Photo courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
An experiment will determine how the least chub competes with mosquitofish for mosquito larvae.

FARMINGTON — In the mosquito-fighting world, a new champion may emerge in 2008, though it has one of the least champion-sounding names.

The least chub, measuring in at just under 2.5 inches, is preparing to take on the perennial favorite and long-standing top mosquito carnivore: the mosquitofish.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is teaming up with three mosquito abatement districts in Davis and Salt Lake counties to see whether the least chub — smallest of the seven chubs found in Utah — can be as effective as the mosquitofish at consuming mosquito larvae in ornamental ponds.

Currently, the mosquitofish is the only fish used as a biological control for mosquitos, which can transmit a host of diseases to humans, including West Nile virus.

The Davis County Board of Commissioners approved the experiment for Davis County during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Krissy Wilson, native aquatic program coordinator with DWR, said the least chub is found only in a few populations in various Utah lakes and fish hatcheries. Because the least chub is listed as a conservation species, the state is taking steps to make sure it doesn't become listed as an endangered or threatened species.

"The goal is to ensure long-term conservation and restore populations throughout its historic range," Wilson said.

The experiment will include 240 ponds — 80 in each mosquito abatement district — and will last through the 2008 mosquito season.

Gary Hatch, manager of the Davis Mosquito Abatement District, said his department is identifying which of the 1,500 ornamental ponds his office serves in Davis County will receive the least chub. In May, his employees will begin checking ponds. In June, they will be stocked with fish.

Monthly, researchers will monitor the chubs' progress, how they compete with mosquitofish for larvae and whether more chubs will be needed to do the same job as mosquitofish, which can be quite aggressive.

When living together, the mosquitofish can sometimes out-compete the least chub, which eventually disappears, Wilson said. But she hypothesized that the least chub will do just fine in ornamental ponds on its own.

Five to 10 least chubs will find a new home in each pond, Hatch said, adding that he is excited to work with DWR on this experiment.

If successful, the experiment could mean a benefit to homeowners, as well as the fish.

"Pond owners love their fish," he said.

And pond owners can have a species of fish unique to Utah in their ornamental ponds, says Walt Donaldson, chief of fisheries for DWR.