Have you ever heard of the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow? Don’t worry, not too many people have.
The Rio Grande Silvery Minnow just happens to be one of the most endangered fish in North America – which means it is close to being extinct. And being extinct means there are no more anywhere on earth.
The Rio Grande Silvery Minnow was placed on the endangered species list in 1994. Normally, you can find the small fish in hundreds of miles of the Rio Grande but now, because so many people are using the water from the river in a lot of ways and the subsequent change in its habitat. Now, the fish can only be found in 5% of its historic range.
Scientists recently made an attempt to reintroduce the fish into parts of the river where they traditionally lived, but don’t anymore. On December 16, 2008, between 400,000 and 500,000 minnows were released into four separate locations along the Rio Grande – in the hope that they will successfully establish themselves in the area and eventually be taken off the endangered species list.
About the FishThe Rio Grande Silvery Minnow is a small silvery fish that can reach up to 3.5 inches in length. They generally swim skimming the bottom of the river and spend much of their lives laying eggs. The fish are an important part of the ecosystem in that they eat the bad algae, which helps keep the water clean. They are also a good source of food for other animals.
Since the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow was classified as endangered in 1994, its population has continued to drop. There are now only a small fraction of the fish there were fourteen years ago.
What Happened?So what happened to cause so many Rio Grande Silvery Minnows to die off? There are a lot of reasons, but they all entail changes to the Rio Grande by humans.
- A lot of the water from the river has been diverted to be used in cities or to water crops.
- Dams built on the river have prevented spring flooding, which is what typically cues spawning.
- The habitat has been destroyed to make canals.
- Diversion dams have been built which prevent the migrating of fish.