Status of the Federally Endangered Alabama Cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus Poulsoni (Amblyopsidae), in Key Cave and surrounding Caves, Alabama
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Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, the Alabama cavefish, is a federally endangered stygobitic fish that is restricted to Key Cave in northwestern Alabama. Due to the low abundance of this species and the continuous threats to the cave's recharge area, we surveyed Key Cave from 1992 to 1997. Alabama cavefish were present in five different pools and had numbers comparable to previous surveys performed in the 1970's and 1980's. Three different size classes were observed, indicating recruitment is occurring. These data suggest that the population is relatively stable, but future monitoring is recommended. The Alabama cavefish is an endangered species and is extremely difficult to capture, therefore any marking program to accurately estimate the population size is unlikely. A single specimen of Typhlichthys subterraneus was captured in Key Cave. This falsifies the previous assumption that these two species are allopatric. Because of this discovery, we resurveyed seven caves in the area around Key Cave for additional populations of S. poulsoni. These caves had either known populations of T. subterraneus or unidentified cavefish. No additional populations of S. poulsoni were discovered, but further investigation is warranted. The Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge was established in the high recharge area of Key Cave to protect this habitat, yet threats to the groundwater continue from encroaching urbanization.
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