National Geographic : 2010 Apr
• during spring or summer, though, when the males assume breeding hues, you might think you were near a coral reef. Christmas darters look like swimming red-garlanded trees; holi- day darters and lipstick darters are striped and flecked in turquoise and orange. Male lolly- pop darters have knobs along the top of their dorsal n that swell large and bright yellow--- presumably to mimic eggs and inspire females to lay some. Behaviors can be equally striking. Male madtoms--- nger-length cat sh with bar- bels extending like whiskers from around their mouths---take eggs into their mouths to clean them. Some male darters do that by fanning wa- ter over the eggs, which also supplies the eggs with oxygen. e Conasauga logperch, barely ve inches long, uses its snout like a crowbar to ip pebbles in search of food. With so many streams drowned beneath reservoirs or smothered by sediments from hu- man activities or laden with harmful chemicals, nearly a third of the Southeast's sh are at risk of vanishing, many within a matter of years. CFI isn't the only out t working to preserve them. e Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, other private facilities, and state and federal wildlife agencies have efforts under way as well. It's mostly thankless work. A group of independent scientists, the Southeastern Fishes Council, put together a list they call the desperate dozen--- "the 12 sh most likely to become extinct soon," said Anna George, chief research scientist at the Tennessee Aquarium. "The public has never heard of most of them." One exception is the Alabama sturgeon, which is, or was, up to 30 inches long. Its pop- ulation was decimated in the past century by commercial shing and dams that sealed o its migratory spawning routes. is sturgeon may now be the most endangered sh in the U.S. Intensive searches have turned up exactly three since it was o cially protected in 2000. e last INCILIUS CONIFERUS The hardy evergreen toad (which is often brown) climbs trees in mountains and lowlands from Nicaragua to Ecuador. Its broad range may be helping it hold on while other amphibians are vanishing.