It is with considerable sadness we report the passing of one of the world’s pre-eminent fish biologists and taxonomists, Richard P. Vari, who recently lost a year-long battle with cancer. Although Richard is perhaps more broadly known for his considerable body of research across South America, much of his early work (particularly his PhD dissertation on the terapontid grunters) was focused on Australian fishes. The genus Variichthys(including the still poorly known Australian species V. lacustris) was named in recognition of his work on the Terapontidae.
Variichthys lacustris (Mees & Kailola 1977)
Rich became a Curator in the Division of Fishes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 1980, served as Chairman of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology, and as Interim Associate Director for Science at the Smithsonian in recent years. He wrote or co-authored more than 150 articles and papers and discovered 190 fish species. Five species have been named after him. Rich was especially influential in developing young scientists, particularly from South American countries. He hosted dozens of fellows and researchers at the Smithsonian Museum (even accommodating without question some recent Australian fish researchers who randomly approached him for time at his lab). Richard was one of that rare breed of researchers who easily bridged the gap between ‘old school’ morphological-meristic taxonomy and emerging molecular systematics. A selfless researcher who was always generous with his time (despite his own considerable work commitments), his presence will be sorely missed.
Editor’s note: Thank you, to Aaron Davis, for taking the time to pen this important tribute to Dr Richard Vari. Richard will be missed. Permission to display the photograph of him was kindly provided by the Office of Photography and Media, National Museum of Natural History, Washington.