That big quake off the coast of Alaska? Death Valley’s pupfish felt it

Devils Hole pupfish thrive in a remote aquifer-fed pool in the Nevada desert that’s part of Death Valley National Park.
(National Park Service)

The strong earthquake off the coast of Alaska on Monday caused 1-foot waves in Devils Hole, a water-filled cave that’s home to critically endangered pupfish in Death Valley National Park.

Minutes after the magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck in the Gulf of Alaska, the impact caused water to slosh in the cave’s pool a few thousand miles away, a park news release issued Tuesday said.

“It’s crazy that distant earthquakes affect Devils Hole,” Kevin Wilson, the park’s aquatic ecologist, said in the release. “We’ve seen this a few times before, but it still amazes me.”

The Devils Hole pupfish, which at last count numbered just 115, were unharmed.


Afterward, they started spawning, something park staff said was a common reaction to disturbances in their habitat. Males turn bright blue when they spawn, usually in spring and fall.

The sloshing water was caused by what’s called a seiche, or waves that occur “on rivers, reservoirs, ponds and lakes when seismic waves from an earthquake pass through the area,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.

In the past, big quakes that struck in Japan, Indonesia, Mexico and Chile also made waves in Devils Hole.

Devils Hole is part of the park but outside its boundaries. It’s located in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.



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