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Theodore Wells Pietsch III

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United States

Theodore Pietsch

Theodore Wells Pietsch III

Alma mater
Academic advisors
Arnold G. Kluge, B. G. Nafpaktitis

Notable awards
Robert H. Gibbs Jr. Memorial Award

Theodore Wells Pietsch III (born March 6, 1945) is an American systematist and evolutionary biologist especially known for his studies of anglerfishes. Pietsch has described 65 species and 12 genera of fishes and published numerous scientific papers focusing on the relationships, evolutionary history, and functional morphology of teleosts, particularly deep-sea taxa. For this body of work, Pietsch was awarded the Robert H. Gibbs Jr. Memorial Award in Systematic Ichthyology by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in 2005. Pietsch has spent most of his career at the University of Washington in Seattle as a professor mentoring graduate students, teaching ichthyology to undergraduates, and curating the ichthyology collections of the UW Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.



Pietsch attended John Adams High School in Indiana. After a B.A. in zoology at the University of Michigan he did a M.S. and Ph.D. in biology at the University of Southern California. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University from 1973 to 1975. Pietsch worked at the University of Washington from 1978 onwards.

Academic research

Pietsch has named 65 species and 12 genera of fishes, most of them lophiiform taxa, both living and extinct, including the recently described Psychedelic Frogfish, Histiophryne psychedelica. He is recognized as an expert on the evolution, ecology, and behavior of both shallow-water anglerfishes (e.g., frogfishes) and deep-sea anglerfishes of the suborder Ceratioidei. Perhaps his most intriguing work has focused on the evolution of sexual parasitism in deep-sea anglerfishes, a reproductive strategy in which a tiny dwarf male attaches and fuses to a much larger female. With his studies of the evolutionary relationships of anglerfish species, Pietsch has determined that this reproductive mode may have evolved as many as five times within deep-sea anglerfishes.

Published works

T. W. Pietsch is the author of over 200 scientific and popular articles, including a dozen books, that focus primarily on marine ichthyology, especially the biosystematics, zoogeography, reproductive biology, and behavior of deep-sea fishes. He has also published extensively on the history of science, especially the history of ichthyology. Among the latter are works on the French comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier and his 22-volume Histoire Naturelle des Poissons (1828−1849); bookdealer, publisher, and secret agent Louis Renard and his Fishes, Crayfishes, and Crabs; the unpublished manuscripts of the French explorer-naturalist Charles Plumier; and the unpublished paintings of Indo-west Pacific marine fishes and crustaceans of Isaac Johannes Lamotius. His first novel, The Curious Death of Peter Artedi: A Mystery in the History of Science, was published by Scott & Nix, New York, in December 2010. Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution, Johns Hopkins University Press; and an annotated, illustrated, English translation of the first of Cuvier’s five-volume Histoire des Sciences Naturelles, depuis leur Origine jusqu’a nos Jours, Publications Scientifiques du Muséum and Bibliothèque Centrale, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, were published in 2012.


Theodore Wells Pietsch III Wikipedia

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