Dramatic destroy in geographic distribution of Caucasian fishes caused by climate change and human activities

Dr Ekaterina Vasil’eva1, Dr. Victor Vasil’ev2

1M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Biological Department, Zoological Museum, Moscow, Russian Federation, 2A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS, Moscow, Russian Federation

The water systems of the Caucasus demonstrate a high sensitivity even to local climate changes, leading to melting of mountain ice and heavy flooding, as well as drying out of small rivers and lakes. Attempts to resist human disasters with the help of hydraulic structures and agricultural activities lead to the destruction of river biotopes and the disappearance of small water bodies. During the last field season in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Stavropol District, Russian Federation, we failed to collect the Ciscaucasian spined loach Sabanejewia caucasica (Cobitidae, Pisces). Some small rivers and channels which were inhabited by this species in the past are completely absent at present; in others we have not found biotopes suitable for spawning of spined loaches, mostly as a result of artificial river embankment and concreting, significantly changing factors of channel processes. Similarly, Azerbaijanian endemic spined loach Cobitis amphilekta were not found after 1930th years in the Maly Kyzylagach Bay basin of the Caspian Sea where it has been widely distributed in the Kumbashi River (Vasil’eva & Vasil’ev 2012). After drying out of the lake, from which the Kumbashi River originated, this river completely lost its former fishing significance. In some cases the reduction of species ranges and numbers results in interspecific hybridization. In the Maly Kyzylagach Bay adult phenotypic hybrid between spined loach species from different genera was revealed. The studies were financially supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the governmental program no. AAAA-A16-116021660077-3.


  • Date and place of birth:  12/02/1952, Moscow
  • Education:
  • D.Sc. (Ichthyology) – 1999 – Moscow State University
  • Ph.D. (Ichthyology) – 1978 – Moscow State University
  • Postgraduate studies – 1974-1977 – Moscow State University
  • Studies – 1969-1974 – Moscow State University


  • Research scientist at the Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University: 1978-1985
  • Senior research scientist at the Zoological Museum: 1986-1990
  • Leading research scientist, chief of the ichthyological department of the Zoological Museum since 1990

Current research interest:

Taxonomy of discussed fish taxa (mainly Gobiids, Cyprinids, Cobitids, Acipenserids), natural clonal and polyploid vertebrates (their origin, variability), coexistence of clonal and bisexual species, fish phylogenetic, faunistic problems



  • George Soros grant for “Biodiversity” program in 1992-1993
  • MacArthur Foundation Grant for Individual Research (1994)
  • Award for the Best Paper presented in Zoologicheskyi Zhurnal (Russia, 1980).
  • Diploma of the Russian Society “Znanie” for the book “Fishes, Amphibian and Reptiles of the Red Book of the USSR” (co-authors T. Alexandrovskaya and V. Orlova), Pedagogica, Moscow, 1988, 208 pp. (1990).


  • Member of the Society of European Ichthyologists (since 2001).
  • Member of the World Sturgeon Conservation Society (since 2013)
  • Honorary member of the International Loach Society (since 1987).
  • Number of papers in refereed journals: 207
  • Number of communications to scientific meetings: 86
  • Number of books: 10

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