A fish without gills? Interesting choice. These 7 Endangered Species Inhabit the San Marcos River

But a handful of endangered species that still hang around may follow the mosquitofish’s path. Unless humans act quickly to protect habitats and keep them alive and thriving.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, seven different plant and animal species are threatened or endangered in the San Marcos area of ​​the Edwards Aquifer, Spring Lake, and the upper four miles of the river.

The animals are listed as endangered because their numbers are dwindling and their habitats are increasingly disappearing. The gambusia, for example, became extinct due to human activities that polluted and weakened groundwater, which ultimately weakened the habitat and likely put the nails in the little fish’s coffin.

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“The Upper San Marcos River is one of the most biologically diverse aquatic ecosystems known in the Southwestern United States and has a number of isolated endemic species in the upper 4.5 miles of the river,” says the website of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University at San Marcos.

Human activities are cited as factors in all of these endangered lists. As the population of central Texas grows, more homes and commercial businesses are pumping water from the Edwards Aquifer, which means less water for fish, beetles, amphibians and plants who live in San Marcos.

From tiny beetles to sightless amphibians to beautiful grass, here are the seven endangered species in the San Marcos River:

Austin, San Marcos and Kyle join two groups in threatening to sue Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan in a row over a natural pipeline project in the Texas Hill Country and eight endangered and threatened species found only in Edwards Aquifer – Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle.Center for Biological Diversity

Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle

According to the Edwards Aquifer Alliance, the Comal Springs Dryopid beetle is a tiny thing – averaging just 3 millimeters long. Her eyes don’t work and her skin is translucent.

The beetle’s habitat depends on a steady flow of water from the springs that feed the river, and as development skyrockets in central Texas, over-extraction of the aquifer is the No. 1 threat to the slippery thumbtack.

The Peck's Cave amphipod is slightly larger than its dry beetle brethren - it can grow to about half an inch, it has five pairs of legs and two sets of antennae.

The Peck’s Cave amphipod is slightly larger than its dry beetle brethren – it can grow to about half an inch, it has five pairs of legs and two sets of antennae.

John C. Abbott and Kendra K. Abbott /

Amphipod from Peck’s Cave

The Peck’s cave amphipod is slightly larger than its dry beetle brethren – it can grow to about half an inch, it has five pairs of legs and two sets of antennae. It is a shy insect, living mainly at the bottom of the river among dead leaves and heavy rocks. He eats anything dry he can find.

The main threats to the habitat of the Peck’s Cave amphipod are pollution, drought, and over-extraction of the spring-fed aquifer.

Fountain darts

Fountain darts

JOHN DAVENPORT/EXPRESS-NEWS FILE PHOTO

fountain dart

The fountain dartfish is even smaller than the now extinct gambusia, reaching about a centimeter in length. The small fish thrives in clean, calm spring waters, which means pollution is its main threat.

Although the darter is a fish, it is a very poor swimmer – it does not have a swim bladder to allow it to float, so it glides along the river bottom, riding the currents and water flow .

The San Marcos Salamander is one of seven endangered species in the San Marcos River.

The San Marcos Salamander is one of seven endangered species in the San Marcos River.

Courtesy of Texas State University

San Marcos salamander

The San Marcos Salamander is the master of disguise – its slimy, reddish-brown amphibian skin is a perfect match for the moss and algae on the bottom of Spring Lake it inhabits. They are also neat freaks. They hate muddy water and much prefer clean, spring-fed water, which is why river pollution is such a big threat to the little lizard’s habitat.

According to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, “the growth of cities has led to increased use of water by people and increased problems with water pollution and silt buildup,” which is a direct threat to the survival of amphibians.

Austin, San Marcos and Kyle join two groups in threatening to sue Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan in a row over a natural pipeline project in the Texas Hill Country and eight endangered and threatened species found only in the Edwards Aquifer – Comal Springs Riffle Beetle.
Austin, San Marcos and Kyle join two groups in threatening to sue Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan in a row over a natural pipeline project in the Texas Hill Country and eight endangered and threatened species found only in the Edwards Aquifer – Comal Springs Riffle Beetle.Center for Biological Diversity

Comal Springs Beetle

The beetle lives in water but cannot swim and has wings but cannot fly. It also has no gills, which makes life in the water an interesting choice – to breathe, it traps a pocket of air under its belly, almost like a diver’s oxygen tank, and sucks air from it when it needs to breathe.

The beetle has a lifespan of about two years and likes to live about three feet from a spring opening, as it likes its water house to be as cold as possible.

Texas blind salamander

Texas blind salamander

US Fish & Wildlife Service/Courtesy Photo

Texas blind salamander

The Texas Blind Salamander is aptly named – it has no eyes, cannot see, and lives in caves deep beneath the Edwards Aquifer. Instead of eyes, he has two small black dots just below the surface of his translucent white skin.

Because they live in caves, salamanders don’t have much predatory competition and feed mainly on snails and microscopic shrimp.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, salamanders are almost never seen on the surface of the water. The only way they can get this far is if their water source pushes them upwards. Apart from that, they live, breathe and die in their caves.

Texas Wild Rice

Texas Wild Rice

Jordan Vonderhaar /Contributor/

Texas Wild Rice

It’s not rice, but Texas wild rice is a type of underwater grass that’s just as beautiful to look at as it is essential to sustaining aquatic populations in the San Marcos River.

The grass can grow up to 10 feet high and only exists within about a mile and a half of the river. It is a breeding, hiding and feeding place for dozens of fish, beetles and other aquatic species, endangered or not. The shiny, velvety green grass can be seen beneath the clear surface of the water and also acts as a natural filter that helps remove pollution in the river.

Annie Blanks writes for the Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. ReportforAmerica.org. [email protected]

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