Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Percopsiformes Amblyopsidae

Scientific Name: Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni
Species Authority: Cooper & Kuehne, 1974
Common Name(s):
English Alabama Cavefish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2012-04-12
Assessor(s): NatureServe
Reviewer(s): Smith, K. & Darwall, W.R.T.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Hammerson, G.A. & Ormes, M.
This species is listed as Critically Endangered because its extent of occurrence is less than 100 sq km, area of occupancy is less than 10 sq km, number of locations is one, adult population size probably does not exceed 250 and could be much smaller, water quality is subject to ongoing degradation, and habitat is vulnerable to loss of a critical source of organic material (bats).
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Critically Endangered (CR)
1994 Endangered (E)
1990 Endangered (E)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species' range includes only Key Cave, Lauderdale County, Alabama (Page and Burr 2011); the cave opens on the north bank of the Tennessee River west of Florence, near the southeastern edge of the Highland Rim. A survey of 120 other caves in the region, conducted since 1977, failed to locate any other populations.
Countries occurrence:
United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is known only from one site (USFWS 1990).

Total adult population size is uncertain but very small. As of 1983, only nine specimens (in collections) were known. In the 1980s, the population was estimated as fewer than 100 individuals, and no more than 10 cavefish had ever been observed on a single visit (USFWS 1985). "In 36 recorded excursions into Key Cave by biologists from 1967 to 1998, a total of only 130 Alabama cavefish were observed" (Boschung and Mayden 2004).

USFWS (1990, recovery plan) stated that the trend was not known. Survey results of Kuhajda and Mayden (2001) indicated that the population may be relatively stable.
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Habitat includes clear lentic subterranean waters, in the Warsaw limestone formation; cave supports diverse aquatic fauna (crayfish, isopods, amphipods), a rich terrestrial fauna (especially guanobies), and a summer colony of bats (Myotis grisescens) (Cooper and Kuehne 1974).
Systems: Freshwater
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Factors most likely to limit or cause the decline of the Alabama cavefish include unsuccessful reproduction, groundwater degradation, alteration in drainage and hydrologic patterns, lower ground water levels, collecting, and diminished organic matter inputs (USFWS 1990).

Groundwater degradation from urbanization and possible industrialization in the recharge area is an ongoing threat (Kuhajda and Mayden 2001, Boschung and Mayden 2004).

"One of the primary threats is interference with the associated bat populations which indirectly contribute to the fish's food chain. Another serious threat is groundwater contamination from agricultural operations and a sewage disposal project for the City of Florence, Alabama. Most of Key Cave's recharge area is in row crops, and a sludge disposal project is also within the recharge area. Natural factors contributing to the vulnerability of this species are its small population size and low reproductive potential. Competition with the more numerous and aggressive southern cavefish for food and space is also a problem. Cave crayfish, a known predator of this species, are also abundant in Key Cave." Source: USFWS (

Loss or reduction of the bat population as a result of white-nose syndrome could have major negative effects of the cavefish population.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Limit human access to Key Cave; provide stable hydrology; protect recharge area of Key Cave from pollution; protect bat population in Key Cave.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.18. Wetlands (inland) - Karst and Other Subterranean Hydrological Systems (inland)
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.2. Invasive/problematic species control
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Unknown   

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.5. Abstraction of ground water (domestic use)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.1. Sewage
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.2. Run-off
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.2. Industrial & military effluents -> 9.2.3. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.1. Nutrient loads
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.2. Soil erosion, sedimentation
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.3. Herbicides and pesticides
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%)   

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Cooper, J.E. and Kuehne, R.A. 1974. Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, a new genus and species of subterranean fish from Alabama. Copeia 1974: 486-493.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Kuhajda, B.R. and Mayden, R.L. 2001. Status of the federally endangered Alabama cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni (Amblyopsidae), in Key Cave and surrounding caves, Alabama. Environmental Biology of Fishes 62: 215-222.

Lee, D.S., Gilbert, C.R., Hocutt, C.H., Jenkins, R.E., McAllister, D.E. and Stauffer, J.R., Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Mettee, M.F., O'Neil, P.E. and Pierson, J.M. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Birmingham, Alabama.

Nelson, J.S., Crossman, E.J., Espinosa-Perez, H., Findley, L.T., Gilbert, C.R., Lea, R.N. and Williams, J.D. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

Ono, R.D., Williams, J.D. and Wagner, A. 1983. Vanishing Fishes of North America. Stone Wall Press, Washington, DC.

Page, L.M. and Burr, B.M. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Page, L.M. and Burr, B.M. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts.

Poulson, T.L. 1963. Cave adaptation in amblyopsid fishes. American Midland Naturalist 70: 257-290.

Robins, C.R., Bailey, R.M., Bond, C.E., Brooker, J.R., Lachner, E.A., Lea, R.N. and Scott, W.B. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Alabama cavefish Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni Cooper and Kuehne 1974 (second revision) recovery plan. Prepared by J. E. Cooper, revised by J. H. Stewart. USFWS, Atlanta, Georgia.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress.

Williams, J.E, Johnson, J.E., Hendrickson, D.A., Contreras-Balderas, S., Williams, J.D., Navarro-Mendoza, M., McAllister, D.E. and Deacon, J.E. 1989. Fishes of North America endangered, threatened or of special concern: 1989. Fisheries 14(6): 2-20.

Citation: NatureServe. 2013. Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T20467A19033986. . Downloaded on 02 December 2015.
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