The world’s rarest fish, the Devils Hole Pupfish may soon be extinct. According to a recent survey, only 75 individual Devils Hole Pupfish are thought to exist in the wild. This tiny fish species lives in a pond in Nevada near Death Valley and gets its name from the region it calls home–Devils Hole–a geothermal pool fed by an aquifer found inside of a limestone cavern. The Devils Hole Pupfish have been living isolated in Devils Hole, eeking out an existence in isolation for 10,000-20,000 years. The fish exhibit a striking blue and black color combination. The picture at the bottom of the post (Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons) doesn’t do the fish justice. If you have a few minutes, check out the youtube video below for a documentary style update about the fish (a few years old and more upbeat in tone that the more recent survey results suggest).
The Devils Hole Pupfish was one of the first species ever protected by the Endangered Species Act, but despite conservation efforts, the fish may be doomed–at least in the wild. Devils Hole Pupfish are the smallest species of Pupfish–fully grown adults are still less than an inch long. Their primary diet is diatoms–and the entire species lives on a limestone shelf that is only six-and-a-half feet wide by thirteen feet long.
According to Nevada Fish and Wildlife website–scientists thought that limited availability of food inside Devils Hole may have been a major factor in keeping the population numbers suppressed–so they developed an artificial food for these fish–and installed an automatic feeder in Devils Hole to help bolster food reserves to keep the population robust.
There is actually footage of that in the embedded youtube video above, which is almost hilarious to see these ‘wild’ fish greedily eating the food as it drops in. Yet even despite these interventions, the population is in grave danger. If the fish does become extinct in natural habitats, the only hope may be to try and keep the bloodline going from aquarium broodstocks–but this would be far from guaranteed success. Even if captive propagation was successful, returning a population to the wild may be a daunting task. Let’s hope the wild population hangs in there and makes a full recovery.