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Kidadl Team

SEPTEMBER 02, 2021

Ozark Cavefish: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Interesting Ozark cavefish facts for kids.

A small subterranean freshwater fish species, the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) is an endemic species that belongs to the family Amblyopsidae. The species is found in states such as Arkansas (Benton County), Missouri (Barry, Greene, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton, Spring, and Stone counties), and Oklahoma (Delaware and Ottawa counties). The species' name, Ozark cavefish, is derived from a large plateau covering all three states called the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands.

The species is generally pinkish-white in color, it has a flattened head while it also has a slightly projecting lower jaw. Unlike other species, this fish has no pelvic fins, and its dorsal and anal fins are farther back. Also, the Ozark cavefish has rudimentary eyes but no optic nerve. As the species generally dwells in caves and springs, well-developed sensory papillae can also be found. The average length of the species is around 0.94-1.67 in (24.0 to 42.5 mm).

Caves in which large populations of Ozark cavefish live have sources of nutrients such as bat guano from the gray bat and brown leaf litter. Also, the water quality level remains high here. The species is known for tolerating the low oxygen content of the groundwater found in caves, and they tend to be found in flowing cave streams.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species with the Vulnerable conservation status. Primary threats to the Ozark cavefish are a loss of habitat, a decline in groundwater oxygen levels, and the pollution of cave streams. The species is restricted to a specific geographical range. Several organizations such as the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service have made efforts to protect the species. Also, the Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge has acquired 40 acres (16 ha) of land to protect this nearly endangered species.

For more relatable content, check out these monkfish facts and rockfish facts for kids.

Ozark Cavefish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Ozark cavefish?

The Ozark cavefish (scientific name: Amblyopsis rosae) is an endemic species to the United States which primarily dwells in caves and springs. The species occurs in states such as Arkansas (Benton County), Missouri (Barry, Greene, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton, Spring, and Stone counties), and Oklahoma (Delaware and Ottawa counties). The Ozark cavefish lives in the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands.

What class of animal does an Ozark cavefish belong to?

The Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) belongs to the Actinopterygii class, the family Amblyopsidae, and the Amblyopsis genus.

How many Ozark cavefish are there in the world?

The exact population of the species is not known but populations within the Ozark cavefish range are known to be reducing constantly. In 1990, there were nine known populations of the species in Missouri while populations were found in 14 caves of six counties in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. In the same year, a new population was found in Missouri.

Where does an Ozark cavefish live?

The Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) is endemic to the United States, the species is found in states such as Arkansas (Benton County), Missouri (Barry, Greene, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton, Spring, and Stone counties), and Oklahoma (Delaware and Ottawa counties). Ozark cavefish live in the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands.

What is an Ozark cavefish's habitat?

A typical Ozark cavefish habitat includes caves and springs. The water quality level of their habitat remains high and the species is known for tolerating the low oxygen content of the groundwater found in caves. They tend to occur in flowing cave streams.

Who do Ozark cavefish live with?

The Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) is solitary and prefers to live alone. These fish come together in the breeding season.  

How long does an Ozark cavefish live?

The average life span of the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) is around 10 years and their life expectancy in captivity is not known. Also, it is also said that this fish's metabolism rate determines its life span.

How do they reproduce?

The Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) follow a similar reproductive cycle to other species of the Amblyopsis genus. These fish are polygynandrous which means that they mate with multiple partners. These fish become sexually mature at the age of four. Also, the reproductive rate of this species is generally lower than that of other fish. These fish breed throughout the year and the female lays about 20-25 eggs in a clutch. It takes around five months for the eggs to hatch and only females protect the eggs and juveniles.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species in the Vulnerable category. The primary threats to Ozark cavefish are a loss of habitat, a decline in groundwater oxygen levels, and the pollution of cave streams. The species is restricted to a specific geographical range and several organizations such as the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service have made efforts to protect the species. Also, the Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge has acquired 40 acres (16 ha) of land to protect this nearly endangered species.

Ozark Cavefish Fun Facts

What do Ozark cavefish look like?

The species is generally pinkish-white in color. It has a flattened head and a slightly projecting lower jaw. Unlike other species, this fish has no pelvic fins, and its dorsal and anal fins are farther back. Also, the Ozark cavefish has rudimentary eyes but no optic nerve. As the species generally dwells in caves, well-developed sensory papillae can also be found.

These rare Ozark cavefish facts would make you love them.
*Please note the image is of a Hoosier cavefish and not an Ozark cavefish. If you have an image of an Ozark cavefish, please let us know at [email protected]

How cute are they?

The physical traits of Ozark cavefish make the species quite attractive. Their exceptional ability to survive in low oxygen levels is very surprising, but spotting them in the caves of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma has become quite rare these days.

How do they communicate?

Very little is known about their communication patterns. These fish are blind but they use concentrated bundles of nerves known as neuromasts to understand their surroundings. These are located on the caudal fin and they help the fish to detect motion in its surrounding environment and in water. Also, several tactile, acoustic, and chemical cues are used to perceive the environment.

How big is an Ozark cavefish?

The average length of the species is around 0.94-1.67 in (24.0 to 42.5 mm). These fish are three times the size of white cloud mountain minnows and species such as the round goby are four times bigger than Ozark cavefish.

How fast can an Ozark cavefish swim?

The exact speed of the Ozark cavefish is not known as of now but the species is known for hovering motionless in stream waters. These fish are sedentary and they spend most of their time in caves, not moving.

How much does an Ozark cavefish weigh?

The exact weight of the species is not known as of yet.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to male and female fish of this species, people simply refer to both as Ozark cavefish.

What would you call a baby Ozark cavefish?

Generally, terms such as juveniles or young fish are used to refer to baby Ozark cavefish.

What do they eat?

The Ozark cavefish is a carnivore that preys on salamander larvae, crustaceans, and bat guano for food. The species generally consumes several species of crayfish such as cave crayfish and spot handed crayfish. Studies even reveal that these fish have cannibalistic habits as they sometimes even feed on newly hatched young cavefish! They have no natural predators but bottom-dwelling catfish and mutton snappers may prey on them.

Are they dangerous?

These tiny fish are quite aggressive and territorial. They will happily defend their habitat or territory if an intruder tries to enter. Since they are almost endangered, it is important not to harm them.  

Would they make a good pet?

This species is protected under several laws, so they cannot be kept in captivity.

Did you know...

Although these fish are quite small, they are not the smallest fish! The dwarf minnow is the smallest fish in the world.

Why are Ozark cavefish endangered?

The Ozark cavefish has the conservation status of Vulnerable. This means that it is at risk of being endangered as the population of the species is declining drastically. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service for Ozark Cavefish has started a recovery plan for the Ozark cavefish population. Also, the Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge has acquired 40 acres (16 ha) of land to protect this nearly endangered species. Other Ozark cavefish conservation measures such as additional monitoring techniques are being practiced in order to maintain their water quality and their population level.

Why are Ozark cavefish important?

While talking about the ecological importance of Ozark cavefish, the species feeds on isopods, amphipods, crayfish, salamander larvae, and bat guano of the gray bat. In doing this, they make up the base of the food chain in their environment.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our African lungfish facts and Channel catfish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Ozark cavefish coloring pages.

*Please note the main image is of a blind cavefish, not an Ozark cavefish. If you have an image of an Ozark cavefish, please let us know at [email protected]

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