A Fish That Only Lives in Death Valley

February 6, 2017

devils hole pupfishThere happens to be a fish that lives in one of the hottest, most inhospitable environments in the world. What is even more amazing is that this particular fish only lives in this one area. This fish is known as the Devil’s Hole pupfish, and its only home is in Death Valley National Park.

Devil’s Hole is a detached 40-acre unit of Death Valley National Park that sits in Nevada. The pool at Devil’s Hole is small but reaches a depth of 400 feet. While there are other species of pupfish around the world, this is the only place where the Devil’s Hole pupfish lives.

The fish has been on the endangered list since 1967, and its home is extreme. The water temperature of the pool runs about 93 degrees Fahrenheit and sunlight only hits a shallow, rock shelf where the fish feeds on a limited amount of algae. It also uses this same shelf to spawn four months out of the year.

Devils Hole Death Valley National Park
The Devil’s Hole Pupfish’s Small Home
Ken Lund/Wikimedia

The Devil’s Hole pupfish has had plenty of time to adapt to its environment since its been isolated for 10,000 to 20,000 years. Because of this isolation, the fish has had widely fluctuating population levels. Between the late 1970s to 1996, the population was steady at approximately 324 fish. From 1997 to 2004, the average population dropped to 171. In 2006, the lowest number of pupfish was recorded at 38 pupfish. The latest count from Spring 2016 put the number at 115. The count is made more difficult because the fish is small, only measuring about one inch in length, and they are sometimes found at a depth of 80 feet.

While efforts to protect the fish have been ongoing, it hasn’t stopped some people from leaving them alone. In April 2016, three men who were drunk jumped the fence at the highly secured area and began shooting shotguns at signs, locks, scientific equipment, and surveillance cameras. One man decided to stomp around on the rock shelf where the pupfish feeds while another decided to take a swim. He was naked of course. He even left his boxer shorts behind in the pool for the rangers to find along with beer cans and vomit. It was all too much for one unfortunate pupfish to handle as it was found floating dead in the water. The three men were caught and faced federal felony charges for killing one of the rarest fish in the world.

Sources: FWS.gov, National Park Service, LA Times, PBS

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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