Regardless of their genetic makeup, electric blues are extremely popular fish that are being bred
in large numbers for the aquarium hobby.
Jack Dempsey juveniles. Finally, within
H. carpintis are its very distinctive set of
patterns and colorations, also similar to
electric blues. Certainly one would suspect
this last, blue-colored fish to be the best
choice, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be
similar in color to an electric blue for it to
have been the culprit.
It’s certainly possible the Jack Dempsey’s
blue foreground speckling is dominant,
and when crossed with a fish whose lighter
background is dominant, then electric blue
is what you get. It sounds good, but this
has yet to be proven to be the case. All
speculations about possible hybrid origins
and other supposed parental species being
involved are just that, speculations. There
have been accounts of people who have
successfully crossed R. octofasciata with
H. carpintis, and the results are nothing
similar to an electric blue. Perhaps with
subsequent backcrossing, one could attain
something similar to one, but this has not
been done to the best of my knowledge.
Why did the DNA analysis test only a tiny portion of DNA?
It always does. This is practical—testing takes time and money—but it is also sound
science. If crime scene investigators wanted to use DNA analysis to decide if a sample
was from a human or a chimpanzee, they would obviously focus on a sequence within
the 2 percent of the shared genes, not in the 98 percent we share. There must also be
reference samples for comparison, as in this case there were for all of the fish suggested
as possible parental species.
DNA testing never gives absolute answers to taxonomic questions. In fact, targeting
different genes can sometimes suggest different relationships among the species tested.
This is a useful tool, but it has limitations, and each subsequent analysis adds more
information. In this case, the DNA evidence strongly supports the claim that the blue
Jack Dempsey is simply a color morph, since the DNA from the blue fish matched that
of the Jack Dempseys and not that of any of the proposed other parental species.
As for arguments about how these fish look, keep in mind all New World Cichlids
that were part of the “Cichlasoma” grab bag really resemble each other. They all share
a great deal of DNA—undoubtedly much more than humans and chimpanzees. This
enhances the weight of the DNA evidence, since the normal and blue fish segregated
together, away from the other species. Perhaps someone will accept the author’s
challenge for further genetic studies.—Eds.
It Doesn’t Add Up
I’m sure many others have bred other
fish with Jack Dempseys, and if you believe
your hybrid spawns resulted in something
similar to an electric blue, this author would
love to hear about it. Hybrid spawning is
usually not condoned and is mostly looked
down upon, but there is still a broad
market for hybrid cichlids—consider the
trade in flowerhorns.
A major question color morph theorists
have is why on earth would Hector Luzardo
lie about the origin of the fish if hybrids
bring in such high dollars? Jeff Rapps, who
knew Hector personally, said:
student feel proud to be doing something
so constructive. (If anyone knows a
good professor that would be interested
in such a project, send the person to
allthingsdempsey.com and tell him or her
that I will be excited and ready to get to
work on this!)
While we wait for the genetic projects
to move forward, many debates still take
place about the possible hybrid parentage
of the electric blue Jack Dempsey. The
three species most people speculate as
being the original culprits are Nandopsis
tetracantha, Nandopsis haitiensis, and
Herichthys carpintis “Escondido.” Each
have a strikingly similar characteristic to
the electric blue Jack Dempsey, while all
still seem worlds apart.
Take the N. tetracantha, for example, and
note the mosaic jaw patterning, the red
dorsal stripe, and the similar body shape,
all of which can be found on electric blues.
Now look at the N. haitiensis, and you will
find a flowing anal and dorsal fin that are
strikingly similar to those common among
electric blues. Also similar are N. haitiensis
juveniles, which display a very intriguing
whitish coloration, similar to electric blue
The original breeder had nothing
to gain by publically fabricating the
origin of the fish. I know him well.
He is by trade a painter, an honest
man with strong family values. As
he told me years ago, [the only
thing he deserves credit for] is
the fact that he recognized the
difference in some fry produced
by a pair of normal Dempsey and
raised them up.
The people who knew him best knew
Hector to be an honest, hard-working family
man, not a con artist. Others suggest that
Hector died intentionally leaving behind a
mystery that will endure for generations to
come. You be the judge.