Friday January 13, 2023

Sierra Club

A cold, wet heart beats delicately in the palms of my hands. A flick of the fish’s tail subtly curves the arc of its glossy body with the grace of a dancer. Mark Cantrell, a fisheries biologist with US Fish and Wildlife, heckles me. “If you love the chub, then you gotta kiss ’im!” I lift the humpback chub to eye level before pressing its body to my lips. A thin film from the fish kiss rests on my mouth. I don’t wipe it off as I release the chub back into the muddy water. “That was the thrill of that chub’s life,” Cantrell chuckles.

It’s a bold move to kiss a species I just met, but I know love when I feel it. 

The humpback chub is native to the Colorado River corridor, where it has lived for 5 million years, and exists nowhere else on Earth. It is named for a signature hump overhanging a sleek pearlescent body with pale vermillion fins. Its eyes are adapted to see through muddy waters, and its gills and mouth contain protective flaps that filter out sediment. Come spawning season in spring, the humpback chub’s fins burn a bright shade of red, the same shade as the 340-million-year-old Redwall limestone formation towering above its home waters. 

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