Here's a conservation story that will warm your heart, a story about a minnow-size fish that not only came back from extinction, but now thrives in freshwater streams in the southeast. Not an easy journey to be sure. But this fish had some big help--years of hard work and dedication on the part of two biologists, JR Shute and Pat Rakes.
A nocturnal species that looks and acts like a miniature catfish, the Yellowfin Madtom has typical catfish spines and whiskers (barbels), and a potent sting if you should come in contact with one of those spines. But even more impressive, the little fish has personality! The male of the species digs a nest cavity near a rock slab to invite a female to deposit her eggs. After spawning, the male then spends the next four weeks hiding under that rock slab guarding the nest, even taking the eggs into his mouth from time to time to clean away silt. All of this, without eating any food for himself during the entire period.
Pat Rakes (left) and JR Shute were interviewed by American Public Media earlier this month. Click this link to hear them talk about the survival of this little madtom, what went wrong with its world, and how they're trying to help fix it. (Scroll down the linked page to find the audio controls.)
Below, JR's video showing the release of Yellowfin Madtoms. Not only does Conservation Fisheries raise rare and endangered fish in captivity to help save and restock species, their work contributes important information about water quality. When a native species cannot survive in its fresh water stream, that tells us a lot. Once the stream is cleaned up enough to support these tiny, native fish again, we know our water is in better shape for everyone.
In addition to this month's NPR interview, the work of Conservation Fisheries has appeared in National Geographic (April 2010, see link below). And the Yellowfin Madtom image you see below is the artistic work of National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, published here with his permission. The comeback tale of this small, freshwater fish is one of the many rare species featured in his latest book, Rare, Portraits of America's Endangered Species.
Listen to Joel's message below. There is something each of us can do everyday to help our earth and all its species.
Links and resources:
Located in my home town, Knoxville, TN, visit the fish and staff at Conservation Fisheries, Inc.to see some of the many native fish they are helping.
Also enjoy their feature article in National Geographic--Silent Streams
Visit Joel Sartore Photography to see his latest book and don't miss his delightful video on rare species.
To read about other intriguing survival stories on this blog see the El Segundo Blue butterfly, the endangered Whooping Crane and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle.