Return of the Pupfish

Doomed southwestern fish makes a comeback

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Does anyone recall the plight of the poor pupfish? This ancient relic of the southwest dwindled in numbers until it survived in only one place—a single deep pool near Death Valley known as Devil’s Hole. When scientists counted in 2006, this last surviving group of fish dropped from 500 in number to 32.

The pupfish stirred a major debate several years ago after ranchers threatened to drain the hole for water, which would’ve spelled the end for the poor pupfish. But a 1976 Supreme Court ruling protecting the fish and a subsequent U.S. Fishand Wildlife feeding program have given the pupfish another chance. Their numbers have more than quadrupled to 126.

Scientists estimate that the pupfish have survived in this single pool for over 10,000 years. It’s comforting to know they’re taking baby steps on the way towards making it 10,000 more.

—Ted Alvarez

With a Little Help, Near-Extinct Fish Makes Comeback (Wired)