Hundreds of Unique Fish Were Found in Nevada Following an Earthquake
Biologists counted 263 Devils Hole pupfish in Nevada, the most in 19 years.
Devils Hole pupfish live in a 500-foot-deep cavern on the side of a hill. It’s part of Ash Meadows, a wildlife reserve that discharges an underground aquifer.
The area may have been populated in wet periods and isolated in dry years. National Park Service estimates Devils Hole pupfish have been isolated for 10,000 to 20,000 years (NPS).
The NPS discovered 263 of the fish after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Mexico caused 4-foot waves at Devils Hole on September 19.
This cave activity sloshed algae and other organic materials in the water, making it easier for biologists to detect pupfish from the surface. Visual counters and underwater divers count pupfish.
The increase from a 20-year average of 90 fish could suggest environmental changes.
Fish reside and spawn on a shallow rock shelf at the cavern’s surface, eating algae. It’s the smallest vertebrate range on Earth.
The Devils Hole pupfish population varies from 100 to 200 in the winter to 300 to 500 in the summer.
The Devils Hole pupfish population began an unexplained and dramatic fall in the mid-1990s, despite water chemistry and genetics research. As part of a 1980s recovery effort, the USFWS designated 21,000 acres as important habitat.
Many courting and spawning pairs were seen among the counted fish.
Spring 2023 is the next pupfish count.
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