On the Edge

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Connor Pittman

Various species of plants and animals are disappearing all around us without much notice.

The Neosho Madtom, the smallest catfish in Missouri, is one of the many species threatened by human development. When dams are built, they can alter how fast or slow the water is flowing, which disrupts the catfish’s habitat. A study submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed that when the water is flowing faster, during the spawning seasons, it has a negative impact on the reproductive rate of the Madtom.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Neosho Madtom is unique to only eight counties, including only five to seven miles of stream in Southwest Missouri. If this fish disappears, we would be losing a fish unique to only Missouri and Kansas. Environmentally, this fish feeds on aquatic and flying insects, which helps control the bug population. It is also prey for many larger fish and birds, so these animals would be losing one of their food sources.

A second case of a species disappearing is the Gray Bat. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, these bats are found in the southern half of Missouri, where 20% of the world’s population resides in caves in this area.

These bats eat almost a third of their body weight a night– that’s over 3,000 insects! These insects include caddisflies, mayflies, flying beetles and moths. In addition, their guano provides the basis of life for many cave lifeforms.

Unfortunately, these amazing creatures are under attack by a fierce predator, a fungal disease known as White Nose Syndrome. White Nose Syndrome, first seen in Albany, New York in 2006, is a white fungus that grows on a bat’s nose. White nose syndrome makes bats more active. This is bad during the winter because they burn through the fat that they need to survive. The fungus also forces them to go out during the day, making them vulnerable to predators like hawks and other large birds.

Though these species are disappearing, efforts are being made to raise their numbers. The Missouri Department of Conservation is working with the Oklahoma Department of Conservation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife Services to help raise water quality and preserve the Neosho Madtom’s habitat. White Nose Syndrome is more widespread than the Madtom and more is being done. In the US the conservation efforts are led by the US Fish and Wildlife Services and guided by a national plan put together by their many partners.