|Alabama Cavefish adult (Photo by Dante Fenolio)|
Conservation status: IUCN Red List - Critically Endangered C2b; NatureServe - G1 (Alabama: S1). Listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Listed as Endangered in Alabama.
Description: Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni is an eyeless and depigmented amblyopsid cavefish that is pinkish-white in color with some structures, like fins, fin rays and the venter, that are quite translucent. Morphologically, it is the most cave-adapted fish in the family Amblyopsidae. Adults are typically 30-58 mm (1.2-2.3 inches) standard length (SL). Both adults and juveniles have an extremely elongate and flattened snout with a terminal mouth that is duck-like in appearance. Unlike other amblyopsid cavefishes, S. poulsoni lacks branched fin rays, and the fin membranes are incised giving a spiked appearance. Pelvic fins are lacking. Fin rays counts are as follows: 9 (9-10) dorsal, 8 (8-9) anal, 9 (9-11) pectoral, and 22 (21-22) caudal. The lateral-line system is hypertrophied and their is an elaborated system of superficial neuromasts arranged in distinct ridges on the head and along the body. Caudal sensory papillae are also found on the caudal fin. Scales are small, imbedded, and cycloid. The urogenital pore and anus are jugular in position. Recent molecular work indicates that S. poulsoni is most closely related to the Southern Cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus).
|Lateral view of an Alabama Cavefish.|
Habitat: Key Cave is a maze-like cave system developed in the Mississippian-aged Tuscumbia Limestone. The aquatic habitat in Key Cave consists of a series of pools with little flow that occur in a zone of seasonal oscillation of the local water table. Several of these pools are quite deep reaching depths of up to 5 m depending on seasonal water levels. Significant bat roosts occur near at least two pools where guano occasionally slides or falls into the water.
|Close-up dorsal view of head.|
|Dorsal view of an Alabama Cavefish.|
Fun Fact: Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni is named in honor of Dr. Tom Poulson, a prominent cave biologist who has studied amblyopsid cavefishes and other cave life since the late 1950s.
Boschung HT, Mayden RL. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Cooper JC, Kuehne RA. 1974. Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, a new genus and species of subterranean fish from Alabama. Copeia 1974: 486-493.
Kuhajda BR. 2004. The impact of the proposed Eddie Frost Commerce Park on Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, the Alabama cavefish, a federally endangered species restricted to Key Cave, Lauderdale County, Alabama. Endangered Species Update 21: 57.
Kuhajda BR, Mayden RL. 2001. Status of the federally endangered Alabama cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni (Amblyopsidae), in Key Cave and surrounding caves, Alabama. Environmental Biology of Fishes 62: 215-222.
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Poulson TL. 2009. New studies of Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni (Pisces: Amblyopsidae). Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Speleology 3: 1337-1342.
Proudlove GS. 2006. Subterranean fishes of the world. International Society for Subterranean Biology, Moulis, France.
Romero A. 1998. Threatened fishes of the world: Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni Cooper & Kuehne, 1974 (Amblyopsidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 62: 293-294.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1977. Final threatened and status and critical habitat for five species of southeastern fishes. Federal Register 42: 45526-45530.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Recovery plan for the Alabama cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni Cooper and Kuehne 1974. Prepared by Cooper JE, North Carolina State Museum of Natural History. 72pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: reclassification of the Alabama cavefish from threatened to endangered. Federal Register 53: 37968-37969.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1990. Alabama cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni Cooper and Kuehne 1974 (Second Revision) recovery plan. Prepared by Cooper JE, North Carolina State Museum of Natural History. Revised by Stewart JH, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 17pp.