Locally Extinct Endangered Razorback Suckers Discovered Spawning in Grand Canyon National Park

First Posted: Jun 19, 2014 11:04 AM EDT

Razorback suckers that were once thought locally extinct were recently discovered spawning in Colorado River.

Razorback sucker fish or Xyrauchen texanus were believed extinct from the Grand Canyon since the 1990s. After 20 years researchers have found evidence that these fish may be naturally reproducing in the area from where they once disappeared.

In a latest announcement, the U.S. Department of the Interior revealed that researchers have discovered Razorback suckers spawning in lower Colorado River in the Grand Canyon National Park. 

"The discovery that the Razorback suckers are spawning in the national park far upstream from Lake Mead is good news for this endangered species," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "It is also a demonstration of the power of the partnership among Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey, who have worked for recovery of this species side-by-side with Arizona state officials, Indian tribes, private landowners and researchers." 

The first larval fish was detected on April 14,2014. Several more larval fish samples confirmed the endangered fish species had got a suitable habitat at the Grand Canyon.

Brian Healy, fisheries program manager for the national park, said, "Razorback suckers continue to surprise us in Grand Canyon, first with the discovery of adults after 20 years of absence, and now with spawning within the park. We're all hoping to see evidence that these larval fish survive to adulthood in the coming years."

Known for the bony keel on their backs, the Razorback suckers grow up to 36 inches in length. Their lifespan stretches to 40 years or more and they prey mostly on insects and crustaceans. There were once widespread and abundant throughout the Colorado River and its tributaries but due to basin-wide alterations in habitat and introduction of non- native species, it was observed that spawning and survival to adulthood took place only in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

This year, the researchers released nine adult razorback suckers in Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park and they found larval Razorback suckers at 9 of the 47 locations in the Park.

The finding of these larval Razorback suckers shows that they are adapting themselves to the changing conditions. The researchers now hope that these larval fish could survive to adulthood in the coming years.

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