Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hunchback of Colorado

It’s been a while since wrote about a fish, and I figured out I could search IUCN for all the Actinopterygii, that is, the ray-finned fish. Then found I could order the search by their category. While I found the pretty cool Shovelnose Sturgeon, there wasn’t enough information for me to write about1. The IUCN has recently highlighted the Humphead Parrotfish, which is ugly enough, but since they just highlighted it, I’ll let them talk about it.
Image by John Rinne via FishIndex
The Razorback Sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) is not too distantly related to the Blue Sucker that I wrote about a while ago. While it has a similar habit of eating organic detritus from the bottom of rivers, this one is lives in the Colorado River basin. It’s also larger, reaching lengths up to three feet, making it one of the biggest Suckers in North America. It has a big, sharp hump that gives it its name, which helps it navigate the fast moving rivers it calls home.

These Suckers are comparatively long lived, beginning to spawn at about 4 years old, and can live up to 40. However, despite their longevity, most of the young are dying early. This is mainly attributed to the large number of invasive predator fish that have been introduced into the Colorado River. Fragmented habitat and dams have also negatively affected their numbers. After all this, scientists estimate there are only about 500 adults left in the wild.

There are conservation efforts in place, many of which revolve around hatcheries in Utah and Colorado. The numbers are beginning to increase, and they’re certainly working on removing the invasive fish from the river.

1I’m getting pretty good at determining if I’ve got enough information fairly quickly anymore. A lot of that has to do with the number of photos Google has.

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