Mexican Highland Lakes

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Lake on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico.
© WWF / Rob WEBSTER

About the Area

The Mexican highland lakes ecoregion contains a number of endorheic lakes (those that have no connection to the sea), thermal springs, and streams. The total surface area of the lakes is 100.00 km2.

These habitats are characterised by the presence of unusual amphibian and invertebrate species, and fish species radiations in several lakes.

Lake Chapala (Mexico's largest) and the Rio Lerma support fish faunas in which over half of the species are endemic. In addition, the Aguascalientes warm-water aquifer and its associated underground aquatic life underlie portions of the ecoregion.

Lake Catemaco has 100% endemism in its 26 fish species.
Size:
380,000 sq. km (148,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Small Lakes

Geographic Location:
Mexico

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered
Local Species
Species include numerous endemic livebearers (family Poecillidae), splitfins (Goodeidae), silversides (Atherinidae), pupfishes (Cyprinodontidae), cichlids (Cichlidae), and characids (Characiformes).

Among the numerous fish species whose distributions are restricted to this ecoregion are Mexican brook lamprey (Lampetra geminis), Lerma chub (Algansea barbata), Leopard splitfin (Xenotaenia resolanae), Bagre catfish (Ictalurus dugesii), Charal (Chirostoma chapalae), Potosi pupfish (Cyprinodon alvarezi), Flatjaw minnow (Dionda mandibularis), Black lyre (Poecilia latipinna), Graceful priapella (Priapella bonita), Chapala chub (Algansea popoche), Scowling silverside (Chirostoma aculeatum), and Largetooth silverside (C. arge).

Endemic amphibians include Rana megapoda, R. montezumae, and a near-endemic salamander genus, Ryacosiredon. The freshwater habitats also support a distinctive and endemic invertebrate fauna, including La Medialuna crayfish (Procambarus roberti), La Medialuna shrimp (Palaemonetes lindsayi), and the Crayfish's obligatory parasite, La Medialuna ostracod (Ankylocythere barbouri).

Featured species

Potosi pupfish

The pupfishes are a group of small killifish belonging to ten genera of the family Cyprinodontidae of ray-finned fish. All pupfishes are especially noted for being found in extreme and isolated situations, in various parts of North America, South America, and the Caribbean region.

The common name is said to derive from the mating habits of the males, whose activities vaguely resemble puppies at play. Most pupfishes are inhabitants of the fresh and brackish waters of the Americas; a few species are known from the Old World. Many species are ovoviviparous, and from their small size and lively behaviour they are much appreciated as aquarium fishes.

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Threats
The freshwater species of this largely xeric region compete with agriculture and burgeoning human populations for the limited water supply. Water withdrawals and diversions for agriculture, combined with pollution from industrial waste, agriculture, and urbanisation threaten the quality and quantity of water available to the freshwater biota of this ecoregion.

Of great concern is the tapping of aquifers (that threaten the survival of several spring fish), invasive aquatic plants (e.g., water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes), and introduced nonnative fish like blue tilapia and Oreochromis aureus.
WWF’s work
Mexico harbours the most important nesting sites for leatherback in the Eastern Pacific. A 95% population decline over the past 15 years has meant that the species is close to extinction in this area.

WWF is supporting conservation work by leatherback researcher Laura Sarti to help increase the coverage of nest protection in Mexican beaches, as well as introduce by-catch reduction measures in fisheries policies.

A recent agreement between three Mexican states (Oaxaca, Guerrero y Michoacan) for the protection of leatherbacks is a window of opportunity to ensure nesting sites safe arrival and departure for the turtles that breed along the Mexican coasts.

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