Monday, October 15, 2012

Life Is Tough II

(Continued from the preceding post)
Several subspecies of the Desert pupfish (Cyrpinodon nevadensis ssp.) are located in small spring-fed ponds in Ash Meadows. Some subspecies occupy pools about the size of a small living room and this may be the entire habitat for this fish…the only place on Earth where they live-out their precarious existence.  These pools may hold from several hundred to several thousand of these little fish.  It doesn’t take much to make most of these fish ‘happy;’ just a little water with the right chemistry and temperature range and they seem to do quite well.  I cannot tell how many times I have watched the little male pupfish in their blue nuptial colors claim a spot the size of a hand, a scoured-out depression made by a passing feral horse or burro, hold it against other males, attract a female with his colorful ‘dance,’ and spawn.  The entire genetic history of the species is replicated in a depression not much bigger than a small sauce pan, if that big.
I recently saw a television special on the habitat and wildlife surrounding the Chernobyl  nuclear reactor.  Depending on who you listen to, biodiversity is either recovering or on the wane in that radioactive area.   Regardless of what the data show, there does seem to be a robust population of some species. Humans are not allowed to spend much time in the area around Chernobyl.  Is it the absence of humans that makes for the presence of other species? It is ironic to think that biodiversity may be able to exist with exceptionally high radiation counts but not with the human population counts that existed before the reactor meltdown. 
For additional information on some of the species mentioned refer to:
Baugh, T. 1981. Observations on the courtship and reproduction of the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius. American Currents 7(3):15-18.
Baugh, T.M. 1981. Adapting Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus) to fresh water. Western North American Naturalist 41(3).
Baugh, T.M. and J. E. Deacon. 1983. Daily and yearly movement of the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in Devil’s Hole, Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 43(4):592-596.
Baugh, T.M. and J.E. Deacon. 1983. Maintaining the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in aquaria. J. Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences 3(4) :73-75.
Baugh, T. M. 1984. In search of the Salt Creek pupfish. Part 1. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium 7 (5): 34-35, 44-45.Baugh, T. M. 1984. In search of the Salt Creek pupfish. Part2. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium  7 (6): 31-33, 54, 56.
Baugh, T.M. and J. E. Deacon. 1988. An evaluation of the role of refugia in conservation efforts for the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales. Zoo Biology 7:351-358.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life is Tough I

There is more and more being said about the almost continuous discovery of other planets in our galaxy and the number of them that might be able to support life.  I have never doubted that there is life on other planets and have attributed the doubt of others to our human arrogance.  Life on Earth itself is tenacious and resilient.  We find life inhabiting near boiling water in many places, at depths with incredible pressure around the Black Smokers in the deep ocean canyons, and to the near airless regions at the outer edges of the atmosphere
Those of us who have worked in the more difficult and demanding climes around the world know about life’s resilience and tenacity.  Although I have been involved in conservation work with manatees, mangroves, and, most recently, mountain bogs, much of my early work in conservation biology was in the deserts of Utah, Nevada, and Southern California where the nights can be very cold, the days hot as blazes, and fresh water sources few and far between.  What was even more amazing to my friends and relatives was that I was working with fish; small, even tiny fish there in the deserts from the Salton Sea in Southern California, up through the springs and creeks of the mountain valleys of Northern Nevada and Utah, and down to the floor of Death Valley hundred feet below sea level. 
One of these systems, Salt Creek originates in a low range of hills on the floor of Death Valley.  This is the only place in the world that one finds the appropriately named Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus) in a spring-stream complex with water temperatures that reach over 112F in the summer, with salinities much in excess of sea water and with a spring that pumps enough Lithium out to keep a manic-depressive happy for a long time. 
(The comments will be continued in the next posting.)