Amblyopsis spelaea 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Percopsiformes Amblyopsidae

Scientific Name: Amblyopsis spelaea DeKay, 1842
Common Name(s):
English Northern Cavefish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2012-08-04
Assessor(s): NatureServe
Reviewer(s): Smith, K. & Darwall, W.R.T.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Hammerson, G.A. & Ormes, M.
This species is listed as Near Threatened because its extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 sq km, habitat is narrowly restricted, and habitat quality and quantity may be declining. However, the species occurs in a fairly large number of locations, distribution may not be severely fragmented, and area of occupancy and population trend are unknown, so the species is close to but does not clearly meet the standards for the Vulnerable category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Range includes the Pennyroyal and Mitchell plateaus, from the Mammoth Cave area, central Kentucky, north into south-central Indiana (Pearson and Boston 1994, Page and Burr 2011). This species is not known to occur in caves north of East Fork of White River in Indiana or in caves south or west of Mammoth Cave system (see map in Keith 1988).
Countries occurrence:
United States
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is represented by a fairly large number of occurrences (subpopulations) and locations (as defined by IUCN).

Keith (1988) listed a total of 62 sites, of which 45 were in Indiana and 17 in Kentucky. Pearson and Boston (1995) expanded this to 114 localities, 76 in Indiana and 38 in Kentucky. However, some of these sites had been destroyed, filled, were no longer accessible or were duplicate names for the same place. Of these 114 localities, since 1989, reliable records were available from 44 sites in Indiana and 21 in Kentucky. Source: Lewis (2002).

Population size has been estimated as at least 5,600 individuals in two states (Pearson and Boston 1995); this estimate is conservative (Pearson and Boston 1995) due to limited habitat accessibility and unknown distribution through groundwater systems. Numbers observed at single sites range between 1 and 220 (Keith 1988:71-72) or up to 515 (Pearson and Boston 1995).

Some populations have been lost (Pearson and Boston 1995), but the overall degree of decline is unknown.

Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but distribution and abundance are probably slowly declining.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:All of the Kentucky sites are cave streams; 11 of 45 Indiana sites are springs and/or spring basins (the rest are cave streams) (Keith 1988).
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Keith (1988:75) reported: "Amblyopsis spelaea occupies a highly restricted habitat. Because it is located at or near local base level, it is vulnerable to virtually any disturbance in the watershed brought about by natural forces or human activities." Recharge area delineations identify areas that are involved with input of water into the groundwater systems. According to Aley (pers. comm., 1998), a recharge area of eight square kilometres (three square miles) could be considered a small recharge area. While larger recharge areas may increase the opportunity for a system to be polluted, smaller systems may be more impacted by that input (Figg pers. comm. 1998).

Threats include ground water contamination, sedimentation, alteration of surface runoff patterns, construction of impoundments, quarrying, and collecting (Keith 1988). Urbanization and suburban housing, municipal sewage treatment plants, confined animal operations, and transportation routes may threaten water quality (Aley and Aley 1997). The quantity of habitat is limited, but the quality appears to be fairly good (Pearson and Boston 1995). Competition from Typhlichthys subterraneus (Woods and Inger 1957, cited by Keith 1988:69) may have caused an introduced population to become extirpated. The habitat is vulnerable to change caused by human activities, but careful, non-destructive intrusion is not harmful.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Keith (1988:75) suggested that long-term population data should be gathered. Information regarding the reproduction is needed. Sites needing confirmation of occurrence should be revisited to collect population and biological data. Protection recommendations include: eliminate or reduce destructive land use practices, require additional sediment and runoff controls for construction projects, eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in critical watersheds, identify and protect critical sinkholes and sinking streams, eliminate mineral development activities, encourage the growth of natural cover on watersheds and on critical sinkholes and sinking stream areas, eliminate water impoundment projects, limit access to sites (see Keith 1988 for further details).

Citation: NatureServe. 2014. Amblyopsis spelaea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T1080A19034608. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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