Harsh as it may be, the desert is nothing if not full of life. The lack of water means that life is far more broadly distributed, concentrating mainly in areas that receive rainfall or are near an aquifer.
And in some regions, the aquifer actually empties into a system of sinkholes and caves. The deserts of the Southwestern United States are unique in that they bear the collection of unique ecosystems that have, at one point, been part of a large lake that has since dried up. Naturally, these ecosystems contain the most ubiquitous of underwater animals: fish.
Fish are very unlikely desert animals and the aquifers and sinkholes allow them to continue to survive in this most inhospitable environment for millennia. The many species of pupfish found in the Southwest are indicative of its former status as a lacustrine ecosystem.
However, careless human development, coupled with the introduction of nonnative species, has jeopardized the continued existence of the pupfishes of the Southwest. One of these fish, the Tecopa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis calidae), had since become extinct due in part to irrigation projects that had caused the water table to drastically fall, bringing down the water levels and cutting them off from their food source.
Had the water been conserved and the irrigation schemes more carefully developed, the Tecopa pupfish could have survived. Others of its kind continue to be threatened by careless irrigation, and only vigilant action and regulated and efficient human development can save these rare fish from extinction.
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