Orestias reach about eight to nine inches in length and feature stripes or bars infused with black. The fish have no ventral fin.
Trichomycterus is the other reamaining native fish in Lake Titicaca. Also a type of killifish, trichomycterus is a type of catfish. Trichomycterus is a bottom feeder that reaches about 14 inches in length. Like the Orestias, the Trichmycterus population has been largely depleted, pushed out by the other fish introduced to the lake.
In the 1930's and 40's, non-native fish were introduced to Lake Titicaca because they were more economically valuable than the native fish species. The native species have since become rare and endangered. Trout are the most common fish you can find in Lake Titicaca today, with varieties that include the brown trout, lake trout and rainbow trout. The trout were so economically viable that a commercial trout canning business opened in 1961, although it only lasted nine years.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.