10 Fun & Interesting Facts About Pupfish

When talking about unique fish species, pupfish is occupying the very top of such conversations. If not the first place. These fantastic creatures are some of the most beautiful, rarest, and most adaptable animals on our planet.

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Indeed, they can be found in the strangest places on Earth, but we are saving more details on this for a later point. Furthermore, they are rare. And by rare, we mean almost extinct.

There have been many pupfish sub-species during the years, but only a few of them are left, and these are also existing in a very reduced number.

So, we are sharing below the 10 most fun and interesting facts about pupfish, hoping that we will all learn to appreciate these beauties more.

1. Pupfish got their Name thanks to their Unique Mating Habits

Pupfish reproduce by spawning. Typically, one male will try to breed with several females, and mostly when females visit the area where the male is located. In case there is a single female around, spawning will begin immediately.

However, if there is a harem of females, the male will strangely swim from one female to the other until he gets the positive response he hopes for.

Since such funny behavior resembles pretty much puppies while playing, early explorers decided to name them Pupfish.

2. They have an Extremely Brief Lifespan

These adorable creatures are extremely small and rarely exceed 1 inch in body length. And their lifespans are proportionally brief to their tiny sizes. Depending on the particular sub-species, they usually live either around 6 months or around a year.

3. They Inhabit the Most Extreme Places on Earth

The ultimate capability of pupfish to adapt to the most extreme environmental conditions is exactly what makes them this special. And by extreme, we mean crazy extreme.

From desert ponds to the Devils Hole, these creatures can basically survive anywhere. Depending on the particular sub-species, they live across overly small habitats, some of which are just a few feet wide. Moreover, some pupfish can successfully survive in waters that are less than an inch deep. How amazing is that?

4. Death Valley Pupfish were once believed to be the One Main Species

Death Valley Pupfish are the most famous sub-species nowadays. Almost 200,000 years ago these creatures were inhabiting a massive glacier lake called Manly.

Once the lake started melting, it divided itself into multiple tiny lakes and ponds, leaving the fish with no choice other than to become completely separated from each other. And, as a consequence, they started to divergently evolve.

It is believed that the Death Valley has 2 different sub-species nowadays. However, for a long time, it was thought that the Death Valley Pupfish was a single and main species on the planet.  

5. Death Valley Pupfish reached a total Population of 136 Specimens during 2020

From the early 90’s on, the population of the Death Valley Pupfish has been constantly decreasing. In 2013, the species got nearly extinct, as there were only 36 fish left. However, not all is lost. With time, the population started to increase again, slowly but steadily.

During last year, there was a total count of 136 specimens in that area, which is positive news.

6. San Salvador Pupfish present the Fastest Morphological Diversification Ever Documented

On the other side, pupfish which inhabited islands were just as adaptable. Thanks to being able of crossbreeding with different types from various islands, these fish are now featuring different feeding habits and co-exist pretty well.

Today, there are 3 different types which happily live into 2 lakes. And both lakes are salty. They evolve 50 to 130 times faster than any other species of pupfish, but not only pupfish.

7. Some Pupfish Live in Waters as Hot as 114-degrees Fahrenheit

The bighead pupfish is endemic to Mexico, within a small area with less than 0,4 square miles of the total surface. These particular fish are extremely adaptable to hot water. Indeed, they live in nothing less than hot springs!

What they feed on there is mostly various algae and basically, any insect which passes by. Various debris materials can also act as a meal to these adaptable fish.

8. Desert Pupfish can Survive into Waters 6 Times Saltier than the Ocean

Some species of desert pupfish can tolerate overly salty water. For instance, if we take the Salton Sea as a point of reference, the pupfish is its only native fish species.

These fantastic creatures have the ability to survive into such waters which are up to even 6 times saltier when compared to the ocean.

No thirst among these guys.

9. Female Pupfish can Lay anywhere from 50 to 800 Eggs during one Season

Depending on the particular type of pupfish, female specimens can lay anywhere from 50 to 800 eggs during one breeding season. Since they reproduce by spawning, not all of the eggs will manage to get fertilized. However, once they do manage do hatch, the chances of survival are pretty high thanks to their ultimate adaptability.

Within a few hours after hatching, pupfish babies are already able to eat on their own, mostly in the lookout for aquatic plants and some insects or tiny invertebrates. And after 3 months, they are already in their adult life stage.

Luckily, a group of federal wildlife officials have managed to successfully breed some pupfish in captivity tanks for the first time ever. This was a huge step into maintaining the entire species alive and still not fully extinct. Thank you, wildlife lovers!

10. Desert Pupfish can Survive without Oxygen for 5 hours

Nothing is more powerful than nature itself, and especially when trying to keep some endangered species alive. Desert pupfish are known for being able of surviving without oxygen for 5 hours in a row, with just a few super-brief interactions of oxygen use.

So, how do they obtain something as spectacular as that? They are actually not holding their breath, but they are rather going into anaerobic metabolism. Talking about miracles!

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