The Alabama cavefish is only known from a single cave aquifer system in northwest Alabama. Although the entrance to the cave and a portion of the surface property is protected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ownership, much of the surrounding land and particularly portions of the aquifer and recharge area remain unprotected. The species continues to face threats from groundwater degradation and lower groundwater levels, in addition to diminished organic input by bats. These threats, coupled with the species’ restricted range and small population size, increase its vulnerability.
The Alabama cavefish is known only from Key Cave, formerly known as Coffee Cave, as documented by T. Aley in 1990, in
Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a satellite unit of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and is situated on Tennessee Valley Authority land in Lauderdale County, northwest Alabama.
A natural chamber or series of chambers in the earth or in the side of a hill or cliff. An irregular limestone region with sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.
The food of the Alabama cavefish has not been determined, but undoubtedly includes copepods, isopods,
amphipods, small crayfish and shrimp.
Since little is known about this species, we must infer aspects of its biology from knowledge of other related species. Cavefish adults quickly respond and move toward a water surface that is disturbed by falling water droplets or bat guano, but they also scavenge for food, perhaps relying on chemosensory organs, that were originally adapted for bottom feeding, and allow the fish to perceive chemicals in the water that are related to food sources. In contrast, relatively small, younger fish scavenge for food exclusively at the bottom, again possibly using chemosensation, as documented by M. Yoshizawa in 2015.
The Alabama cavefish is characterized by an extremely elongate, flattened head with a laterally constricted snout and a terminal mouth. It lacks pelvic fins; fin rays are unbranched, with the fin membranes deeply incised between the rays.
Adult size: 1.2 to 2.3 in (30 to 58 mm)
The Alabama cavefish has no eyes and practically no pigment.
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