Jarabugo (Anaecypris hispanica)

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Jarabugo fact file

Jarabugo description

GenusAnaecypris (1)

Currently at risk of extinction, the fish (Anaecypris hispanica), a small fish of the Cyprinidae family, is considered the most threatened non-migratory fish in Iberian freshwaters (3). It was first identified in 1894, after it was found in a small stream in the Guadiana river basin. In 1983, the jarabugo was assigned to its own genus, Anaecypris, meaning ‘Cyprinid of the Guadiana’ (4).

The jarabugo has large eyes, very small scales and a long, thin body ending with a pointed caudal fin. The sides of the fish are silver with a pinkish sheen and a scattering of black spots, whereas its upperparts are yellowish brown. It is the only cyprinid species in the Iberian Peninsula that can be distinguished from other cyprinid species due to a set of uniquely identifiable characteristics. These include an upturned mouth and a scale-less ridge situated between the pelvic fin and the anus (2) (5).

Also known as
Length: up to 7 cm (2)

Jarabugo biology

The lifespan of the fish is short, generally only living to a maximum of three years, with rapid growth occurring in its first year of life. The jarabugo reaches sexual maturity during its first year, often spawning for the first time between April and May of its second year. It is thought that the jarabugo is a fractional spawner, which means it releaseseggs at intervals, usually over several days or weeks, laying less than 100 eggs in each batch (3) (6). The jarabugo will generally breed and take refuge in areas where there are large amounts of submerged vegetation and flowering plants to protect it from potential predators (6).

The diet of the fish consists of detritus, filamentous algae and small invertebrates (2). The natural predators of  the jarabugo are birds and other fish, including exotic fish species that have been introduced into Iberian waters such as the black bass (Micropterus salmoides) and the sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) (8).


Jarabugo range

Endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, the jarabugo is confined to the rivers and intermittent streams of the Guadiana basin. It has been reported from the River Odeleite in Portugal to the River Estena at Ciudad Real in Spain, as well as in a single area of the Bembezar River, a tributary of the Guadalquivir river system (2) (4).


Jarabugo habitat

The jarabugo lives predominantly in small, shallow streams less than 60 centimetres in depth. These streams typically have highly dissolved oxygen concentrations, and a gravelly or pebbly bottom, with an annual mean water temperature below 25 degrees Celsius (3) (6).

Evidence suggests that the jarabugo preferentially occupies streams with a narrow channel width (usually less than ten metres), slow flowing water and an abundance of submerged vegetation (7).


Jarabugo status

The jarabugo is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Jarabugo threats

Once a relatively abundant fish in the Guadiana basin, the jarabugo now has a fragmented distribution and has undergone a catastrophic decline in numbers (9). Between 1996 and 2006, this species’ population decreased by over 50 percent, a decrease that is ongoing despite the efforts of current conservation programs (1).

The introduction of exotic fish species has contributed to the decline in the fish population (8). Severe droughts during the summer months affects both the population and distribution of the jarabugo, reducing the shallow streams it lives in to small isolated pools (10).

Pressure to exploit the water in the Guadiana catchment for domestic supply, agriculture and recreation has resulted in intense human activities becoming a major cause of habitat loss for the fish. These include flow regulation, particularly through damming (for example, the Alqueva Dam built to supply water for the developing Algarve region), reservoir development, and the extraction of water, sand and silt. Water pollution and eutrophication have also destroyed other areas of suitable habitat for the jarabugo (3).


Jarabugo conservation

Extinction of the jarabugo seems inevitable unless there is a sustained conservation effort for this species (2). Conventional conservation strategies focusing around active breeding programmes or the transfer of individuals from one location to another are not viable because this small fish species is extremely sensitive to handling (9).

Between 1997 and 2000, a major conservation initiative called ‘A conservation strategy for Anaecypris hispanica’ was developed under the EU LIFE programme, which focused on the preservation and rehabilitation of the jarabugo’s natural habitat rather than one directed at the species itself. This strategy therefore also benefited other threatened fish species in the river basin (11).

The management plan proposed actions that included the designation of Special Areas of Conservation supported through the EU Habitats Directive, the rehabilitation of degraded habitats, control over the dispersal and numbers of exotic fish species, and the establishment of international collaboration to create sustainable use of the water resources and a tightened regulation of human activities. It also included the potential reintroduction of this species to recovered habitats, as well as a strong initiative to increase public awareness about conservation (8) (11) (12) (13).

Unfortunately the population of the jarabugo is still in decline despite these conservation measures; however, the newly discovered presence of another jarabugo population in the Bembezar River is a positive observation for what otherwise appeared a bleak future for the species (4).


Find out more

Learn more about the conservation of the jarabugo:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Caudal fin
The tail fin of a fish.
Litter formed from fragments of dead material.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A process in which a water body is enriched with excessive nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) resulting in the excessive growth of aquatic plants and the depletion of oxygen, creating unfavourable conditions for other organisms, such as fish.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Pelvic fins
In fish, the pair of fins found on the underside of the body.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2010)
  2. Collares-Pereira, M.J. and Cowx, I.G. (2001) Threatened fishes of the world: Anaecypris hispanica (Steindachner, 1866) (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 60: 410.
  3. Collares-Pereira, M.J., Cowx, I.G., Rodrigues, J.A., Rogado, L. (2000) Threats imposed by water resource development schemes on the conservation of endangered fish species in the Guadiana River Basin in Portugal. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 7: 167-178.
  4. De Miguel, R., Pino, E., Ramiro, A., Aranda, F., Peña, J.P., Doadrio, I. and Fernández-Delgado, C. (2010) On the occurrence of Anaecypris hispanica, an extremely endangered Iberian endemism, in the Guadalquivir River basin. Journal of Fish Biology,76: 1454-1465.
  5. Kottelat, M. and Freyhof, J. (2007) Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Publications Kottelat, Cornol, Switzerland.
  6. Ribeiro, F., Cowx, I.G. and Collares-Pereira, M.J. (2000) Life history traits of the endangered Iberian cyprinid Anaecypris hispanica and their implications for conservation. Archiv Für Hydrobiologie, 149: 569-586.
  7. Blanco-Garrido, F., Clavero, M. and Prenda, J. (2009) Jarabugo (Anaecypris hispanica) and freshwater blenny (Salaria fluviatilis): habitat preferences and relationship with exotic fish species in the middle Guadiana basin. Limnetica, 28: 139-148.
  8. Collares-Pereira, M.J. and Cowx, I.G. (2004) The role of catchment scale environmental management in freshwater fish conservation. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 11: 303-312.
  9. Collares-Pereira, M.J., Cowx, I.G., Rodrigues, J.A., Rogado, L. and da Costa, L.M (1999) The status of Anaecypris hispanica in Portugal: Problems of conserving a highly endangered Iberian fish. Biological Conservation, 88: 207-212.
  10. Pires, A.M., Cowx, I.G. and Coelho, M.M. (1999) Seasonal changes in fish community structure of intermittent streams in the middle reaches of the Guadiana basin, Portugal. Journal of Fish Biology, 54: 235-249.
  11. Collares-Pereira, M.J. (1997) EU LIFE Programme: Saramugo - A Conservation Strategy for Anaecypris hispanica. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=211&docType=pdf
  12. Helfman, G.S. (2007) Fish Conservation: A Guide to Understanding and Restoring Global Aquatic Biodiversity and Fishery Resources. Island Press, Washington D.C.
  13. Collares-Pereira, M.J., Cowx, I.G., Rodrigues, J.A. and Rogado, L. (2002) A conservation strategy for Anaecypris hispanica: a picture of LIFE for a highly endangered Iberian fish. Conservation of Freshwater Fishes: Options for the Future. In: Collares-Pereira, M.J., Cowx, I.G. and Coelho, M.M. (Eds.) Fishing New Books, Blackwell Science, Oxford.

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© Filipe Ribeiro

Filipe Ribeiro


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