May 6 2012

A Fishy Story

“I don’t understand what all the excitement is about minners.” Chuck and I were at the Salt Creek boardwalk in Death Valley, watching the Salt Creek desert pupfish when Chuck overheard this comment from another visitor.

“Minners”, indeed! The desert pupfish were clearly visible and they are about minnow size. There is nothing particularly unique about them on first glance. And while Jesus had a lot to do with fishermen, no fisherman would be interested in these little critters except perhaps for bait (though that would be totally illegal!). But first glances can be deceiving.

These small fish are descendants of freshwater pupfish that were common throughout Death Valley a long time ago before it was desert. And they are amazing survivors. As the climate of Death Valley changed, the water dried up and isolated these fish into small groups associated with springs. The Salt Creek group is in a short stream that starts from a spring, then before long, fades to nothing in the desert. But in the meantime, the stream is home to these active fish. They get their name from an early settler who thought they “played” like puppies, but all that activity was really about finding mates and defending territories. The fish are easy to see since the water is barely inches deep at its deepest.

But this is not the important part of this story. As years passed, the water gradually became saltier. These little fish, being the survivors that they are, adapted and evolved to handle the water. This spring can have salt concentrations 2-5 times that of seawater, yet these pupfish thrive here. Their bodies now have ways of getting rid of the excess salt. They actually have to drink the water and remove the salt in order to stay hydrated!

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” So says Jesus in Matthew 6:26. And in Genesis, it says, “So God created … every living and moving thing with which the water teams … and God saw that it was good. God blessed them.” (Genesis 1:21-22) Obviously, God takes care of His creatures and believes they are good and worthwhile. I believe he helped these pupfish find their way in a land that was changing to desert by influencing their evolution to adapt to the change in salt water. He could have simply let them die from the change, but He didn’t.

Maybe one reason these “minners” are worth considering is simply that God cares about them. Sometimes I feel we start becoming rather uppity human beings and want to know what good something is. That is a human centered way of thinking, not a God-centered way of thinking. The good of any part of nature has nothing to do with what we think its purpose is, but simply is good because “God saw that it was good.”

— Rob