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FEATURE ARTICLE

Where the Xingu Bends and Will Soon Break

A hotly contested megadam threatens one of the world’s greatest assemblages of rapids-adapted fishes and homogenizes an incubator for evolutionary diversity.

Mark Sabaj Pérez

2015-11SabajPerezF1.jpgThe building of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in Brazil has been hotly contested. The dam will be one of the most powerful in the world, harnessing the energy of a circuitous set of interwoven turns in the river that create remarkable rapids and seasonal variability. The unique characteristics of the river have resulted in a singular assemblage of fishes specifically adapted to them. Ichthyologist Mark Sabaj Pérez has been involved in a race to document the aquatic fauna before the megadam goes into operation.


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