NANFA-- Re: Pupfish

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 06 Jun 2001 08:49:57 -0400

>One of the things I find really annoying about these things, is that you
>can't keep them. I breed a different pupfish, C. veronicae, that's
>extinct in the wild. I doubt these fish would ever catch on as popular
>aquarium breeds, but it seems that if I fish is on it's way out, it may
>not be a bad idea to allow people that care enough to keep them, so at
>least they'll be around. Heck if they were to catch on as a popular
>fish, there would probably be more public support to save the wild ones.
>They could still be illegal to catch in the wild, just have a few taken
>by those in control, start them out at a few public aquariums and allow
>them to pass them on as they see fit. A few would eventually get to
>dedicated aquarists.

The Devils Hole pupfish represents a complicated case. First of all, the USFWS
maintain the fish at several refugia, one at Ash Meadows and the other at Hoover
Dam. Specimens from these refugia help supplement Devils Hole stock. So,
basically, there's little chance of this species going extinct unless our buddy
"Rush" rotenones all three locations. (And before you get in a huff, Rush, on
how much the feds are paying for diabolis refugia, please know that it's a
bargain. A couple holes in the ground, a little ledge, a fence and a lock, some
photosynthesis, and the pups take care of themselves.)

Propagation of Devils Hole pupfish in captivity is exceedingly difficult. Most
conservation and public aquarists have failed. Something to do with Devil's Hole
unusual water chemistry.

Also, EXTREME CARE must be taken with captive diabolis offspring -- they grow
almost 2x larger than their wild brethren and actually develop rudimentary
pelvic fins (C. diabolis are pelvic fin-less). In just a few generations they
stop being C. diabolis. Apparently. selection pressure on the species changes in
captivity, resulting in a gradual evolution of a type better adapted to the new
habitat. Thus, the gene pool is altered and the original C. diabolis is gone.

Rhonda, have you noticed any change with your C. veronicae? What efforts are you
taking to maximize genetic heterogeneity?

Chris Scharpf

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