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Spawning of Schizopygopsis microcephalus (Cyprinidae) in the unique high-altitude conditions of the Tanggula mountains on the Tibetan plateau
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  • Wei Li,
  • Weijie Guo,
  • Han Liu,
  • Qianglong Qiao,
  • Kefeng Zhao,
  • Donghu Ai,
  • Chenyu Liu,
  • Weihua Zhao
Wei Li
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Weijie Guo
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Han Liu
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Qianglong Qiao
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Kefeng Zhao
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Donghu Ai
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Chenyu Liu
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
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Weihua Zhao
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Abstract

Schizothoracine fish spawning habitats in the Tibetan Plateau are poorly understood but critical for conservation amidst anthropogenic threats and climate change. In a 2019–2021 study, we located the spawning grounds of Schizopygopsis microcephalus Herzenstein, 1891, at an astounding 4800 m above sea level, the highest known fish spawning site. This occurred in mid-June, before seasonal flooding. We found approximately six circular egg burial nests per square meter, measuring 20–30 cm in diameter and 10–15 cm deep, nestled within gravel (4–5 cm max diameter, D50 of 2.2 cm). Egg fertilization rates reached 98%, with an 82% hatching rate. Intriguingly, eggs displayed delayed shell hardening during natural incubation, possibly to protect against intense high-elevation ultraviolet radiation. Further investigations are needed to understand the role of the pliable membrane. Survival of the species requires that this kind of rare habitat be conserved.