Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Adults inhabit subterranean waters of quite small cave streams. Preferred habitat in these caves is chert rubble though individuals are also found in areas of silt-sand substrates. Stomachs examined contained copepods which constituted about 70-90% by volume with the balance being primarily small salamanders, crayfish, isopods, amphipods and young of their own species (Ref. 34868). Eggs are carried in gill chambers of females (Ref. 205). Threatened by overfishing (Ref. 10172).
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Distribution

endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) Range includes the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands in southwestern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas, and northeastern Oklahoma (Brown and Willis 1984); this region is drained by the White, Neosho, and Osage rivers (USFWS 2011).

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North America: Springfield Plateau in southwestern Missouri, northeastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas (Arkansas and upper White River drainages), USA.
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Geographic Range

With the only recorded populations in the world found in seven adjacent counties in the midwestern United States, Amblyopsis rosae is truly a locally endemic species. The only three states that contain counties with the cavern environment necessary to sustain their delicate niche are in Arkansas (Benton County), Missouri (Barry, Greene, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton, Spring, and Stone Counties), and Oklahoma (Delaware and Ottawa Counties). Due to decades of both natural and human-related pressures, historical populations of A. rosae have experienced a reduction in their range, which may still be occurring today. The common name, Ozark cavefish, is derived from the Ozark Highlands, a large plateau spanning three states. In states where they are found, populations have been verified in at least 21 different cave localities.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Historic Range:
U.S.A. (AR, MO, OK)

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Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and possibly also Kansas, U.S.A. (in caves).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal soft rays (total): 7 - 8; Analsoft rays: 8
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Physical Description

With an average length of approximately 38 mm and mass of approximately 2.5 g, Amblyopsis rosae has evolved into a species that lacks pigmentation. Their de-pigmented epithelial layer is absent of melanin, thus they have a translucent appearance. As a result, the visceral organs can often be seen through the fish, consequently giving it a pinkish tint. Ozark cavefish lack a pelvic fin as well as functional eyes. This lack of sight is a result of the environment, which has rendered sight useless in the dark depths of caverns. To compensate for the absence of vision, A. rosae has a nervous system that is highly sensitive to smell and sound.

Range length: 24.0 to 42.5 mm.

Average length: 38.0 mm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.011 cm^3 oxygen/hour.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 5 cm

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Maximum size: 62 mm TL
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Max. size

6.2 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 5723))
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Diagnostic Description

Pink-white. No eyes (vestigial eye tissues under skin). No pelvic fins. Usually 8 anal rays; 9-11 branched caudal rays.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Freshwater

Comments: Habitat includes dark cave waters, primarily clear streams with chert or rubble bottom, occasionally pools over silt or sand bottom. See Willis and Brown (1985). See Lister and Noltie (no date) for detailed information on the characteristics of occupied and unoccupied habitat.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Subterranean/cave-dwelling species.

Systems
  • Freshwater
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Arkansas River Basin Habitat

This taxon is one of a number of species found in the Arkansas River Basin system. The Arkansas River rises near Leadville, Colorado at an elevation of approximately 3010 meters about thirty kilometers north of Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest peak. Tthe upper reaches of the Arkansas River manifest turbulent high gradient passage through rugged volcanic terrain; the flow continues to the Royal Gorge, where one of the world's highest suspension bridges towers 320 meters above the river surface; thereafter, the river course flows generally eastward through Kansas, thence southeastward through Oklahoma and Arkansas until its discharge to the Mississippi River. The river basin also includes parts of the states of New Mexico, Texas and Missouri. Chief tributaries of the Arkansas River are Purgatoire River, Fountain Creek, Pawnee River, Salt Fork River, Illinois River,Verdigris River, Neosho River, Cimarron River and the Canadian River. The mean annual discharge at Little Rock, Arkansas is approximately 1118 cubic meters per second, a level remarkably undifferentiated from virgin flow, before the era of locks, impoundments and extraction. Water quality at the headwaters near Leadville, Colorado is quite high, consisting of cold, rapidly flowing water of pH 6.3. Concentrations of calcium, sodium, magnesium and chloride are all less than ten milligrams per liter in this pristine headwaters area. Crossing the Southern Plains below Great Bend, Kansas, the pH elevates to a level of 8.0, sodium concentrations rise to a range of 300 to 500 mg/l, with other ions rising by similar large percentages. After receiving the more pristine runoff from the Ozark Plateau, below Fort Smith, Arkansas, the pH level can be measured as low as 7.5, and sodium along with other ion concentrations are reduced by a factor of four. At the Mississippi Embayment, nitrate and phosphate levels are elevated due to row crop agricultural runoff of this region. A number of crayfishes are found in the Arkansas River, including Orconectes palmeri, O. nais, O. virilis, Procambarus acutus and P. simulans. In the downstream reaches of the Mississippi Embayment a number of commercially important native freshwater mussels occur, including the threeridge mussel (Amblema plicata) and mapleleaf mussel (Quadrula quadrula). Other common freshwater mussels found in the Arkansas River and its tributaries are the pink papershell (Potamilus ohiensis), bleufer (P. purpuratus), fawnsfoot (Truncilla donaciformis), fragile papershell (Leptodea fragilis), pondhorn mussel (Uniomerus tetralasmus) and fluted shell mussel (Lasmigona costata). There are 141 species of fish present in the Arkansas River basin, including two near endemics: slough darter (Etheostoma gracile) and speckled darter (Etheostoma stigmae). The federally threatened and near-endemic Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus) occurs in the Neosho River, a tributary that rises in the Flint Hills. Also present in the Neosho River is the endangered Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka). The cardinal shiner (Luxilus cardinalis) is a near-endemic that is now restricted to populations in the Arkansas River and Red River, and disjunctive populations in the Neosho River. In the upper Arkansas River mainstem is found the plains leopard frog (Rana blairi); also occurring in the upper basin are a number of reptiles, including yellow mud turtle (Kinosternon flavescens), midland smooth softshell (Apalone mutica), western spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera hartwegi) and northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon). In the downriver portions of the basin (Eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas) are found the false map turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica) and the venomous cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus).

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Environment

demersal; potamodromous (Ref. 51243); freshwater
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Ozark cavefish are extremely specialized to their cave ecosystem, requiring a pristine water source that remains at a temperature between 12.8 and 15.6°C. Because of this, they typically occupy caves whose water source comes from swelling groundwater, as opposed to surface-running streams. Access to this groundwater is possible due to the geologic characteristics of the plateau under which they live. Lying under a layer of exposed rock and soil, various types of eroded limestone including Burlington, Pierson, and Keokuk, make up the walls of individual cave habitats. Beneath this layer of limestone lies a bed of Chattanooga shale, which the groundwater settles on, allowing the groundwater to swell into the caves. In addition to the natural purification of the groundwater, the physical isolation of the cavern environment keeps out competing organisms and/or pathogens that are more prevalent in surface stream environments.

Because of lack of sunlight, streams in these caves are relatively barren, with mainly rocky, small-pebbled bottoms. Species richness is low, limited to a few species of salamanders, invertebrates, and copepods.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams

Other Habitat Features: caves

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Potamodromous. Migrating within streams, migratory in rivers, e.g. Saliminus, Moxostoma, Labeo. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Primary diet is small crustaceans; also eats small salamanders and conspecific young (Robison and Buchanan 1988).

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Food Habits

Ozark cavefish are carnivorous. The diet is relatively specialized, as prey choice is limited to the few organisms that are found in their cave environments. Ozark cavefish consume crayfish species including cave crayfish and spot handed crayfish; eggs from darksided salamander and cave salamanders; stygobitic arthropod species such as Stygobromus onondagaensis and Stygobromus ozarkensis; as well as a species of styobitic isopod. Additionally, they are cannibalistic. A portion of the diet, during periods of hatching, may consist of newly hatched young and/or developing juvenile cavefish.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Eats other marine invertebrates)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Cave streams inhabited by Ozark cavefish are nutrient-poor because of their isolation from natural nutrient inputs, such as decomposing materials that make up the base of the food chain, including rotting leaves, soil, and dead organisms. The primary input of decomposing organic matter in these cave streams is guano from gray bat (Myotis grisescens) roosts.

Mutualist Species:

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Predation

Ozark cavefish do not have any natural predators. Most deaths are due to dying from old age or from cannibalism in younger stages. Humans harm Ozark cavefish populations as a result of disruption from cave spelunking or collection of specimens for research.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 80

Comments: Ozark cavefish are consistently seen at 16 of the 41 known "active" sites (USFWS 2011). Based on groundwater recharge zones, the number of locations (as defined by IUCN) is more than 10.

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Global Abundance

Unknown

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown. "A range-wide estimate of countable cavefish using the most recent population monitoring numbers suggests 213 individuals. It is generally acknowledged that this species is a groundwater obligate and this estimate does not reflect actual numbers. Biologists only count fish in accessible reaches of caves and wells, and are unable to access groundwater conduits where fish may be distributed throughout." Source: USFWS (2011).

Just two caves represent approximately 80 percent of the countable cavefish (USFWS 2011).

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General Ecology

Bat guano is the primary energy/nutrient source in the cave ecosystems where this species occurs.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Because populations of Ozark cavefish are small and individuals are relatively solitary, communication with individuals outside of mating is limited. However, perception is vital for this species, as they have no vision. Ozark cavefish rely on concentrated bundles of nerves in their peripheral nervous system known as neuromasts. These neuromasts, located on the caudal fin, are able to detect motion in the surrounding water in the form of ripples or waves. They also have a lateral line across the side of their body which is far more sensitive than that of other fish species. Through a function known as hydrodynamic imaging, Ozark cavefish are able use this sensitive lateral line to create a picture of their surrounding environment.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: vibrations

Perception Channels: acoustic ; vibrations

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Life Cycle

Incubates eggs in gill chamber of females (Ref. 205).
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Development

The Ozark cavefish life cycle begins as an egg that is held within the gill chambers of the female. For four to five months after hatching, the young remain within the confines of the gill chambers. By doing this, young fry have the opportunity to grow and, upon leaving the gill chamber, are less likely to be victims of cannibalism. Maturation through their intermediate stages is very slow; both sexes grow an average of 0.6 mm per month. Regardless of age, individuals that are smaller in size tend to grow at faster rates compared to those of larger size.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Ozark cavefish grow at a slow rate, approximately 0.6 millimeters every month, and have a long lifespan. Because they are only viable in the wild and conservation measures restrict the capture of this species, a measure of average lifespan in captivity is not available. However, the average lifespan of wild populations is approximately 10 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

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Reproduction

Little is known of reproduction. Breeding behavior may be similar to the northern cavefish (Pflieger 1975). As few as 20% of the adult female population may breed in any one year. This species may be a branchial (i.e., gill chamber) brooder, which is also indicated by the position of the jugular vent, along with the size and shape of the gill chamber (Poulson 1963). Breeding may take place in the spring, after which the eggs and then young are probably held in the gill chamber for 4 to 5 months to June or July (Poulson 1963, Pflieger 1975, Robison and Buchanan 1988). Low reproductive capacity; apparently slow to mature (Robison and Buchanan 1988).

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Ozark cavefish are polygynandrous species, mating at random with multiple partners in an attempt to increase population fitness, although not all females may have ova ready for fertilization.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Ozark cavefish are considered sexually mature at age 4. Regardless of their sexual maturity, about 20% of the mature female population develop ova each year. It is believed that this reproductive limitation results from limited food sources in the cave. This birth limitation also helps to control food availability; lower population sizes do not demand as much food, which is limited in the cave environment. Eggs produced during each breeding period tend to be large in size and low in number when compared to similar species.

Breeding interval: Breeding in individuals is non-annual and sporadic, with 20% of mature females becoming fertile each year.

Breeding season: Ozark cavefish may breed at any time throughout the year.

Range number of offspring: 20 to 25.

Average time to hatching: 4-5 months.

Average time to independence: Immediate upon hatching. minutes.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4+ (low) years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4+ (low) years.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous

Though juvenile Ozark cavefish are independent, parental investment before and after hatching is high. Once the eggs fertilized, they are transferred to the female's gill chamber, where they remain for four to five months until hatching. During that time, the female is responsible for protecting the eggs from harm. This, in turn, temporarily reduces her fitness as she is unable to be as mobile as she would be without her offspring. Males provide no parental investment outside of fertilizing the female ovum.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable

Reasons: Small range in Springfield Plateau in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas; observable population very small, but true population size unknown; some populations stable, others apparently declining, most of uncertain trend;tthreatened by potential risks to water quality and quantity associated with urbanization and other land use development activities, a lack of knowledge regarding the species life history and ecology, potential indirect effects to the species by white nose syndrome effects to bat populations, trespass and vandalism, and mortality/habitat damge resulting from cave entry by humans.

Other Considerations: This species is one of the most highly cave adapted species in the family Amblyopsidae (Poulson 1961, 1963)

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
D1+2

Version
2.3

Year Assessed
1996
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Gimenez Dixon, M.

Reviewer/s

Contributor/s

History
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Threatened
Date Listed: 11/01/1984
Lead Region:   Southeast Region (Region 4) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: T

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Amblyopsis rosae , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Both the United States Federal List and the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List indicate that Amblyopsis rosae is a threatened species. The primary threat is pollution of cave stream habitats. Habitat disturbance is also a major threat; both through over-collection of A. rosae specimens and caving and spelunking. Also, declining groundwater levels are negatively affecting populations.

To combat these effects on the Ozark cavefish, the states in which they are found have taken measures to ensure their conservation, such as blocking off the entrances to caverns. Additional monitoring techniques are also being practiced, such as water quality and population monitoring.

US Federal List: threatened

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but area of occupancy and abundance probably are slowly declining. "Using monitoring numbers and professional judgment of cavefish biologists for determining population trend, six populations have declined, 25 are undetermined, and 10 are stable. Of populations that are undetermined and/or unoccupied, infrequency of survey and site accessibility issues may be contributing factors." Source: USFWS (2011).

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 10-70%

Comments: This species currently exists in 41 caves and wells, whereas historically it occurred at about 52 sites (see USFWS 2011). However, the majority of the 41 sites have not had confirmed cavefish sightings for at least six years (USFWS 2011).

"There is no evidence over the past year to indicate population declines. However, 17 of 35 occupied sites have not had a documented cavefish in 6+ years. Sufficient documentation does not exist at this time to indicate whether the loss of these sites is indicative of large-scale population declines or site-specific declines at the extant localities." Source: USFWS (2011).

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Threats

Degree of Threat: A : Very threatened throughout its range communities directly exploited or their composition and structure irreversibly threatened by man-made forces, including exotic species

Comments: Threats include water pollution from agricultural and urban sources, flooding by reservoirs, closing of cave entrances, accidental spills of contaminants along transportation routes, restricted habitat, and heavy use of some sites by cavers (Willis and Brown 1985, Brown and Todd 1987, Aley and Aley 1997, USFWS 2011). Water quality threats are typically from non-point sources and difficult to regulate (USFWS 2011). Increased groundwater withdrawals for home, community, and agricultural use, depletes groundwater and limits available habitat (USFWS 2011). Several populations have been extirpated as a result of stocking of trout, filling in of cave/sinkhole entrances, contaminant spills, or flooding by reservoirs (USFWS 2011). Possible reduction of bat populations resulting from white-nose syndrome is regarded as a potential threat (USFWS 2011).

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Vulnerable (VU) (D1+2)
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Management

Management Requirements: Missouri Department of Conservation and cooperators havecompleted several habitat management projects, including riparian reestablishment, well capping, fencing around cave entrances and sinkholes, and sign posting (Figg and Bessken 1995).

Biological Research Needs: Genetic studies, population dynamic studies, and habitat analysis.

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Global Protection: Few (1-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Numerous cave entrances protected, cave watershed mostly unprotected. Protected by state, federal and private agencies.

Needs: Restrict human access to subterranean habitat and protect watershed from pollution.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: of no interest
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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ozark cavefish do not negatively effect humans in general, although protection efforts can disrupt certain cave sports. A handful caves in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have been quarantined in an attempt to help preserve the species.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ozark cavefish are often targeted for academic research because of their unique ecology, evolution, and their endangered status. This research has the potential to generate positive economic roles in the form of research grant money.

Positive Impacts: research and education

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Wikipedia

Ozark cavefish

The Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae, is a small subterranean freshwater fish native to the United States. It has been listed as a threatened species in the US since 1984; the IUCN lists the species as Vulnerable. It is listed as endangered by the Missouri Department of Conservation.[1]

The Ozark cavefish is pinkish-white and reaches a maximum length of 2.0 in (5 cm). The head is flattened, and it has a slightly protruding lower jaw. The fish has no pelvic fin; the dorsal and anal fins are farther back than on most fish. It has only rudimentary eyes and no optic nerve. The Ozark cavefish lives only in caves. It has no pigmentation and has lost some unused characters. However, it is well adapted to a cave environment through well-developed sensory papillae. They feed primarily on microscopic organisms, as well as small crustaceans and salamander larvae. Their reproductive rate is low compared to most other fish.[2][3]

Habitat[edit]

Caves which have populations of the Ozark cavefish all have a relatively large source of nutrients, such as bat guano or blown leaf litter. Water quality in caves containing them is usually high. They are able to tolerate the extremely low oxygen content of ground water found in caves. Cavefish tend to occur in flowing cave streams as opposed to quiet pools. The Ozark cavefish can receive nutrients from the tree roots above the cave. The roots are full of nutrients and water. The roots spread photosynthetic products in the cave, so organisms like Ozark cavefish and other species are able to feed on the roots.

Distribution[edit]

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The geographic distribution of Ozark cavefish consists of northeastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas, and southwestern Missouri. The fish is native to the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands. Currently, 15 caves in this area have verified populations. In Oklahoma, populations are known to occur in Delaware County. Historical records for Ottawa and Mayes Counties also indicate populations. Factors that have led to the decline of the Ozark cavefish include destruction of habitat, collecting of specimens, and disturbance by spelunkers.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gimenez Dixon (1996). Amblyopsis rosae. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU D1+2 v2.3)
  2. ^ "Amblyopsis rosae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 30 January 2006. 
  3. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2005). "Amblyopsis rosae" in FishBase. 10 2005 version.
  4. ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae)
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Unpublished mtDNA data of Bergstrom, Noltie, and Holtsford indicate that the Ozark cavefish comprises four genetically distinct clades in the following drainages: White River, Missouri; Neosho River, Missouri; Neosho River, Oklahoma; and Illinois River, Arkansas; these clades may warrant recognition as subspecies; furthermore, inclusion of both rosae and A. spelaea in the genus Amblyopsis "is erroneous because they are not sister species" (see Figg and Bessken 1995). Accordingly, Page and Burr (2011) placed Ozark cavefish in the genus Troglichthys.

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