NANFA-- Why save the Devils Hole pupfish?

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 06 Jun 2001 08:49:44 -0400

>>I was doing a mental excercise one day. Tyring to explain to a
>>layman why, say, the devil's hole pupfish is important when they
>>will surely be dead in a million years, along with most everything
>>else we recognize today.

1) Saving the Devils Hole pupfish means saving its water supply. The underground
aquifer that feeds Devils Hole also serves the entire Ash Meadows desert
community, which has the highest rate of endemism in America. Fishes, snails,
plants, etc., almost all of them unique. Loosen protections on the pupfish,
thereby allowing for unrestrained groundwater pumping, and the whole desert
ecosystem begins to crumble. And for what? More cattle farms? Casinos? Gas 'n'

2) The National Science Foundation advocated saving the Devils Hole pupfish
because it and its relatives thrive in extreme conditions, e.g., salty and hot
water. Their extraordinary thermoregulatory system and kidney function can serve
as useful biological models for human research on the human kidney -- and on
survival in a seemingly hostile environment.

3) The Devils Hole pupfish is an object of aesthetic beauty and a part of our
natural heritage. Humans are a "saving" species. We like to save things that
aren't always of immediate practical worth. Treasured works of art. Historic
buildings. Ancient artifacts. Rare manuscripts. Family heirlooms. Why should
species and their ecosystems be any different? Isn't the Devils Hole pupfish a
greater, far more complex creation than, say, the Mona Lisa? Humans like to
build museums and protect for generations the works of other humans. Why
shouldn't we do it for the works of nature, too? Ultimately, which will be more

4) We should save the Devils Hole pupfish -- and all species, for that matter --
simply because there is no long-term imperative for *not* saving them.

Chris Scharpf

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