Threatened and Endangered Species and Unusual Species
Giant Palm Boring Beetle - Dinapate wrightii
The Palm Boring Beetle is a California fan palm specialist. It is giant, being the largest bostrichid beetle in the world ... nearly 1.5 - 2 inches! A botonist by the name of W. G. Wright discovered the beetle in 1896. It is named Dinapate wrightii (Horn), the Giant Palm Borer. The discovery of this beetle caused a great deal of excitement among the entomologists and museum curators of the world, and its founder kept the location of the oasis wherein it was found a secret. Specimens of his unique insect are reported to have brought huge sums of money, as collectors were determined to own one.
The dime-sized holes seen in the trunks of palms are exit holes of the adult beetle. The larvae spend about five - ten years chewing tunnels within the trunks of desert fan palms. Flickers use the sound of the chewing larvae to locate the tasty morsel. The larva then pupate within the trunk and chew their way out. They exit going backwards to avoid getting stuck. Emerging in June, males and females mate and then die within a few weeks. These beetles can kill a palm, but they only inhabit older, sick or stressed trees. Giant palm-boring beetles keep the palm population healthy and the presence of these beetles is actually a sign of a healthy oasis.
Desert Pupfish - Cyprinodon macularius
The desert pupfish is the only fish endemic to the Salton Sink. There are two subspecies in the United States: a Colorado River form (C. m. macularius and a Quitobaquito form C. m. eremus. The desert pupfish is a small (<76 mm), laterally compressed “killifish.” This minnow-like fish occurs naturally in the Salton Sea, its tributaries and shoreline pools, and irrigation drains emptying into the Sea. Although there are the two main tributaries, pupfish can be found on occasion in other washes, such as Hot Mineral Spa wash south of Bombay Beach. Habitat loss and alteration of water flows, as well as the introduction of non-native animals (tilapia, mosquitofish and mollies and other fishes, snails and crayfish) and vegetation (salt cedar / tamarisk is a threat in some areas), are the major reasons for the decline of desert pupfish. Pupfish prefer shallow, clear water, with either rooted or nattached aquatic plants, restricted surface flow, and sand-silt substrates. They can live in extreme environmental conditions, including extremes of salinity and temperature and oxygen. Thus, they are found mostly in habitats too extreme for other competing fishes. In less harsh environments where a greater diversity of fishes are found, pupfish occupy water shallower than that inhabited by adults of most other species. In addition, smaller fish tend to be found in shallower water than larger fish.
The pupfish was listed as a California endangered species in 1980, and Federally endangered in 1986. This population of the desert pupfish was established in the 1990s from the Salt Creek population as a refugia. Refugia have been created in several locations as "holding" tanks for the genetic material found in the drains along the Salton Sea.
Coachella Valley Fringe-Toed Lizard - Uma inornata
They get their name, of course, from elongate scales on the toes of their hind feet that look like fringes. These fringes act like miniature snowshoes, giving the lizards extra traction to speed away from predators on the loose sand surface. The lizards also have fringes on their ears to keep sand away from their eardrums (they could have just as easily been called fringe-eared lizards). The lizards' head is perfectly shaped to allow them to dive head first into the soft sand, actually "swimming" below the sand surface rest. This behavior allows the lizards to disappear in to the dune, leaving no trace behind and effectively evading all predators. Once below the sand, the lizards' noses are equipped with a structure that allows the lizards to continue to breathe air, without bringing sand into their lungs. Taken together, these adaptations provide the fringe-toed lizards with everything they need to live on dunes.
The Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard was listed as threatened by the federal government and endangered by the state of California in 1980. Where once there was 100 square miles of dunes in the Coachella Valley, about four square miles have been protected. The reserve protects the last remnants of one of the most interesting and beautiful habitats this valley has to offer.
Coachella Valley Milkvetch - Astragalus lentiginosis
Also called "locoweed", these unobtrusive flowers are found in sandy margins in and around dunes. This species is generally a winter annual that blooms from February to May, producing pink to deep magenta-colored flowers. In contrast to other locoweeds, it has strongly inflated, two-chambered, seed pods. These pods, when dried, fall to the ground and are blown along the dunes.
In good years, hundreds of individual plants have been seen in a given population, but more often reports are of less than 20 plants. Extensive dune systems that supported the milkvetch once occurred from the Cabazon area to Thousand Palms, and at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains.