One of World’s Rarest Fish Is Thriving in Death Valley Following ‘Desert Tsunami’

by Shelby Scott
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

One of the world’s rarest fish, known as the Devils Hole pupfish, lives in Death Valley National Park, right here in the United States. With a population numbering just a few hundred, scientists are consistently worried about the rare breed’s regeneration. However, despite a recent “desert tsunami,” brought on by an earthquake more than 1,000 miles away, the pupfish population at Death Valley National Park is absolutely thriving.

Earlier this month, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Mexico had a severe effect on the waters filling the Death Valley cavern known as Devils Hole. The trembling, which took place 1,500 miles away, managed to send 4-foot waves crashing back and forth around the cavern. Known as a “seiche,” a wave that swings around a standing body of water, park experts worried the disruption would harm algae growth. This affects the fish as they depend on the algae for nesting and sustenance.

Miraculously, though, the opposite seems to be true. Several days after the trembling in the Death Valley cavern settled, national park biologists 263 Devils Hole pupfish. According to The Sacramento Bee, this is the highest the population has been in nearly 20 years.

In order to achieve an accurate count, the outlet states some NPS biologists observe the fish on the surface. Others must dive 100 feet down into Devils Hole’s waters to observe individuals deeper in the cavern.

All About Death Valley’s Devils Hole Pupfish:

Okay, so we know the Devils Hole pupfish population in Death Valley National Park is on the incline. But this is even more significant as these rare creatures are only found in this California national park. Even more important, the autumn population of pupfish hasn’t been this high since 2003.

Per park scientists, the lowest recorded number of pupfish in Death Valley National Park was 35, an all-time low. In the time since, the fall population has steadily increased, though numbers were still much higher prior to 2000.

The Sacramento Bee states that Death Valley National Park’s pupfish populations tended to achieve levels of 400 and 500 in the 1990s. Comparatively, scientists stated observable numbers of the pupfish have averaged just 90, give or take, in recent years.

As to the current explosion in population, scientists believe the recent earthquake has actually aided in its growth.

Per the outlet, Devils Hole is a limestone cave in the small Nevada portion of Death Valley National Park. The cavern appears relatively small based on a video capturing the recent seiche, but it actually stretches down several hundred feet. The pupfish, however, only live in the water north of 80 feet deep and they utilize the algae growth around the cave to respawn and forage.