Thom Smith: Blind cave fish found in the Berkshires?


Q: A friend told me some time ago of seeing blind cave fish in a Lanesborough cave. What is your opinion?

T.C., Pittsfield

A: My guess is that your friend saw some small fish that were swept into the cavern, but are not necessarily inhabitants.and certainly not the blind tetras known more commonly as the blind cave fish (Astyanax mexicanus) or any other species of blind fish.

I strongly suspect blind and pigmentless fish are not native to the Northeast. I asked local caver Michael Telladira about the possibility and his answer was "I haven't heard of [or seen] any locally, but have seen crayfish with very little color to near white but not blind."

I think it is interesting that there are more than 80 varieties of cavefish found in different parts of the world, including Mexico, Cuba, South and Central America, Africa, and surprisingly enough, at the Great Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Called the northern cavefish (Amblyopsis spelaea), their range extends across to the Ohio River. Some blind fish live in the Atlantic Coastal Plain in shallow swamps and slow-moving streams.

The Ozark cavefish is about 2 1/4 inches long, is pinkish-white, and blind. Ozark cavefish live in cave streams and springs. This species is on the endangered list of threatened wild life. Northern cavefish are also listed as a threatened species in the United States.

I can find no mention of any species living in the Northeast.

Scott Jervas still maintains one of the Mexican blind cavefish (and expects more in the near future) at the Berkshire Museum aquarium.

Q: I am curious as to why, like clockwork every afternoon about 2:30 to 3, we have thousands of crows in the King Street. area of Pittsfield. They swarm on the ground and in the trees. They seem to come from Pittsfield Cemetery.

I hope you can answer why for us. It's amazing and they stay for about an hour or so.

S. FOLEY, Pittsfield

A: Without seeing this common phenomenon first hand I can only surmise that the crows are using King Street as a staging area, where flocks gather from different directions to move as a whole to a communal nighttime roost.

One large staging area, maybe 10 years ago, was near the bottom of Church Street in Pittsfield.

Maybe a little more recently, a nighttime roost was located between Saint Joseph's Church and the old Convent on North Street.

Roosts move from time to time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are so large, messy and noisy, that human steps are taken to force them to disband.

Happy Groundhog Day on Saturday!

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