A new study reveals that the greenback cutthroat trout now lives in just one 4-mile stretch of water southwest of Colorado Springs. The greenback cutthroat also happens to be the state fish of Colorado.
The New York Times reports that researchers from the U.S. and Australia used DNA samples from specimens of the trout that were pickled in ethanol 150 years ago and then compared it to the genes of today's populations. The study compared the genes of past and present but also examined more than 40,000 stocking records.
After DNA research was complete, the study authors found that the greenback cutthroat were so few that the remaining fish lived in just a small stretch of river.
"We've known for some time that the trout in Bear Creek were unique," said Doug Krieger, senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife told the Denver Post. "But we didn't realize they were the only surviving greenback."
The discovery has prompted a flurry of efforts to preserve the fish, yet the Fish and Wildlife Service told The New York Times that it did not plan to take immediate action. The fish's status can't be changed from threatened to endangered until a more thorough scientific investigation is conducted.
The study was published Monday in the journal Molecular Ecology.