Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Desert pupfish 'friskier' after earthquake

Devil's Hole pupfish exhibit higher spawning activity after earthquakes.

The University of Arizona has released more information about the unique video taken by a graduate student on April 4, showing the seiche on the Devil's Hole pupfish pond in Nevada.

According to Paul Barrett, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who leads the Devils Hole Pupfish Recovery Team,

"Quakes can serve a useful purpose in shaking silt and other fine particles that have washed into Devils Hole off of the spawning shelf and into the deeper waters. This frees important space between the substrate particles where the Devils Hole pupfish larvae seek refuge."

The UA article says the National Park Service recorded a slight increase in larval abundance as compared to a similar survey a few weeks before the earthquake occurred. "Federal and state surveys done within a week after the earthquakes revealed about 118 fish in the pool, compared to about 70 the year before. Also, biologists saw newly hatched larval fish and evidence that the fish were spawning."

Graduate student Ambre Chaudoin observed that after previous disturbances, for example an earthquake in Chile and violent winter rain storms, the fish exhibited higher spawning activity than usual: "They were going crazy the next day."

[right, UA graduate student Ambre Chaudoin observes Devils Hole pupfish on a research platform installed above the pool that forms the cave entrance. Photo by Olin Feuerbacher]

[taken in part from the UA news release]

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