Great Basin Naturalist


Ecology of the endangered Gila topminnow is reviewed, described, and reconstructed; natural conditions are placed in perspective with human-altered habitats of today. In the natural state of waxing and waning of habitat size as a function of precipitation patterns and catastrophic events such as severe winter cold, the species in the past likely underwent dramatic expansions and contractions in population size and geographic range. Today, population expansions are unlikely because of constraints imposed by human activities. The original patterns of dispersal from refugia in "good" times and retreat in "bad" times, if they are to occur, must be re-created through human translocation. Further, most refugia now are destroyed or inaccessible to recolonization, so remnant, natural populations, along with established, transplanted stocks of appropriate size and genetic quality, need protection. Populations also must be established and maintained in artificial refugia. Last, even if connectedness were to be reestablished and refugia provided, intervening habitats harbor introduced piscivores such as western mosquitofish that interdict and eat dispersing topminnows and their progeny. Elimination, exclusion, or management against such offending species is mandatory to prevent topminnow extinction and achieve recovery.