Delta smelt

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Delta Smelt
Hypomesus transpacificus.jpg
Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Osmeriformes
Family: Osmeridae
Genus: Hypomesus
Species: H. transpacificus
Binomial name
Hypomesus transpacificus
McAllister, 1963

Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, is an endangered[1][2] slender-bodied smelt, approximately 5 to 7 cm (2.0 to 2.8 in) long, in the Osmeridae family. Endemic to the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary of California, it mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events (approximately March to May).[3]

Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat.[4] Efforts to protect the endangered fish from further decline have focused on limiting or modifying the large-scale pumping activities of state and federal water projects at the southern end of the estuary.

Taxonomy and evolution[edit]




H. olidus



H. nipponensis





H. japonicus




H. pretiosus



H. transpacificus





Phylogeny of the genus Hypomesus.[5]

The delta smelt is one of five currently recognized species within the Hypomesus genus, which is part of the larger Osmeridae family of smelts. The genus has been subject to many revisions since it was first classified by Gill in 1863.[6] The first major revision occurred in 1963, when the Osmeridae family was reexamined by Canadian ichthyologist Donald Evan McAllister. Expanding on Japanese researcher Hamada's earlier determination that H. olidus was not a monolithic widespread species, but rather one of three distinct species of Hypomesus, McAllister assigned them new names, and further delineated what he believed were four subspecies. This was the first description of H. transpacificus; named for its supposed occurrence on both sides of the Pacific, and also "to the friendship of Japanese and Canadian ichthyologists." He separated these geographically isolated populations into separate subspecies: H. t. transpacificus and H. t. nipponensis.[6]

Modern analysis of the genus would elevate all of McAllister's subspecies to full species status, based on fin ray counts and the number of chromatophores between their mandibles, a change which genetic analysis has supported.[5][7] In fact, genetic analysis would conclude that despite their morphological similarities, H. nipponensis and H. transpacificus are actually members of different phylogenetic clades.[8]

The abbreviated distribution of Hypomesus species along both the east and west sides of the Pacific ocean suggests that their common ancestor had a range that would have crossed the Pacific. Researchers have hypothesized that climatic changes may have reduced the range of the ancestral species during cooling periods, which would have created a reproductive barrier, allowing speciation to occur.[5] Although the low number of species in the genus and high levels of homoplasy have frustrated attempts to determine whether the northern pacific H. olidus or H. nipponensis are the basal species of Hypomesus,[5] it is known that the most recent speciation event in Hypomesus was between the two native east Pacific species, H. pretiosus and H. transpacificus. This is plausibly due to a geographic isolation of a widespread eastern Pacific ancestor, of which some members were isolated in a freshwater basin in western California, possibly in the lakes that would have been located in the southern San Joaquin Valley during the Pleistocene epoch.[5]

Habitat[edit]

The delta smelt is endemic to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in California, where it is distributed from the Suisun Bay upstream through the Delta in Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and counties. The delta smelt is a pelagic (lives in the open water column away from the bottom) and euryhaline species (tolerant of a wide salinity range). It has been collected from estuarine waters with salinities up to 14 parts per thousand.

Historically, delta smelt were distributed from San Pablo Bay upstream to Sacramento on the Sacramento River and Mossdale on the San Joaquin River, which varied seasonally and with freshwater outflow.[9] Today, large areas of historic delta smelt habitat and designated critical habitat have become unsuitable for some life history stages of the species, even though key environmental characteristics (e.g. temperature, salinity, water depth) of these areas have not changed.[10][11] Delta smelt disappeared from the southern portion of their historic habitat in the late 1970s, which coincides with substantial increases in the amounts of water exported from the Delta. It is likely that water export operations have a great effect on the distribution, abundance and genetic diversity of delta smelt.[12]

Life cycle[edit]

The delta smelt is semelparous, living one year and dying after its first spawning. Delta smelt spawning occurs in spring in river channels and tidally influenced backwater sloughs upstream of the mixing zone where saltwater meets freshwater. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers then transport the delta smelt larvae downstream to the mixing zone, normally located in the Suisun Bay. Young delta smelt then feed and grow in the mixing zone before starting their upstream spawning migration in late fall or early winter.

The delta smelt is preyed upon by larger fish, especially striped bass and largemouth bass which are introduced species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.[13]

Endangered status[edit]

Historically, delta smelt were relatively abundant in the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary, with populations declining dramatically in the 1980s.[14] They were listed as threatened by both federal and state governments in 1993, and sustained record-low abundance indices prompted their listing as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act in 2010.[15][16] Critical habitat was listed for delta smelt on December 19, 1994.[17]

Delta smelt are threatened with extinction due to anthropogenic alterations to their ecosystem, including urbanization, non-native species, water diversions, contaminants and the conversion of complex tidal habitats to leveed channels.[18]

Court protection[edit]

On August 31, 2007, Federal Judge Oliver Wanger of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California protected the delta smelt by severely curtailing human use water deliveries from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta from December to June.[19] These are the pumps at the Banks Pumping Plant that send water through the California Aqueduct to Central and Southern California for agricultural and residential use. Judge Wanger's later accusations that federal scientists had not provided complete or accurate information were investigated by RESOLVE and shown to be unfounded.[20][21]

Although there have been allegations that this protection has hurt California's agricultural sector, with the devastation of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the Central Valley,[22] a 2009 United States Department of Agriculture study estimated that job losses due to smelt protection were closer to 5,000.[23] An additional 16,000 job losses in the Central Valley were attributed to the drought California had been experiencing in recent years.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gimenez, Dixon. Hypomesus transpacificus; 1996. 10722. Listed as Endangered (EN B1+2 cd v2.3)
  2. ^ "Delta Smelt". U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Sommer, T. et al. 2011. The spawning migration of delta smelt in the Upper San Francisco Estuary. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science: 9(2).
  4. ^ Moyle, PB. 2002. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ilves KL, Taylor EB. Evolutionary and biogeographical patterns within the smelt genus Hypomesus in the North Pacific Ocean. Journal of Biogeography. 2008;35:48–64. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2007.01782.x.
  6. ^ a b McAllister DE. A revision of the smelt family, Osmeridae. National Museum of Canada Bulletin. 1963;191:29-31.
  7. ^ Sweetnam DA. Field identification of delta smelt and wakasagi. Interagency Ecological Program for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary Newsletter. 1995;(Spring):1-3.
  8. ^ Ilves KL, Taylor EB. Molecular resolution of the systematics of a problematic group of fishes (Teleostei: Osmeridae) and evidence for morphological homoplasy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 2009;50:163–178. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.10.021. PMID 19015040.
  9. ^ Radtke, LD (1966) Distribution of smelt, juvenile sturgeon and starry flounder in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In: Fish bulletin. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, pp 115–129
  10. ^ CDFG (2003) Comment letter on the five year status review of the delta smelt. California Department of Fish and Game, California, p 6
  11. ^ Miller J, Swanson C, Poole KS (2006) Emergency petition to list the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Center for Biological Diversity, Bay Institute, & Natural Resources Defense Council.
  12. ^ Bennett, WA (2005) Critical assessment of the delta smelt population in the San Francisco Estuary, California. San Francisco Estuary Watershed Sci 3:1–71.
  13. ^ Raymond Bark, Brent Bridges, Dr. Mark D. Bowen, (2008). "2008 Tracy Research Study: Plan Predator Impacts on Salvage Rates of Juvenile Chinook salmon and Delta Smelt". Retrieved 2009-06-26. [dead link]
  14. ^ Newman KB (2008) Sample design-based methodology for estimating delta smelt abundance. San Francisco Estuary Watershed Sci 6:1–18.
  15. ^ CDFG (2010) State & federally listed endangered & threatened animals of California. California Department of Fish & Game,State of California, The Natural Resources Agency, California.
  16. ^ Federal Register 58:12863; March 5, 1993
  17. ^ Federal Register 59:65256
  18. ^ Nichols FH, Cloern JE, Luoma SN, Peterson DH (1986) The modification of an estuary. Science 231:567–573.
  19. ^ New York Times, California Judge Helps Declining Fish
  20. ^ Boxall, Bettina (6 January 2012). "Panel clears scientists who testified in delta smelt case". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ "Independent panel clears scientists of wrongdoing in Calif. water case". 
  22. ^ ABC KFSN-TV "Water Shortage in the Central Valley"
  23. ^ Howitt, R., Josue Medellin-Azuara, Duncan MacEwan. "Measuring the Employment Impact of Water Reductions" Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Center for Watershed Sciences, UC Davis, September 2009

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]