Pupfish in the Devil’s Hole survive “desert tsunami”
September 22, 2022

An earthquake in Mexico earlier this week, roughly one hundred miles southeast of Guadalajara, measured a 7.6 on the Richter scale and caused waves and swells about four feet high in the Devil’s Hole in California’s Death Valley.

At 11:05 AM on Monday, the earthquake hit. 22 minutes later, it began to have an effect on the Devil’s Hole in Death valley National Park.

Devils Hole is a limestone cave structure in the park that reaches hundreds of feet deep. The watery cave is home to the endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish. The endangered fish rely on algae that grows on the edges of the shallow, sunlit cavern shelfs.

According to the park service, the waves inside of the Devil’s Hole maxed out at about four feet high.

Anticipating the waves as a result of the earthquake, the Park Service had a team on site to record the ebb and flow of the massive, cavernous, swells.

National Park Service aquatic ecologist, Kevin Wilson said, “The pupfish have survived several of these events in recent years. We didn’t find any dead fish after the waves stopped.”

In March of this year, scientists counted 175 Devil’s Hole pupfish in the waters inside the cave. That number is up from only 35 the same time last year.

According to the park service, Monday’s waves following the earthquake agitated the sediment and rocks on shelfs in the caves shallows and removed a great deal of the algae growth. This negatively impacts the volume of food available for the pupfish.

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