Ozark Cavefish

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Watch scientists gather samples from the largest known Ozark Cavefish population in this video.

View the Ozark Cavefish recovery plan and 5-year review

To learn more about the region in which this species lives, visit our Karst FAQ page.

Ozark Cavefish
Ozark Cavefish (Troglichthys rosae)
Status: Threatened
Listed November 1, 1984

For more information on the Ozark Cavefish, contact Thomas Inebnit at thomas_inebnit@fws.gov or (501) 513-4483.

Species Facts:
The Ozark Cavefish is a small (2 inch), pinkish-white fish. It is eyeless; instead of eyes, this fish uses sensory organs on its head, body and tail to find food by sensing water movement. The primary diet of the Ozark Cavefish is plankton, crustaceans, and small salamanders. There is also some evidence they feed directly on bat guano, but locations with bat guano also contain the highest concentration of other prey. Since the fish relies directly or indirectly on gray bat guano as an energy source, gray bat mortality and cave abandonment may threaten the survival of these small fish. Total numbers are unknown.

Habitat Summary:
The Ozark Cavefish is found in only 14 caves in the Springfield Plateau region of the Ozark Highlands in northwest Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and northeast Oklahoma. This area is classified as karst for its porous rock; to learn more about this unique region, visit our Karst FAQ page. Ozark Cavefish habitat includes dark cave waters, primarily clear upwelling streams with chert or rubble bottom but occasionally pools over silt or sand bottom.

Why is it Threatened?
Two of the primary reasons for listing the Ozark cavefish were habitat loss and habitat degradation, results of human activity in caves and activities above-ground that adversely affect groundwater quality. A variety of land use activities may adversely affect the species by contaminating groundwater with pollutants such as nutrients, pesticides, and other contaminants.

On January 23, 2015, a small team of scientists entered Cave Springs Cave at the Illinois River Watershed Sanctuary in Cave Springs, Arkansas. This cave is home to the largest known population of this species. Representatives from ADEQ, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy gathered population data and DNA samples for research on the endemic and threatened Ozark Cavefish. Click here to view the video from Illinois River Watershed Partnership.

The Ozark Cavefish also has a Recovery Plan (1989)and a 5-year review (2011).

Range in Arkansas:

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

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