Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The bonytail, Gila elegans, is an exceedingly rare minnow originally native to the Colorado River system of the western United States and northern Mexico. The distribution and numbers of the bonytail have been greatly reduced, however, and few bonytail still exist in the wild. The near extinction of the bonytail can be traced to flow regulation, habitat loss/alteration, and competition with/predation by exotic fishes. Bonytail are now Federally listed as endangered, and efforts to re-establish the species are underway.

Bonytail are opportunistic feeders, eating insects, zooplankton, algae, and higher plant matter. Although bonytail spawning in the wild is now rare, the species does spawn in the spring and summer over gravel substrate. Many bonytail are now produced in fish hatcheries, with the offspring released into the wild when they are large enough to survive in the altered Colorado River system environment. Bonytail prefer eddies, pools, and backwaters near swift current in large rivers.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Sigler, W. F. and J. W. Sigler. 1996. Fishes of Utah[:] a natural history. University of Utah Press. Salt Lake City. 375 pp.