By Austin Cowan
Blog Content Contributor
Many of the endangered species living in San Marcos are concentrated in the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The river flows with water straight from the Edwards Aquifer which contains seven endangered species and one threatened species. With the increase in development and pollution in our city, the future existence of these species is not guaranteed. After reading this blog, San Marcans will know of what creatures they should look out for and how to help them exist for further generations to enjoy.
The seven endangered species of the Edwards Aquifer system are:
- Fountain Darter
- The Fountain Darter looks like a tadpole swimming with tyrannosaurus arms. This little fish normally grows to be no larger than 3 cm long. The reason why this fish appears to swim with t-rex arms is because it needs to doggy paddle in order to swim in any direction. Fountain darters cannot float up or down like other fish because they do not possess a swim bladder. This may sound like a disadvantage, but the majority of the food this fish eats is at the bottom of lakes near springs, so fountain darters already live exactly where they want to be.
- Texas Blind Salamander
- The Texas Blind is something out of this world. Seeing this pigmentless creature with almost antler-styled exterior gills is definitely a sight to behold. This creature is only known to live deep within the Edwards Aquifer and randomly makes appearances in Spring Lake. You can go see this animal yourself at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, along with all the other listed species.
- San Marcos Gambusia
- As a guy who grew up holding a fishing pole, I have noticed that some plastic fish bait have rainbow-sparkled tails. The San Marcos Gambusia reminds me of this piece of fishing bait. This fish only grows to be a few inches long and has an almost rainbow-colored tail. This fish likes to live in shallow water where they can find much cover from predators.
- Texas Wild Rice
- The Texas Wild Rice is the most commonly encountered endangered species by river goers. This plant grows in select parts of the first four miles of the San Marcos river because of the fast current and constant temperature of the Spring water flowing out of springs in Spring Lake. This thinly-layered elongated plant is highly protected by the federal government because it is only known to live within San Marcos. Tubers float over this plant while enjoying the river during the summer time. When at the river, make sure to avoid entering the fenced-out areas where this plant is growing. Disrupting any of it may destroy the chances of any seeding plants from growing. Reproduction of this species is obviously crucial to its survival.
- Comal Springs Riffle Beetle
- This endangered species looks like a miniature cockroach to me. The Comal Springs Riffle Beetle grows only to be ⅛ of an inch in length and is the only endangered insect listed in this blog post, that is subterranean. This beetle can be found at either Spring Lake or at the Comal Springs.
- Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle
- This beetle is rather unique because it was first collected in 1987, so this is a rather new discovery. There are a lot of mysteries surrounding the Dryopid on whether it once lived in now dry springs from the Edwards Aquifer. One thing for certain, though, is that this beetle is a very rare site to see.
- Peck’s Cave Amphipod
- The permanent home for the Amphipod is inside Edward’s Aquifer. Seeing one of these outside of the Aquifer is an extremely lucky site because they are believed to be easy prey for predators.
- San Marcos Salamander
- The San Marcos Salamander is a threatened species in San Marcos. Unless it is continually protected it may end up on the endangered species list. The San Marcos salamander lives at the bottom of Spring Lake and slightly under the surface. They like to squeeze themselves in between rocks to find food and protection from predators.
Where These Species Can Be Found
Endangered species in San Marcos River can normally be found at the river. The first two miles of the San Marcos river, especially Spring Lake, contain these creatures. The Texas Wild Rice only grows in select areas of the first four-miles of the San Marcos river. Oftentimes I have seen people believe that this plant is disgusting and are scared to swim in the water with it (Disclaimer: There are signs saying the plant is endangered. Do not mess with endangered species). Instead of being bothered by a harmless plant, next time take a closer look. San Marcos is the only place on the planet to see this beautiful plant. Sewell Park and Saltgrass Steak House and the two river front properties where tourist can see the Texas Wild Rice best from the bank. The other endangered and threatened species listed earlier in the blog can be found at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. The Meadows Center is the only place in the world where people can see these animals on display. If anyone is interested in coming I recommend going on a weekday. There are less people on these days so the staff will be able to give more one-one-interaction with each customer. Also, the smaller tourist crowds annoy the animals less, so there is a greater chance for more animal sightings.
How You Can Help
The best way to help these animals continue to exist is by practicing self-awareness. When a person is aware of the direct and indirect consequences of their actions, they can truly understand the effect they have on the environment around them. One way an environmentalist practices self-awareness is by turning the shower off while applying shampoo/bodywash when bathing. Another method is using a reusable water bottle vs. a disposable plastic one. These may seem like small deeds in the grand scheme of things, but if every person made an effort to make the world cleaner, pollution would not be as big of a problem, and water restrictions would not be as frequent. Volunteer in San Marcos and help make your town more beautiful. If you are a Texas State student, go sign up for Bobcat Build. If you are a non-Texas State student, volunteer at servesanmarcos.org. By helping preserve the natural beauty of San Marcos, the environment our endangered species live in will be preserved. If the environment is not preserved, one day San Marcos may look like the landscape the Lorax lives in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. Next time you think about how your actions affect the world around you make sure it is a positive one. Go volunteer today!
Be a leader. Encourage other people to help preserve the environment which our endangered species live in. Next time somebody litters or is pulling the Texas Wild Rice out of the water, correct their actions in an appropriate manner. A little corrective criticism can really help a person’s behavior improve. So make a stand and lead your heart to love the animals who share this world with us. Once your heart is lead in this direction, will you be able to lead others well. Go support nonprofits and organizations trying to help out endangered species. They need as much support as they can get. Better yet, encourage friends and family to do the same. After these endangered species are given the proper protection they need, these creatures might stand a chance at survival.
It is a blessing to have a chance to help endangered species continue to exist. Luckily, there are many ways to do this. Next time there is a chance to help make San Marcos healthy for all who live here, take advantage of it. By doing so, our descendants will hopefully have the same chance to see the endangered species like we have.
Featured image by Renee Dominguez.