Endangered Razorback Sucker Fish Found Spawning in Grand Canyon

Researchers sampling for fish were surprised but happy to see the endangered razorback sucker fish spawning in Grand Canyon National Park.

This is the same fish that appeared after a 20-year absence in the Grand Canyon in 2012 — the razorback sucker that some thought no longer lived there.

At up to 3 feet in length, the long-lived fish used to be found throughout the Colorado River system before the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 1960s. It’s an endangered species that was previously found only in the Colorado River and nowhere else on the planet.

The Glen Canyon Dam, opened in 1963, starved the river of its sediments and reduced the average temperature of the water. These changes affected the habitat for the fish.
The last razorback sucker caught in the Grand Canyon was in 1990.

Conservation groups claim a number of Grand Canyon species are at risk; more than half were affected in some way by the addition of Glen Canyon Dam.

According to a biologist with the Bureau of Reclamation, razorback suckers don’t reproduce easily in temperatures below 50 degrees and are eaten by a number of other fish. Biologists suggest the fish might have traveled upstream from Lake Mead.

“This exciting news suggests that Grand Canyon is becoming a significant basin-wide haven for the endangered fishes in the Colorado River,” Lesley Fitzpatrick, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a recent statement.

While scientists don’t know why the razorback sucker has returned, Colorado River conditions have become more favorable for spawning in the past years. Sandbars and beaches have reappeared along the river, helping rebuild habitat along the sediment-starved river.

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Grand Canyon National Park is home to 355 different birds, 89 types of mammals and 56 reptile and amphibian species. If you’re lucky enough, you might see some of this wildlife on your next Grand Canyon hike.