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The Hunt For Aphanius Baeticus

Home Forums Field Trips & Conservation The Hunt For Aphanius Baeticus

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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

    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.

    Location #2 – Arroyo del Gallego

    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.

    Attached files



    Location #3 – Rio Jara

    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.

    Attached files



    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.

    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.

    The water is murky with some thin marginal vegetation.

    …but the tiny pond holds countless Aphanius!

    Male and young female.

    Male and mature female.

    Attached files



    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…

    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.

    Attached files



    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.

    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

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

    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…

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

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

    Attached files



    Well, that´s it. /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.

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

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

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

    Attached files



    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?



    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.




    Good grief Manuel you´re fast…I just sent you an email!



    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?



    Not a clue matey but I’m trying to find out.



    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….



    I read all this the other day but due to not knowing about the species you asked A’s for I didn’t reply /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=”:lol:” 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



    Glad you enjoyed Richy. /laugh.gif” style=”vertical-align:middle” emoid=”:lol:” 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.



    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.


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