Cyprinodon diabolis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Cyprinodontiformes Cyprinodontidae

Scientific Name: Cyprinodon diabolis
Species Authority: Wales, 1930
Common Name(s):
English Devil's Hole Pupfish, Devils Hole Pupfish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(v)+2ab(v); C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-08-27
Assessor(s): NatureServe
Reviewer(s): Smith, K. & Darwall, W.R.T.
Contributor(s): Pollock, C.M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Hammerson, G.A. & Ormes, M.
The Devil's Hole Pupfish is listed as Critically Endangered in view of its extremely small distribution (extent of occurrence and area of occupancy are both less than 1 sq km), occurrence in a single location, and small population size (currently <100 mature individuals) that is continuing to decline. Regular surveys have shown variable population sizes that sometimes have fallen below 50 mature individuals. An apparent increase in population size in 2008 appears to have been a fluctuation. Overall the population has shown a declining trend since the 1990s. Currently the causes of this decline are not fully understood.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Range is restricted to a single, deep limestone pool at the bottom of Devils Hole, Ash Meadows, Death Valley National Park, Nevada (Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 2011). Artificial populations exist elsewhere.
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 one natural occurrence. One refugium population and two temporary locations for larval rearing.

Since population surveys began, the wild population has not exceeded 553 individuals. For reasons that are still unclear, the Devils Hole population began to decline in the mid-1990s. By the fall of 2006, an estimated 38 fish remained in the wild, and two refuge populations were lost. In the fall of 2008, the population was estimated at 127 individuals. Source: USFWS, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office.

The fall 2008 count was estimated at 127 fish; this was the first time triple digits have been estimated since 2004, and the first three-year upward trend since 1996. The average number of pupfish estimated in April 2009 was 70 (note that the spring count is typically and naturally lower than the fall count). This represented a 56% increase over the April 2008 estimate of 45 fish. Source: USFWS, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office.

More recent surveys, however, are not so optimistic. In September 2012 the population size dropped to around 75 fish, and in the fall of 2013 count the population had declined further to only 65 fish. Source: USFWS, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Population severely fragmented:Custom (N)

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat is a deep limestone pool, about 15 meters below the land surface. Water temperature is 32.8 to 33.9 °C, dissolved oxygen 1.8 to 3.3 ppm (Lee et al. 1980). Pupfish rarely leave algae-covered ledge at western end of pool.
Generation Length (years):1
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species was formerly threatened by lowered water levels associated with excessive groundwater extraction in the area. Habitat is fenced, and public access is prohibited, but the site remains vulnerable to vandalism (including introduction of non-native aquatic species) and factors that affect water level/quality.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Stabilization of habitat is the primary recovery goal (see recovery plan, 1980; revised 1990).

In 2006, the USFWS, National Park Service, and Nevada Department of Wildlife launched an emergency effort to reverse the decline of the species. Suspecting that the food source may be a limiting factor, an artificial food was developed and an automatic feeder installed in Devils Hole. Originally a stop-gap measure, this proved to be so successful that it has remained in operation. Another critical decision was to limit access into Devils Hole and not remove pupfish for experimental or captive propagation until the fall population exceeds 200 fish and an increasing population trend is demonstrated for three years. Source: USFWS, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
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
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):91-100
  Invasive species control or prevention:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.8. Abstraction of ground water (unknown use)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Whole (>90%)   

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Future ♦ scope:Whole (>90%)   

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

Bibliography [top]

Andersen, M.E. and Deacon, J.E. 2001. Population size of Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) correlates with water level. Copeia 2001: 224-228.

Deacon, J.D., et al. 1980. Devil's Hole pupfish recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Deacon, J.E. and Williams, C.D. 1991. Ash Meadows and the legacy of the Devils Hole pupfish. In: W.L. Minckley and J.E. Deacon (eds) (eds), Battle against extinction: native fish management in the American West, pp. 69-87. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.

Echelle, A.A. 1991. Conservation genetics and genic diversity in freshwater fishes of western North America. In: W.L. Minckley and J.E. Deacon (eds), Battle against extinction: native fish management in the American West, pp. 141-153. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.

Echelle, A.A. and Dowling, T.E. 1992. Mitochondrial DNA variation and evolution of the Death Valley pupfishes (Cyprinodon, Cyprinodontidae). volution 46: 193-206.

Echelle, A.A. and Echelle, A.F. 1993. Allozyme perspective on mitochondrial DNA variation and evolution of the Death Valley pupfishes (Cyprinodontidae: Cyprinidon). Copeia 1993: 275-287.

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2014).

La Rivers, I. 1962. Fishes and Fisheries of Nevada. Nevada State Fish and Game Commission, Carson City, Nevada.

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.

Matthews, J.R. and Moseley, C.J. (eds) (eds). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Inse. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index, pp. 1180 pp. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Minckley, W.L. and Deacon, J.E. 1991. Battle Against Extinction: Native Fish Management in the American West. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.

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.

Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office. 2014. Devil's Hole Pupfish Home Page. Available at: (Accessed: 27 August 2014).

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.

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.

Sigler, W.F. and Sigler, J.W. 1987. Fishes of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1967. Native fish and wildlife: endangered species. Federal Register 32(48): 4001.

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

Citation: NatureServe. 2014. Cyprinodon diabolis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T6149A15362335. . Downloaded on 17 January 2017.
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