[alt.culture.us.southwest's finest contribution to our collective mythology. --DS]

From: ottar@azstarnet.com (Robert O. Dahl)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Sand trout
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 10:33:22 -0700
Organization: Bob's Museums of Distinction

While walking in a desert wash the other day. I ran across a dead specimen
of the sand trout (Salmo dessicata.) It was the first one I'd seen in many
years.  For those of you from outside the Southwest, our native desert
sand trout  has developed an ingenious method of surviving in an
environment where streambeds are dry most of the year.  The fish emerges
from  beneath the sand during flashfloods and feeds on detritus and insects
caught and carried by the water. When the waters recede, the clever sand
trout buries itself in places where the wet sand has settled with a
quicksand-like consistancy, and secretes a mucus material that completely
surrounds it, similar to the survival strategy the spadefoot toad. This
mucus layer dries and hardens, forming a watertight seal in which the fish
is encapsulated. When the next flooding occurs, the capsule dissolves and
the trout swims once more. Their method of reproduction is even more
fascinating, but I will save that for another time.

Cheers,

Robert

-- 
Robert O. Dahl
ottar@azstarnet.com
rdahl@bio2.edu (work)
http://www.azstarnet.com/~ottar

==============================================================================
From: dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu (David Sewell)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Sand trout
Date: 20 Oct 1996 22:17:05 -0700
Organization: Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona

Robert, what you're calling a "sand trout" here is actually the fish
usually known by the common name "flood trout" (Salmo torrentis)
because, as you correctly note, they are usually seen soon after the
peak of flash floods when they feed and mate.  Most of the remaining
population has retreated south along the Santa Cruz to where the
water flows more regularly, since they require a minimum of something
like a month of water and around Tucson they don't get that any
more.  

Salmo dessicata is the species that evolved to produce silicone-like
secretions that actually allow it to glide or "swim" through dry sand,
with most of its body just below the surface and only the dorsal
fin visible. It was called "trucha de arenas" by the Spanish, whence
English "sand trout." (First description in print that I know of is
in an 18th-century French source, the Encyclopédie of Jean-Bernard
Rosier, who believed that the sand trout's existence was evidence of
Heraclitean transmutation of the elements.)

In the old days its main predator was the roadrunner, since
roadrunners would streak along the washes and snatch the fins to pull
the fish up.  The sand trout, in turn, had developed a keen
sensitivity to vibration and could often dive several inches to elude
the roadrunner.

Their numbers were severely diminished in the 19th century by horseback
travel in the washes--they'd dive to elude the first one, but often
be crushed by a following horse when they surfaced for air (sand
trout gills can't operate more than two inches below the surface--
too much sand pressure).  And motorized traffic has driven them to
near extinction, not so much from being run over, as from exhaustion
and energy depletion in areas where the constant rumble of cars
continually triggers their diving reflex.  (The only ones I've ever
seen were in washes way up in the foothills, away from roads.) 

-- 
David Sewell  *  dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu  | "Everything is water, floating
Dep't of Geosciences, Univ. of Arizona         |  in water, sustained by it."
 WWW: http://packrat.aml.arizona.edu/~dsew/    |           --Heraclitus

==============================================================================
From: dtwright@texas.net (David Wright)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Sand trout
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 18:07:55 GMT
Organization: Texas Networking

I was a graduate student in zoology at the U of A in the early '60s. I
often did field work with a friend who worked on the behavior of
pallid bats, Antrozous pallidus. These bats begin flying just before
total darkness and they fly in arroyos where they feed on low-flying
insects. Sometimes they land to grab an insect. 

One evening we were stretched out at the edge of an arroyo and saw a
pallid bat land and immediately start to wave its wings to try to
escape something. It was dragged under the sand. When we got to the
bottom, we found that a sand trout had grabbed it and pulled it under,
and that the sand trout had curled its tail to secure its purchase.
While we were in the arroyo, another trout jumped up and grabbed an
insect and made a distinctive plop as it hit the sand. There must have
been a school of them in that arroyo because I heard the plopping that
night till I fell asleep in my sleeping bag.

David

==============================================================================
From: "Jim Peavler" <jmp@swcp.com>
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Sand trout
Date: 21 Oct 96 08:44:27 -0600
Organization: Air Force Phillips Lab.

David Sewell correctly identified the Salmo dessicata:
*****
Salmo dessicata is the species that evolved to produce silicone-like
secretions that actually allow it to glide or "swim" through dry sand,
[...]
*******

He is correct that this amazing fish has become quite rare. There are
still small schools of them in some of the arroyos that lie to the
west of and drain into the Rio Puerco of New Mexico. Many people are
surprised that they are found at this high an elevation. 

They can be caught on live bait, if you are very careful. A small
whiptail or skink is usually pretty good bait, but you must use a
slack line (not too slack, or the trout will hit your skink and turn
it loose before you can set the hook). If your line inhibits the
movement of the live bait even a little, the salmo dessicata dives. 

This manner of fishing is quite difficult, so naturally many of us
members of the Fly Fishers Federation have been working on  a
hand-tied lure that will work. So far we have not succeeded. If any of
you out there have developed a pattern with which you have had any
success, we would love to hear about it.

Jim Peavler
VIVA New Mexico!
http://www.viva.com/nm/

==============================================================================
From: ottar@azstarnet.com (Robert O. Dahl)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Sand trout
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 19:41:51 -0700
Organization: Bob's Museums of Distinction

My sincere thanks to Dave Sewell, David Wright and Jim Peavier for sharing
their own personal observations on both the sand AND flood trout. It is
only relatively recently through an internet newsgroup such as this that
such a number of disparate observations of a shy and rare creature could
be collected in very short order. I had considered myself privy to what I
thought was extremely esoteric knowledge until you gentlemen pulled the
rug out from under my smugness and provided witness to the fact that these
shy species have been more widely observed than I had ever imagined.

I am humbled by your knowledge,

RO

-- 
Robert O. Dahl
ottar@azstarnet.com
rdahl@bio2.edu (work)
http://www.azstarnet.com/~ottar

==============================================================================
From: dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu (David Sewell)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Sand trout
Date: 26 Oct 1996 12:35:15 -0700
Organization: Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona

In article <326D0635.167EB0E7@nrl.navy.mil>,
Marcos J Montes  <marcos.montes@nrl.navy.mil> wrote:
>Surely this fish must be on the endagered species list?
>
>I am truly impressed by the knowledge of the members of this NG on 
>this obscure subject. I thought I was somewhat familiar with the
>denizens 
>of the southwest (lived in Las Cruces for 22 yrs), but I have never 
>heard of sand trout, or read any information whatsoever about these
>animals.
>
>Is there some particular source of information about these animals that 
>can be found in libraries, etc? 

I'm not certain, but you might try:

	AUTHOR       Meine, Franklin Julius, 1896-1968.
	TITLE        Tall tales of the Southwest;
	SERIES       Americana deserta.
	PUBLISHER    New York, A.A. Knopf, 1930.

-- 
David Sewell  *  dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu   | "Where the earth is dry, the
Dep't of Geosciences, Univ. of Arizona          |  soul is wisest and best."
 WWW: http://packrat.aml.arizona.edu/~dsew/     |           --Heraclitus

==============================================================================
[and to prove that a good thread never dies.... :]

From: ottar@azstarnet.com (Robert O. Dahl)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Mars mission: a clever hoax
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 1997 07:12:20 -0700
Organization: Bob's Museums of Distinction

In article <5puk55$1jt$1@shadow.skypoint.net>, droyd19@skypoint.com (David
Monk) wrote:

> It is my belief that the Pathfinder and Rover are not really on Mars. Look at 
> the terrain, it looks too much like the area outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.  
> I think that NASA is trying to pull a fast one in much the same way they did 
> with the so called "moon landings".  Not really on an extraterrestrial world, 
> but trying to make us believe so, they can pocket the money.
> 
> Ill bet you the Rover and Pathfinder can be found just off Interstate 5
> between Albuquerque and Farmington. They're just pieces of junk made by
> Mattel.

I, also, am suspicious. If you look very closely at the left forground of
picture: <81003_full.jpg> and squint your eyes,  you can see what may well
be the dessicated dorsal fin of a sand trout, barely extending from the
surrounding surface dust. The odds that the sand trout evolved
independently both here and on Mars makes it highly improbable that this
picture was taken on Mars.

Robert

-- 
Robert O. Dahl
Interpretive Planning & Design
ottar@azstarnet.com
http://www.azstarnet.com/~ottar

"I am afraid that I don't see much hope for a civilization so stupid that it demands a quantitative estimate of the value of its own umbilical cord."
... Dr. David Ehrenfeld, a conservation biologist at Rutgers University

==============================================================================

From: dsewell@azstarnet.com (David Sewell)
Newsgroups: alt.culture.us.southwest
Subject: Re: Mars mission: a clever hoax
Date: 9 Jul 1997 21:50:07 -0700
Organization: Starnet, Tucson, Arizona USA

In article <ottar-0907970712200001@dialup01ip25.tus.azstarnet.com>,
Robert O. Dahl <ottar@azstarnet.com> wrote:
>In article <5puk55$1jt$1@shadow.skypoint.net>, droyd19@skypoint.com (David
>Monk) wrote:
>
>> It is my belief that the Pathfinder and Rover are not really on Mars. Look at 
>> the terrain, it looks too much like the area outside Albuquerque, New
>Mexico.  
>
>I, also, am suspicious. If you look very closely at the left forground of
>picture: <81003_full.jpg> and squint your eyes,  you can see what may well
>be the dessicated dorsal fin of a sand trout, barely extending from the
>surrounding surface dust. The odds that the sand trout evolved
>independently both here and on Mars makes it highly improbable that this
>picture was taken on Mars.

Awfully good eye, Robert. And I guess it's time to 'fess up to
something.  Properly the confession belongs to Peter Smith, the U. of
Arizona researcher with the Lunar and Planetary Lab who was principal
designer of the Pathfinder camera, but he has been a *wee* bit too busy
lately to post to newsgroups.

Anyway, he phoned me last fall, not long before Pathfinder was
launched, and said he needed some help. Seemed it's a NASA
tradition to put something bizarre on every major lunar or
interplanetary flight, whether a golf club and golf ball,
a jar of Silly Putty, or whatever. He wanted something
"typically Arizonan" for Pathfinder and said he'd heard
I knew a bit about catching sand trout.

Anyway, I arranged to meet him around sunset at the Rillito
River down near the race track--perfect sand trout weather, not a drop
of water in the channel of course, no wind, cold snap had scared off
the insects so the sand trout were bound to be hungry.  We could see
ripples out in the sand 20 feet or so from the bank, and the occasional
fin breaking the surface.

Believe it or not, Peter reeled one in with a bit of a Mars Bar (!!!)
stuck on a hook tied to a dozen feet of cotton kite string. Fish didn't
even fight--went into the water bucket and was drowned before it had
time to feel a thing.

Peter said it was important not to allow live organic contaminants on
the spacecraft, so he was planning to freeze-dry it and sterilize it
before the launch.  That would account for the dried-up look.

Anyway, it's a sure-enough sand trout on Mars--"Rover" must have buried
it when no one was looking.  No need for conspiracy theories about
faked landing photographs!

Best, David S.
-- 
David Sewell  *  dsewell@azstarnet.com          | "Where the earth is dry, the
              *  dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu   |  soul is wisest and best."
 WWW: http://packrat.aml.arizona.edu/~dsew/     |_____      --Heraclitus
 "Going Meta": http://www.go2net.com/internet/meta/   |_______________________


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