Arizona Fish Extinctions
Noel M. Burkhead of the U. S. Geological Survey, recently performed an analysis of the extinction rate for North American fish (Burkhead 2012). Burkhead used the fossil record to determine that throughout geological history, one fish species went extinct about every three million years. During the past century, 57 fish became extinct, making the modern rate almost 900 times as fast as the historical rate. Extinctions may have been abrupt in Earth’s past, but probably none were as abrupt as the current event.
The growing probability of extinction of Arizona’s native fish is easy to explain. The exploding human population has caused widespread degradation and elimination of water habitats. We have dammed and diverted streams, depleted the groundwater that created springs, and dumped wastes in or near stream channels. We have introduced exotic species such as carp, bass, and trout that compete with natives, and we have damaged or destroyed the protective vegetation of the watersheds. We call it progress when we replace natural habitats with houses and roads. And we ignore the impact on watersheds by introduced fire-prone alien weeds, forest removal, and livestock grazing.
About 50 years ago, two Arizona scientists, Robert Miller and Charles Lowe, analyzed the status of Arizona fish. They reported that elimination of habitats and introduction of exotic species was threatening many species and might soon extinguish the native gila trout (Salmo gilae), humpback chub (Gila cypha), Colorado squawfish (Ptychocheilus lucius), Little Colorado spinedace (Lepidomeda vittata, restricted to Arizona), desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), and Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis) (Miller and Lowe 1964: 133).
Human impacts have increased dramatically in the 50 years since Miller and Lowe performed their analysis. Toxic wastes from urban areas, farms, and mines, are so prevalent that many larger, long-lived fish are deformed, and their flesh often contains hazardous levels of mercury. The AZGFD has advised reduced or no fish consumption for 15 of Arizona lakes and stream segments. Unfortunately, animals such as otters and bald eagles depend on the fish even though people have rendered them toxic.
There are now 67 introduced exotic fish species competing with natives for all of Arizona’s available ecological niches. Though many introduced species are also declining because of habitat loss and toxicity, they continue to compete with native species and push natives down the path to extinction.
In 2008, AZGFD had this to say about the conservation status of Arizona fish:
Out of the 36 fish species native to Arizona, one species is already extinct; 34 have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Arizona; and, 20 have been federally listed as endangered or threatened. A special and irreplaceable part of Arizona could easily disappear if more native fish species are lost, (AZGFD website).
Arizona’s state fish, the Apache Trout (Oncorhynchus apache) is on the federal list of threatened species despite over 70 years of efforts to protect it. Today, Apache Trout can be caught and eaten only from stocked waters where there is no natural reproduction.
Arizona Fish Numbers
(Numbers are from the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA), U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD.)
- North America: 1480
- Arizona native fish species: 43
- Arizona native fish species at risk of extinction: 42
- Arizona introduced exotic fish species: 67
Arizona Fish References
- The online Naturalist’s Bookstore has field guides (at the end of the category list) and other references. Go to: http://bit.ly/RKW2bC.
- AZGFD, Arizona Game and Fish Department: http://www.azgfd.gov.
- ASIH, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists: http://asih.org.
- Burkhead, N. M. 2012. Extinction rates in North American freshwater fishes, 1900-2010. BioScience, 62: 798 – 808
- Miller, R.R. 1961. Man and the changing fish fauna of the American Southwest. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters 46: 365-404.
- Miller, R. R., and C.H. Lowe. 1964. Fishes of Arizona. Pages 133-151 in Lowe, C.H., Ed. The vertebrates of Arizona. University of AZ Press, Tucson. 270 p.
- Nelson J.S., E.J. Crossman, H. Espinosa-Pérez, L.T. Findley, C.R. Gilbert, R.N. Lea, and J.D. Williams. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, 6th ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. 386 p.
- NANFA, North American Native Fishes Association: http://www.nanfa.org.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes: http://vertebrates.si.edu/fishes/
- Turner, D.S. and M.D. List. 2007. Habitat mapping and conservation analysis to identify critical streams for Arizona’s native fish. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 17: 737-748.
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service: http://www.fws.gov.
Arizona Fish Conservation Status
- E = Species endangered in all or part of its range according to the U. S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- I = Introduced and Invasive species from various sources.
- S = Species recognized as candidates for listing as E or T according to the ESA, and species of concern to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U. S. Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Forest Service, Navajo Tribe, and Mexican government (includes Arizona species that are endangered, threatened, or of concern in Mexico).
- T = Species threatened in all or part of its range according to the ESA.
- X = Species extinct over a substantial part or all of the species range within Arizona.
Arizona Fish Checklist
The list below comes from the work by Dale Turner and Michael List (2007), AZGFD, and NANFA. The names follow Nelson et al. (2004).
- I…..Acipenser transmontanus / White Sturgeon
- S….Agosia chrysogaster / Longfin Dace
- S….Agosia chrysogaster chrysogaster / Gila Longfin Dace
- S….Agosia chrysogaster ssp. / Yaqui Longfin Dace
- I…..Ambloplites rupestris / Rock Bass
- I…..Ameiurus melas / Black Bullhead
- I…..Ameiurus natalis / Yellow Bullhead
- I…..Ameiurus nebulosus / Brown Bullhead
- I…..Anguilla rostrata / American Eel
- I…..Anisotremus davidsonii / Sargo
- I…..Archoplites interruptus / Sacramento Perch
- I…..Astyanax mexicanus / Mexican Tetra
- I…..Bairdiella icistia / Bairdiella
- S…Campostoma ornatum / Mexican Stoneroller
- I…..Carassius auratus / Goldfish
- I…..Catostomus ardens / Utah Sucker
- S….Catostomus bernardini / Yaqui Sucker
- S….Catostomus clarkii / Desert Sucker
- E….Catostomus discobolus / Bluehead Sucker
- S….Catostomus discobolus discobolus / Bluehead Sucker
- S….Catostomus discobolus yarrowi / Zuni Bluehead Sucker
- S….Catostomus insignis / Sonora Sucker
- S….Catostomus latipinnis / Flannelmouth Sucker
- I…..Catostomus plebeius / Rio Grande Sucker
- S….Catostomus sp. 3 / Little Colorado Sucker
- I…..Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum / Convict Cichlid
- I…..Clarias batrachus / Walking Catfish
- I…..Cottus bairdii / Mottled Sculpin
- I…..Ctenopharyngodon idella / Grass Carp
- I…..Cynoscion xanthulus / Orangemouth Corvina
- T….Cyprinella formosa / Beautiful Shiner
- S….Cyprinodon arcuatus / Santa Cruz Pupfish
- E….Cyprinodon eremus / Quitobaquito Pupfish
- E….Cyprinodon macularius / Desert Pupfish
- I…..Cyprinus carpio / Common Carp
- I…..Dorosoma petenense / Threadfin Shad
- I…..Eleotris picta / Spotted Sleeper
- ……Elops affinis / Machete (Pacific Tenpounder)
- I…..Esox lucius / Northern Pike
- I…..Fundulus zebrinus / Plains Killifish
- S….Gambusia affinis / Mosquitofish
- I…..Gila atraria / Utah Chub
- E….Gila cypha / Humpback Chub
- T….Gila ditaenia / Sonora Chub
- E….Gila elegans / Bonytail
- E….Gila intermedia / Gila Chub
- S….Gila nigra / Headwater Chub
- E….Gila purpurea / Yaqui Chub
- S….Gila robusta / Roundtail Chub
- E….Gila seminuda / Virgin River Chub
- I…..Gillichthys mirabilis / Longjaw Mudsucker
- I…..Ictalurus furcatus / Blue Catfish
- T….Ictalurus pricei / Yaqui Catfish
- I…..Ictalurus punctatus / Channel Catfish
- I…..Ictiobus bubalus / Smallmouth Buffalo
- I…..Ictiobus cyprinellus / Bigmouth Buffalo
- I…..Ictiobus niger / Black Buffalo
- S….Lepidomeda mollispinis / Virgin Spinedace
- S….Lepidomeda mollispinis mollispinis / Virgin Spinedace
- T….Lepidomeda vittata / Little Colorado Spinedace
- I…..Lepomis cyanellus / Green Sunfish
- I…..Lepomis gibbosus / Pumpkinseed
- I…..Lepomis gulosus / Warmouth
- I…..Lepomis macrochirus / Bluegill
- I…..Lepomis microlophus / Redear Sunfish
- E….Meda fulgida / Spikedace
- I…..Micropterus dolomieu / Smallmouth Bass
- I…..Micropterus punctulatus / Spotted Bass
- I…..Micropterus salmoides / Largemouth Bass
- I…..Morone chrysops / White Bass
- I…..Morone mississippiensis / Yellow Bass
- I…..Morone saxatilis / Striped Bass
- S….Mugil cephalus / Striped Mullet
- I…..Notemigonus crysoleucas / Golden Shiner
- S….Notropis lutrensis / Red Shiner
- I…..Notropis stramineus / Sand Shiner
- I…..Notropis venustus / Spottail Shiner
- T….Oncorhynchus apache / Apache Trout
- I…..Oncorhynchus clarkii / Cutthroat Trout
- T….Oncorhynchus gilae / Gila Trout
- I…..Oncorhynchus kisutch / Coho Salmon
- I…..Oncorhynchus mykiss / Rainbow Trout
- I…..Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita / Golden Trout
- I…..Oncorhynchus nerka / Sockeye Salmon
- I…..Oreochromis aureus / Blue Tilapia
- I…..Oreochromis mossambicus / Mozambique Tilapia
- I…..Perca flavescens / Yellow Perch
- I…..Pimephales promelas / Fathead Minnow
- E….Plagopterus argentissimus / Woundfin
- I…..Poecilia latipinna / Sailfin Molly
- I…..Poecilia mexicana / Shortfin Molly
- I…..Poecilia reticulata / Guppy
- E….Poeciliopsis occidentalis / Sonoran Topminnow
- E….Poeciliopsis occidentalis occidentalis / Gila Topminnow
- E….Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis / Yaqui Topminnow
- I…..Pomoxis annularis / White Crappie
- I…..Pomoxis nigromaculatus / Black Crappie
- E….Ptychocheilus lucius / Colorado Pikeminnow
- I…..Pylodictis olivaris / Flathead Catfish
- S….Rhinichthys osculus / Speckled Dace
- I…..Richardsonius balteatus / Redside Shiner
- I…..Salmo trutta / Brown Trout
- I…..Salvelinus fontinalis / Brook Trout
- I…..Sander vitreus / Walleye
- I…..Thymallus arcticus / Arctic Grayling
- E….Tiaroga cobitis / Loach Minnow
- I…..Tilapia zillii / Redbelly Tilapia
- I…..Xiphophorus hellerii / Green Swordtail
- I…..Xiphophorus variatus / Variable Platyfish
- E….Xyrauchen texanus / Razorback Sucker