Race to save the redside dace: UofW researcher helps leaping minnows

Windsor Star –

Soon there will be more of Canada’s most endangered freshwater fish in a giant LaSalle tank than those remaining in the rest of the country.

The redside dace, a minnow known for leaping out of the water to catch flying insects, is only found in Canada in streams around the Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara regions. The University of Windsor’s Trevor Pitcher has more than 150 and is breeding them as fast as he can in an effort to save a species before it dies out there in five to 10 years.

“They’re literally the poster child of species at risk because there’s only a few hundred individuals left in all of Canada,” Pitcher said Thursday.

The endangered minnows — which reach almost eight centimetres long — dart around inside a 1,000-litre tank in the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre, a university research lab started in partnership with the Town of LaSalle.

Pitcher, the centre’s director and associate professor at the university’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, was allowed to take about 100 redside dace from Ohio to start breeding them for the ambitious restoration project.

As precious as every redside dace is to Pitcher, he can’t baby them. Pitcher and his students will create some some havoc with 3D models of predator fish like bass along with a chemical smell taken from crushed fish skins that warns a predator could be close. “We don’t want to kill the fish but we can scare the heck out of them.”

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