Live-streaming camera offers a glimpse into the lives of desert pupfish

PHOENIX — Those curious about the underwater lives of Arizona’s desert pupfish can tune in to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s newest wildlife live-streaming camera.

The desert pupfish camera is located in the cienega habitat at the Red Mountain Campus of Mesa Community College, which has partnered to conserve this endangered fish and other wildlife species. The cienega pond houses a variety of native wildlife, including Gila topminnows (another endangered fish), long-finned dace, lowland leopard frogs and Sonoran mud turtles.

“Desert pupfish are among our most beautiful native fishes,” said Randy Babb, AZGFD Watchable Wildlife Program manager. “They are well adapted to harsh environments – they can tolerate water with low oxygen levels and salinity three times that of sea water in addition to temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. Part of this project is being done to establish literal gene pools for conservation efforts to ensure these important fishes are not lost to future generations.”

The project is made possible through a partnership between AZGFD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through these partnerships, small refuge ponds have been set up to breed and house the fish, acting as gene pools to conserve discrete linages of native fish for reintroducing endangered fish back to historic habitats.

Desert pupfish populations declined in the late 1950s due to habitat destruction and the introduction of larger predatory fishes. Recovery efforts have not only included captive rearing and refuge sites, but the control of exotic species and restoration of historic aquatic habitats.

Desert pupfish are small, about two inches in length, and were once very common. They were originally found in many of southern Arizona’s springs, marshes and rivers where they inhabited the slow, shallow waters along the edges.

Though females do not change in appearance, males become metallic blue with a yellow tail and their fins develop a black border. Male desert pupfish aggressively defend spawning territories, known as reds.

Pupfish are omnivorous, feeding primarily on aquatic plants and invertebrates such as algae and insect larvae like mosquito.

The desert pupfish live-streaming camera is the third at AZGFD. The department launched a live feed of sandhill cranes in 2016, showing the birds wintering in southern Arizona. Also that year, the department established its camera on a peregrine falcon nest atop the Maricopa County Administration building in downtown Phoenix.

The peregrine falcon nest camera went dark as the nesting pair did not return this season.

To view the desert pupfish camera or any of the other feeds, visit www.azgfd.gov/livecams

Arizona, pupfish

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