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Population expansion of Humpback chub in western Grand Canyon and hypothesized mechanisms

December 31, 2017

Humpback chub, Gila cypha, is an endangered warm water fish endemic to the Colorado River basin of southwestern North America. In Grand Canyon National Park, cold hypolimnetic water-release temperatures from Glen Canyon Dam have largely precluded successful spawning and recruitment of humpback chub in the mainstem Colorado River. Therefore, the species has utilized the warmer, more saline, and free-flowing Little Colorado River for its primary spawning habitat and continued existence. Based on long-term fish sampling efforts, we document local recruitment and population expansion of humpback chub in the western Grand Canyon and hypothesize that this is a result of recent warmer mainstem water temperatures. Continued recruitment and population expansion of humpback chub in the western Grand Canyon could potentially reduce extinction risk by providing population redundancy and less reliance upon the Little Colorado River for the species survival in the Grand Canyon.