Gambusia Road Trip – The Genesis
From January 4th to 8th of this year (2015), a daughter (Cara), three German Shepherd Dogs (Tally, Oso, and Maya), a Mountain Cur (Gus) and I went on a Gambusia road trip through west Texas and southern New Mexico. In this blog I’ll tell the genesis of the trip. Following blogs will cover the road trip day-by-day.
The original genesis of the road trip was in 2008. A small group of us had bitten off almost more than we could chew by proposing and winning the right to host the American Livebearer Association’s (ALA) 2008 convention in San Antonio, Texas. When planning the outings for the convention, I considered a visit to some of the habitats of rare and extinct Gambusia species. Before continuing, I want to give some natural history of this genus and then I’ll return to the road trip’s genesis.
According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) the genus has 43 species, some of which are extinct. These species range around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Eleven of them are native to the USA with all but one native to Texas. One species, G. affinis, ranges up to the Great Lakes in North America. It has been introduced worldwide for mosquito control to every continent, except for Antarctica, to the detriment of many local fish species. It’s worth mentioning that other authorities split G. affinis into species, G. affinis and G. holbrooki. Nine of the Gambusia species found in Texas have relatively restricted ranges and most of these are endangered and two are extinct. I’ll discuss each of these species in the daily road trip blogs to follow this blog in the next few days.
Okay, back to the road trip genesis. Due to the time constraints of the convention, I had originally planned a post-convention trip for those interested hobbyists to visit the habitats of the nine Texas species in west Texas with a side trip to Dexter National Fish Hatchery, where the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Center at Dexter maintains a population of one of the endangered species, G. gaigei, the Big Bend Gambusia. We would have, of course, traversed the territory, both natural and introduced, of G. affinis as well. It was a good plan, but my hatchery work schedule made it impossible. Managing the ALA convention had caused too much neglect of the hatchery. The road trip plans were shelved.
Then, during our Christmas trip to Santa Fe with the family, Susie, my wife, suggested that the dogs and I should make ourselves gone for three to four days to allow her to refinish the oak floors of our farmhouse, which was built by my great-grandfather in 1908. It seems the dogs and I would simply be in the way. Susie wanted us gone the first half of January, 2015. Since winter is a slow time in the hatchery due to short, cool days, it was a good time for me to be gone. Also, Cara, one of our daughters, was between hi-tech jobs and wanted to go along to help with the four large dogs. Thinking of where to go, the Gambusia floated to the top of the options.
Now, Susie is the planner in our marriage. I tend to just head off in a direction and make adjustments as I go along. Unfortunately, I’ve come to rely on her planning skills. In this case, Susie wasn’t much interested in planning the trip and left me to my own devices. There were consequences. I’ll cover these in the next blog: “Gambusia Road Trip – Day Minus 1.”