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Updated Jun 18, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Endangered species found spawning in Grand Canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — The razorback sucker, an endangered
fish species believed missing from Grand Canyon National Park since the 1990s,
has been found spawning in the lower Colorado River.

Researchers have discovered larval razorback suckers since mid-April in the
river that runs through the canyon, U.S. Department of the Interior officials
said Wednesday.

This development indicates that suitable habitat is available to support larger
populations of the species that’s characterized by a long, high sharp-edged hump
behind its head, experts said.

The razorback sucker, which can grow to up to 3 feet in length and live 40
years or more, was once abundant throughout the Colorado River and its
tributaries from the Green River in Wyoming to the Gulf of California.

But because of basin-wide alterations in habitat and the introduction of
non-native species, spawning and survival to adulthood for the razorback sucker
was known to occur only in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the
Arizona-Nevada border.

The National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released nine adult
razorback suckers on March 16 in the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National
Park.

The larval fish were first detected April 14 and again in multiple samples
later in April and last month, officials said.

Larval razorback suckers were surprisingly found at nine of the 47 locations in
the park, said Mark McKinstry, a biologist with the Bureau of Reclamation.

“We’re all hoping to see evidence that these larval fish survive to adulthood
in the coming years,” said Brian Healy, fisheries program manager for the
national park.

The creation of the Glen Canyon Dam in the early 1960s near the Arizona-Utah
border led to a loss of habitat for some Grand Canyon fish species, experts
said.

The suckers don’t reproduce easily in temperatures below 50 degrees and are
eaten by exotic fish such as bullhead, carp and channel catfish.

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