Located on the floor of Death Valley (CA, USA), Salt Creek harbors a single fish species, the Salt Creek pupfish, Cyprinodon salinus salinus, which has adapted to this extremely harsh environment. Salt Creek is fed by an underground spring and is comprised of numerous pools, runs, and marshes that exhibit substantial variability in temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen concentrations. In addition, the wetted area of Salt Creek is reduced throughout the summer months due to high rates of evaporation, with some reaches drying completely. Therefore, it seems logical that short- and long-term movement patterns may play an important role in Salt Creek pupfish population dynamics. The objective of this study was to describe coarse-scale movements of Salt Creek pupfish in Salt Creek during their breeding season from March to May. Sex ratios and length–frequency distributions varied spatially within Salt Creek, suggesting population segregation during the breeding season. Long-distance movements were generally rare, although two fish moved more than 1.2 km. Movement in upstream reaches was rare or absent, in contrast to the greater movement observed in downstream reaches (29% of recaptures). Temporal trends and demographic patterns in movement were not observed. Because the two most downstream habitats dry up in the summer, our results indicate that coarse-scale movements that re-populate downstream reaches likely occur during other times of year. Consequently, the importance of small- and large-scale movements is influenced by season. Further assessment of Salt Creek movement patterns conducted during other times of year may better illuminate long-distance movement patterns and source-sink dynamics.
Additional publication details
Coarse-scale movement patterns of a small-bodied fish inhabiting a desert stream