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Fish unseen for nearly a century "rediscovered"

June 26, 2020

Several Oregon chub.
Oregon chub captured by Pacific Northwest Research Station scientists during their basin-wide study. USDA Forest Service photo.

OREGON—The Umpqua chub (Oregonichthys kalawatseti), a small minnow, hasn’t been seen for nearly 100 years. Over the past 30 years, repeated surveys of the creeks and rivers within the Umpqua River basin showed the species declining in abundance and distribution. This is believed to be a result of predation by invasive smallmouth bass. The Umpqua chub is only found in the waterways of the Umpqua River Basin.

Pacific Northwest Research Station research fisheries biologist Brooke Penaluna and her colleague Loretta Ellenburg re-surveyed the entire basin for the fish to assess its current distribution. They set baited minnow traps in many of the same locations sampled previously. And what they found was surprising—the Umpqua chub had made a surprise reappearance. On one day alone they captured 34 Umpqua chub. What’s more, these captures document a range extension of the species into the North Umpqua River.

“Local fish biologists questioned the validity of the 1926 museum specimen that was found in the North Umpqua River because none had ever been seen there after 40 years of looking. I thought we should just check there for good measure because we were doing a basin-wide assessment. I was shocked that they were in the minnow trap and not just one, but over 30 of them! It is the type of news one waits a lifetime to hear about,” said Penaluna.

Penaluna is currently working to understand why the species has only recently been redetected after nearly a century: Were the fish always there and just eluding capture? Do they travel seasonally throughout the basin? Are they moving in response to pressure from invasive fish, like the smallmouth bass?

The researchers' rediscovery of the Umpqua chub will help inform conservation plans for the species, which is an important component of the basin’s food web. Find more information at BioOne Complete, a database of subscribed and open-access titles in the biological, ecological and environmental sciences.

An Oregon chub.
Oregon chub captured by Pacific Northwest Research Station scientists during their basin-wide study. USDA Forest Service photo.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/delivering-mission/deliver/fish-unseen-nearly-century-rediscovered