Swimming Pup Fish

Earthquake in Alaska Pushes Endangered Pupfish to Spawn

Alaska’s earthquake has caused endangered desert pupfish to spawn due to its waves reverberated around their home.

The earthquake magnitude was 7.9 which allowed a small tsunami to formed. Its waves were three to eight inches tall and powerful enough to wash in along shores from British Columbia through California. Moreover, its shake also ripped across the continent; it set off waves in Devil’s Hole and an 18-foot-long pool that branches deep into the Nevada aquifer.

According to some people from the Death Valley National park, the seiche (sloshing water that reflected in the pool might build into waves) did not provoke any damage. However, it disrupted the pools´ famous inhabitant, the desert pupfish. It caused these creatures to spawn ultimately.

The biologist Ambre Chaudoin stated that although desert pupfish generally spawns in spring and the fall, any disruption in their environment might cause another spawning event. It can be noticed when the makes turn a brilliant blue and the females turn subdued grey to silvery blue.

This kind of pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) live only in Devil’s Hole, and they are in critically endangered. Though they are able to dive over 400 feet deep below the Mojave Desert, the inch-long fish live in just the upper 80 feet of the pool. Besides,  These fish eat algae which grow in a shallow sunlit shelf at the top of the hole, and they spawn on a tiny shallow shelf.

These animals have lived and survive in this area for many years due to the environment´s oxygen concentration and its constant temperature (93 degrees Fahrenheit). But some small interference might provoke these conditions to change the ecosystem too quickly which could devastate the pupfish. Until water  levels in the pool dropped because of nearby irrigation, the pupfish population hovered around 400 to 600 of them. The biologist at the park just found 115 fish in the last survey.

Park professionals are not so much concerned about the seiche and unexpected spawn causing any lasting damage.Chaudoin argued that “the pupfish’s food source will probably be a little reduced for a bit, but it is expected to rebound.

On the other hand, the biologist Kevin Wilson manifested “it’s crazy that distant earthquakes affect Devils Hole,” Even though this already happened a few times before, in 2010 and 2012, he said that it still amazed him.

In 2010 While Chaudoin was at the pond performing pupfish behavioral surveys as part of her graduate research, she managed to film a 4-foot-tall seiche triggered by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Baja California. Afterward, she explained in the US Geological Survey that “the shelf substrate sediment was largely redistributed as a result of the water oscillations,” and “such disturbance can be important because the spawning shelf is less than 13 feet long and 7 feet wide, smaller than many walk-in closets.”

Peter Byrne, who was at Devil’s Hole during the 2012 seiche and wrote about the event for Scientific American, saw it triggered a pupfish spawn, leading him to tease, “environmental disaster, it seems, acted as an aphrodisiac.”

About the 2010 seiche, the biologist Paul Barrett hypothesized that the infrequent events played an important role in refreshing the Devil’s Hole ecosystem. He claimed to the USGS “Earthquakes, such as a 1978 temblor in Mexico, can set up waves that clear the spawning shelf of the algae upon which the pupfish rely, however depending upon the time of year, the algae may generate quite rapidly,”  “Furthermore, 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.”

What is essential to remark is that not all earthquakes set off a disaster or catastrophe. They need to be just the right frequency for waves to resonate. But as pupfish populations are low, perhaps this latest seiche might help create a population boom.

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