Ozark Cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae)
(Federally listed as Threatened)
Description: The Ozark Cavefish is a small that grows no more than two inches in length. Its skin is unpigmented so it looks white in color, and it has no eyes. Despite its small size, this can be a long-lived fish, often living more than 15 years. Cavefish feed on small invertebrates.
Habitat: The Ozark Cavefish is specially adapted for life in subterranean water. They live in the shallow groundwater aquifer in the Springfield Plateau which is a highly fractured and porous limestone formation. The cavefish lives in underground streams, fissures and channels in the aquifer but are only seen by people when they inhabit a pool or stream within a cave.
Current and Historic Distribution: The current and historic ranges of the Ozark Cavefish are not entirely known because most of the fish live in inaccessible spaces and channels in the groundwater. Within Oklahoma, cavefish have been found in streams in ten wet caves in Ottawa and Delaware counties, but it is unclear whether these sites are isolated or connected through the aquifer.
Reasons for Decline: Ozark Cavefish live in a very fragile environment and are susceptible to ground water pollution or the excessive pumping and removal of ground water from the aquifer. They are an important part of a unique underground ecosystem that is fueled by organic material such as decaying vegetation that washes into caves nutrients or bat guano that is deposited in caves. Disturbance to caves and bat colonies can negatively affect the food chain on which the cavefish depends.