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The Hunt For Aphanius Baeticus
August 21, 2008
2:50 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Hi all I´ve been down in Andalucia this last fortnight and have spent the last few days down in the Tarifa area. Tarifa is the southernmost town/point in Europe and there is actually a jetty there where you have the Mediterranean on one side and the Atlantic on the other. Quite a place, almost totally undeveloped with incredible beaches and jaw-dropping views of Africa from everywhere. Well we had a cracking time but one of the main reasons we chose to go is because Aphanius baeticus is supposed to be found there. This species is a killifish endemic to Spain and is at high risk of extinction due to the introduction of alien species/habitat loss. More info can be found in this thread.

Here are some pictures of the locations I visited looking for A. baeticus. I had co-ordinates for one population in the area but decided to throw my net into a few other places both for fun and in the hope of finding further populations of Aphanius:

Location #1 - Rio Almodóvar

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Nothing here except thousands (literally) of Gambusia, plus some bigger, silvery fish that kept flashing to the surface. Unfortunately I couldn´t make out any detail in the green water. Gambusia are not native to Spain and their introduction is one of the main reasons the Aphanius are at risk. This is a female.

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Location #2 - Arroyo del Gallego

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Miserable hour or so spent here. Apart from ragging my leg to shreds on some barbed wire whilst trying to get to the water the only thing I caught was this juvenile grey mullet. No idea on species, there´re a bunch of them and they all look the same. /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
3:37 am
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Matt
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Location #3 - Rio Jara

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Beautiful place but still no Aphanius. All I managed were these two random silver efforts which were both abundant here. Can anyone id these? Sorry for poor pics. Fish 1 is covered in muck from the net and has no brown patterning on the body. /blush.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":blush:" border="0" alt="blush.gif" />

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
3:51 am
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Matt
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Location #4 - Rio de la Vega

The next day we checked this river that used to run into the Atlantic, right alongside the town of Tarifa. First we tried the point closest to the ocean. It is now cut off by the beach and looks like it has been for some time. The water was full of vegetation and life and I netted a couple of blennies but no Aphanius here either. We then drove inland a few hundred metres to a point where the river passes under the motorway and next to a new business park called La Vega Poligono Comercial. Here, in the almost dried-out river we found Aphanius baeticus!!

Walking towards the motorway bridge. This, believe it or not, is one of the few remaining habitats of A. baeticus.

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If you look towards the top-left corner of the first image in this post you can see another small pond . This is where I chose to net first.

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The water is murky with some thin marginal vegetation.

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...but the tiny pond holds countless Aphanius!

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Male and young female.

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Male and mature female.

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
4:43 am
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Matt
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We decided to walk down-river a bit (towards the ocean) to see if we could find more of the fish. The river-bed is quite dry and has obviously been that way for a long time as many terrestrial plants had established themselves. We walked a few hundred metres down the river-bed and I tried the net in the next three ponds we came across but found no Aphanius.

Loads of frogs in these ponds. We also spotted some quite large fish at the surface in the deeper areas so perhaps this is why the Aphanius were not found here. Having said that there were plenty of "random silvery fish 1" from the post above...

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We walked a little further and decided to stop at this bridge as we were virtually at the beach and had not caught any Aphanius in the last few places along the "river", suggesting we´d already found its downstream limit. Note how grasses and other plants are well-established in what used to be the bed of the river, suggesting that it has not been filled with water for some time. The nasty-smelling pond in the second pic here actually contained lots of frogs but it stank so bad we decided not to bother going closer. /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" />

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
5:09 am
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Matt
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Walking back we stopped again at the place where we had caught the Aphanius. This time I tried my net in the pond under the bridge. I hadn´t done so earlier as there was so much c**p in and around this pond that I couldn´t imagine any fish living there.

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It made sense to try here though as it was separated from the other pond by no more than a metre...and we found that it also held lots of our fish
/ph34r.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":ph34r:" border="0" alt="ph34r.gif" /> Two adult females amongst many others caught here, top fish has a damaged caudal.

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Catching this so close to the sea really blew me away...more in a sec.

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We then walked upriver as far as we could, another few hundred metres before it was fenced off due to private land. We didn´t find any more water until the end...
/sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

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The water here was very shallow, maybe 30cm deep...

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...and the Aphanius found here were much smaller than those in the downstream ponds. Plus I could only find females.

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
5:25 am
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Matt
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Well, that´s it. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Here are the species we found living sympatrically with the Aphanius in the two healthier ponds. I say "healthier" with scepticism as it´s quite clear that this population is in a drastic state. The building of the business park plus the fact there appears to be no renewable source of natural water here is really worrying and it´s quite conceivable that the species may not exist here even in a year´s time from what I saw. /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" /> Anyway last few pics.

Cobitis sp. I think it´s either C. calderoni or C. paludica, both of which are also endangered species.

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No idea what this is. Any ideas folks? There were lots of them and they reacted very badly upon being exposed to air.

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These small shrimp were very abundant in the ponds that contained Aphanius but absent elsewhere.

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...and this is (I think) Austropotamobius pallipes, the only crayfish species native to Spain and yet another endangered species...

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Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
5:56 am
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Malti
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its a pity to see all those fish + crustaceans doomed...sometimes I really wonder what the EU environment section really does, apart from trying to close hunting in Malta...but thats another issue.

so, is A. beaticus a protected species....if not - did you set up a tank for them? /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" />

August 21, 2008
12:22 pm
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mzapater
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Hi Matt.

Glad you found them!

The little grey fish with huge eyes should be Atherina sp. Usually found in brackish water.

About the crayfish, notice the red claws, this is the american crayfish: Procambarus clarkii.

Hoping to discuss all this soon.

Manuel...

August 21, 2008
12:40 pm
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Matt
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Good grief Manuel you´re fast...I just sent you an email! /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> Thanks for the crayfish id, the claws looked too small to be P. clarkii to me hence my guess.

Cake or death?
August 21, 2008
3:56 pm
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dunc
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Awesome work Matt but really gutting about the state of those pools. The surrounding areas in some of those photos is nothing short of dire.

Any idea what the bigger fish were that you mentioned?

August 22, 2008
12:08 pm
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Matt
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Not a clue matey but I'm trying to find out. /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" />

Cake or death?
August 23, 2008
10:32 pm
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Matt
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Karlos sorry missed your question before. It's illegal to remove either the Aphanius or the Cobitis as both are on the IUCN Red List. I know Manuel and some others are breeding the baeticus though. I'd actually really like to have a crack at breeding the Cobitis too....

Cake or death?
August 23, 2008
10:57 pm
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Richy
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I read all this the other day but due to not knowing about the species you asked A's for I didn't reply /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />
I will now though /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Breeding, I feel whoever tries the task of breeding the computer chair has a very hard task indeed and will deserve a gold medal /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />
Seriously, I don't have the answers to your Q's but thanks for taking the time to do such a detailed thread of your "field trip" Very good reading /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />
It's such a shame a governing body can't intervene to save these area's which are obviously going to dissapear very soon or move them to a suitable place, if there is one.
There has to be some department who can intervene and do something about it!!

August 23, 2008
11:22 pm
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Matt
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Glad you enjoyed Richy. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> I believe that particular species of computer chair is Swedish in origin do you may well be able to find a habitat somewhere near you if you fancy a breeding attempt. /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

Both the endangered species are protected by law but as seems to be the way with these things small brown/grey fish do not seem to feature highly on the list of priorities for official funding. /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

Cake or death?
August 23, 2008
11:42 pm
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mickthefish
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Matt, post the pic of the unidentified fish on LOL and i'll get in touch with The Dark One, i bet he's got a book on European fish.

mick

August 24, 2008
12:05 am
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Matt
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Good idea Mick...have put them in the existing thread over there. /thumbs_up.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":thumbsup:" border="0" alt="thumbs_up.gif" /> If you can summon his darkness that'd be swell.

Cake or death?
August 24, 2008
1:27 am
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Malti
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QUOTE (Matt @ Aug 24 2008, 12:15 AM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Karlos sorry missed your question before. It's illegal to remove either the Aphanius or the Cobitis as both are on the IUCN Red List. I know Manuel and some others are breeding the baeticus though. I'd actually really like to have a crack at breeding the Cobitis too....

thx...another useless law imho...better if they did a program or something

August 24, 2008
2:59 am
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Matt
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Indeed, illegal to take them to breed but no programme in place to protect the habitat...dohhh...

Cake or death?
August 24, 2008
8:31 am
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Malti
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QUOTE (Matt @ Aug 24 2008, 04:42 AM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Indeed, illegal to take them to breed but no programme in place to protect the habitat...dohhh...

*insert head slapping smiley with doh as effect* sounds like malta /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

August 25, 2008
11:20 am
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mzapater
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Hi Matt,

Just some things. There are protection programs going on, although not so effective as you could see... I am not sure (will check) but I think that the A. baeticus are being captive bred to reinforce the wild populations, which is not easy because until things get more clear, every population should be treated separately. Just think that until some years ago A. baeticus and A. saourensis were considered the same as A. iberus...

We don´t breed nor keep these fish /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> We would love to, but it´s illegal unless you have the necessary permits, which we don´t have. We hope to get them to work with a particular population of A. iberus though (knock on wood), to help the local government to manage it.

Great work on your part in any case, just a wonderful example of how things work for fish. I think that they aren´t considered as living things by many people...

Manuel

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