Hundreds Of Endangered Laurel Dace Hatch At The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute

Thursday, May 10, 2018 - by Thom Benson

Eighteen months after being rescued from rapidly dwindling streams on Walden Ridge north of Chattanooga, the embattled and endangered Laurel Dace finally has cause to celebrate.

More than 450 juveniles of this green-bodied, red-bellied native fish recently hatched from eggs spawned at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. These tiny, nearly-translucent fry are the offspring of 29 adult Laurel Dace living at the institute. This population — or brood stock — is being kept at the institute to propagate this federally endangered fish and includes 19 adults recently collected from Bumbee Creek in Rhea County and 10 rescued from the same stream during the historic drought that baked the Southeast in the latter half of 2016.

“Recent surveys have indicated that the Laurel Dace are persisting in only two streams out of their historical range of eight,” said Tennessee Aquarium Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris. “This puts the species at a higher risk of extinction whenever we experience extreme weather events.”

In November 2016, the Southeast was in the grips of a historic, months-long drought. This catastrophic dry spell withered the streams where the Laurel Dace was known to exist, transforming them into rapidly diminishing pools of water in which the few remaining populations were isolated and trapped.

The Laurel Dace was already struggling due to runoff sedimentation from area farms. Due to poor agricultural practices, silt blanketed the bottom of its native waterways, smothering its eggs and any newly hatched larvae. The regional drought represented the second blow in a potentially knock out combination.

Faced with the prospect of losing the species entirely, biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife mounted a rescue operation. The scientific teams visited creeks on the Cumberland Plateau known to house Laurel Dace. There, they collected 18 individuals to help safeguard against the possibility of extinction. 

Eventually, the rains returned, the creeks rose and the remaining Laurel Dace held on to their tenuous existence. Some of the rescued fish were retained in human care, however, so scientists could determine how most effectively to care for them and the best methods to propagate them.

For a species that’s on the brink and under-studied, developing these protocols is a critical step to ensuring scientists can safeguard it from future calamities, Ms. Harris says.

“We’ve been doing reintroduction and propagation protocols with many other species at the Conservation Institute, but this is the first time that we’ve worked with anything in this group of minnows. It’s very different,” she said. “We’re feeling our way through it, but the results look really promising so far.”

The appearance of hundreds of baby Laurel Dace in the propagation room at the Tennessee Aquarium’s freshwater science center speaks to the success of that effort and represents an important step in securing a better future for the species, she adds.

“We’re getting more eggs weekly,” Ms. Harris said. “It seems promising that we’ll be able to develop the right methods to propagate them and eventually reintroduce them in the future.” 


green|spaces Receives $50,000 Pay For Success Project Grant

green|spaces has been selected as a Pay for Success grant recipient from the Corporation for National and Community Service. "The $50,000 grant will help bring new services to residents in Chattanooga," officials said.  "The Pay for Success grant provides funding and technical assistance services to develop sustainable in-home projects that work to solve structural health ... (click for more)

green|spaces Initiates Straw Take Over Events For Skip The Straw Campaign

green|spaces is hosting three Straw Take Over events as a part of their “Skip the Straw” campaign, an effort to "the number of plastic straws that pollute the environment." The first Straw Take Over will be Oct. 19 at Bluegrass Grill from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., followed by the second Straw Take Over on Oct. 25 at Niedlov's Breadworks from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  The Straw Take ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Investigating Shooting That Victim Says Happened A Week Ago

Chattanooga Police responded to a local hospital on Friday evening after a person arrived with a gunshot wound.   The injured man told police he was shot on Thursday, Oct. 11. He said he was shot while on the dance floor of a club somewhere along Brainerd Road.   If you have any information about the incident, call Chattanooga Police at 423-698-2525. You ... (click for more)

Charles Pipkens, Lajeromeney Brown Arrested In Series Of Violent Home Invasions In Which Robbers Posed As Police

Chattanooga Police have arrested Charles Dijon Pipkens and Lajeromeney Brown in connection with a series of violent home invasions in which the suspects told their victims they were Chattanooga Police officers.. Pipkens, 27, was charged in an Aug. 11 case and Brown, 40, in an incident on Sept. 19. Pipkens, of 434 N. Hickory St., is charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping, ... (click for more)

Drink Up, Chattanooga

I attended the meeting to discuss the placement of the sewage treatment plant at the Cambridge Center in Ooltewah today. My problem with the meeting (aka) dog and pony show, is that the meeting started out with the agenda of the Ooltewah Community Council.  After living in this area for 45+ years I have never heard of this group.  I would like for someone to answer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

The reviews are good after we initiated “The Funny Video of the Week” but today let me take the liberty of sharing an oldie that I consider the funniest of all time. Please be aware the principals are speaking Polish, which you also need to know makes not a bit of difference. I have watched “The Polish Spoon Trick” at least 50 times because every time I watch the video it makes ... (click for more)