A tiny fish is on the brink of extinction. Does it matter that another just like it is thriving?


California’s tiny delta smelt is not a terribly impressive fish at first glance, and not really at second glance either. It’s about the length and width of a finger, silvery and kind of see-through – looks a bit like a sardine.

They’re not particularly clever or cute, but Mandi Finger, a University of California Davis population geneticist, says the delta smelt do have one weird characteristic going for them.

“They smell amazing,” she said. “They smell like the best version of cucumbers you could ever imagine.”

No one knows why, not for certain.

“I know they smell great though. They really do,” Finger said. “I’ve gotten to smell a delta smelt, you know, before they were all gone.”

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