For Immediate Release
December 8, 1998

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE FINDS PETITION TO DELIST THE
SQUIRREL CHIMNEY CAVE SHRIMP UNWARRANTED

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that a petition to remove the threatened Squirrel Chimney Cave shrimp from the Federal list of endangered and threatened species has not presented convincing evidence to support its claim.

The petition from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission requested that the Service consider removing federal designation for the species because the cave shrimp may already be extinct.

The Squirrel Chimney Cave shrimp was first discovered in 1953. Adults are transparent, a little over an inch in length, and lack body and eye pigmentation. The species is named for its historic and only known habitat, a subterranean aquatic site located in western Alachua County near Gainesville, Florida known as Squirrel Chimney. The Service placed the crustacean on the Endangered Species List in 1990.

"The small number of specimens collected and observed testifies to the extreme rarity of this cave-inhabiting crustacean," said the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam D. Hamilton.

In its petition, the Commission cited a status survey that failed to detect the species at Squirrel Chimney Cave or four similar sites in the area. The Commission claims the species' absence at Squirrel Chimney may be the result of a recent colonization of the site by a potential fish predator, the redeye chub.

Although biologists have not seen the species in more than 20 years, the petition did not present convincing scientific or commercial information indicating that the Squirrel Chimney Cave shrimp is extinct, Hamilton said, noting that the latest survey covered only four of 34 potentially suitable sites within western Alachua County.

The area is a part of the Newberry limestone plain, a geological zone characterized by numerous underground sinks, caves, fissures, and other subterranean passages. Connections between systems occur frequently, and one or more passages between squirrel chimney and other nearby sites would not be unusual. Such passages may be too small to survey but large enough to shelter the elusive shrimp, he said. Connections also may help the shrimp disperse to other habitats.

The Service continues to seek new information on the biology, ecology, distribution, and habitat of this species as well as threats to its survival. Such information is needed to correctly assess the shrimp's status and to make the best recommendations and decisions regarding its conservation, recovery, and possible reclassification.

Those interested in submitting comments, data, and information should send them to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Release #: R98-118


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