Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center

U.S. Geological Survey
Fact Sheet 2007-3113
version 1.0

Grand Canyon Humpback Chub Population Improving

By Matthew E. Andersen


Underwater photo of large fish
The humpback chub (Gila cypha) is an endangered freshwater fish found only in the Colorado River Basin. Analysis of recently collected data indicates that the number of adult fish (age 4+ years) in Grand Canyon increased to 6,000 following years of decline (photograph courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department; from Figure 1).

The humpback chub (Gila cypha) is a long-lived, freshwater fish found only in the Colorado River Basin. Physical adaptations—large adult body size, large predorsal hump, and small eyes—appear to have helped humpback chub evolve in the historically turbulent Colorado River. A variety of factors, including habitat alterations and the introduction of nonnative fishes, likely prompted the decline of native Colorado River fishes. Declining numbers propelled the humpback chub onto the Federal list of endangered species in 1967, and the species is today protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Only six populations of humpback chub are currently known to exist, five in the Colorado River Basin above Lees Ferry, Ariz., and one in Grand Canyon, Ariz.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center oversees monitoring and research activities for the Grand Canyon population under the auspices of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP). Analysis of data collected through 2006 suggests that the number of adult (age 4+ years) humpback chub in Grand Canyon increased to approximately 6,000 fish in 2006, following an approximate 4050 percent decline between 1989 and 2001. Increasing numbers of adult fish appear to be the result of steadily increasing numbers of juvenile fish reaching adulthood beginning in the mid- to late-1990s and continuing through at least 2002.

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