Rare fish rescued from drought stricken rivers

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Scientists are carrying out rare fish rescue missions at several locations across Texas as the state suffers its worst drought in decades.

Teams netted sections of the Brazos river to collect specimens of the endangered Small-eye and Sharp-nose shiners, Notropis buccula and N. oxyrhynchus both of which are endemic to the Brazos and its drainages.

Over 3,000 of the fish were successfully removed to the state's fish hatchery near Possum Kingdom Lake and they will be re-released into the Brazos once water levels return to normal. The short-lived fish, which rarely live more than two years, require at least 100 miles of the river to breed successfully but the drought had meant this was not possible, so emergency action was necessary.

At the same time a team led by Texas Tech fish ecology lecturer Gene Wilde rescued 110 Arkansas River shiners, Notropis girardi and 60 Peppered chub, Macrhybopsis tetranema from the Canadian River, a tributary of the Arkansas River and took them to the federal fish hatchery in Oklahoma to see out the drought; both species are considered threatened within their range.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also monitoring water levels at the Comal and San Marcos Springs near Austin, which are home to the endangered Fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola a tiny 4cm long member of the Perch family, and will step in to safeguard the fish if stream flows drop too low.

Texas has just recorded its driest 11 months on record and 88% of the state is considered to be in 'exceptional drought' by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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