We’re back, suckers.
After returning to the lower Colorado River in 2012 after a 22-year absence, the endangered razorback sucker fish is now spawning in Grand Canyon National Park, scientists announced today (June 18).
Biologists discovered larval razorback suckers in April and May at nine spots along the iconic Colorado River, which is home to several critically endangered fish species found nowhere else in the world.
“Razorback suckers continue to surprise us in Grand Canyon [National Park]— first with the discovery of adults after 20 years of absence, and now with spawning within the park,” Brian Healy, fisheries program manager for the national park, said in a statement. “We’re all hoping to see evidence that these larval fish survive to adulthood in the coming years.” [Grand Canyon: Take a Hike Through Geological Time (Photos)]
The razorback sucker was one of the biggest suckers swimming in the Colorado River before the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 1960s. Growing up to 3 feet (1 meter) long, with a distinctive bony keel on its back, the fish disappeared from the stretch of river flowing through the Grand Canyon in 1990. The dam chilled the river and starved it of sediment, changing the habitat for native species. The introduction of non-native fish species also hurt locals such as the razorback and humpback chub.
The razorback sucker was placed on the national endangered species list in 1991 and Colorado’s endangered species list in 1979.