The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Celebrating Forty Years of the Endangered Species Act: Desert Pupfish

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Scientific Name:
   Cyprinodon macularius

Year Listed on the Endangered Species List:  1986

Endangered Species Listing Status:  Endangered

Conservation Efforts and Partners:  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the California Department of Fish and Game have several long running projects to monitor water quality and inflows to the various waterways in which desert pupfish live.  Protecting natural habitat is one of the most important conservation activities necessary to protect this species.

Several zoos, including the Living Desert and the Phoenix Zoo, conduct captive breeding and provide stock for wild desert pupfish populations.

Where Desert Pupfishes Live:  

Originally found in the Lower Colorado River drainage in Arizona, California, and northern Mexico but is now restricted to a few parts those areas springs, marshes, lakes, and creek pools with sandy substrates.  The desert pupfish can adapt to extreme and sudden changes in temperature and salinity and have been known to survive in fresh water, in water that is saltier than ocean water, in water over 100°F (38°C), and in water below 50°F (10°C). 

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What Desert Pupfishes Eat:   

Algae, aquatic plants, detritus, worms and mussels. 

How Long Desert Pupfishes Live:  Up to 3 years

How We Can All Help Desert Pupfishes:   

Support organizations, such as The Center for Biological Diversity, that are engaged in conservation of the desert pupfish and in protecting the waterways in which it lives.

The Phoenix Zoo offers these additional suggestions to folks who live near the waterways where the desert pupfish lives:

  • Be water conscious by conserving and understand where your water comes from and where it returns to after you use it.
  • Keep pollutants out of our waterways.
  • Never release an animal or plant into a water system without knowing if it is native to that system.
  • Supporting The Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation Center.
  • Building awareness about this small vibrant fish that lives in the desert!
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