Darter

Holiday Darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum)

The Holiday Darter is found in a single creek system in the upper Coosa River System in east-central Alabama. This species is part of a species complex containing unrecognized diversity. The common name of the Holiday Darter refers to the bright red and green colors found in breeding males. Like many members of the Snubnose Darter group, they have a blunt snout.

Sharphead Darter (Etheostoma acuticeps)

The Sharphead Darter is restricted to the Nolichucky and Holston river systems in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. As the common name implies, this darter has an extremely pointed snout, like most other members of the subgenus Nothonotus. This species was considered extinct when it was described in 1959 because of the impoundment of South Holston Reservoir. It was later discovered in the Nolichucky River and rediscovered in the upper Holston River during surveys in 1967-1972.

Mud Darter (Etheostoma asprigene)

The Mud Darter is a widespread species found in lowland Gulf drainages in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi north through the Mississippi Embayment to Wisconsin and Minnesota. They inhabit slow-flowing riffles over rocks and debris. Mud Darters have five to six dark vertical bars on the back of their body.

Southern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta meridiana)

The Southern Sand Darter is restricted to Coastal Plain rivers and larger streams in the Mobile Basin in Mississippi and Alabama. All Sand darters are translucent, so they blend in with the sand substrate they live upon. The Southern Sand Darter lives in the same habitat as the Naked Sand Darter (A. beanii), but they are fairly easy to tell apart. Southern Sand Darters have a body that is completely covered in scales, whereas the Naked Sand Darter lacks body scales except along the lateral line and on the caudal peduncle (region just before the caudal fin).

Watercress Darter (Etheostoma nuchale)

The Watercress Darter is only native to five springs and associated spring runs, all in the Black Warrior River System in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama. These darters typically live and spawn in aquatic vegetation. Because they live in a relatively constant temperature year-round, Watercress Darters spawn in all months, but peak spawning is in the spring like most other darters. A distinguishing character for the Watercress Darter (and other species in the Gulf Darter species group) is a depigmented stripe on their back in front of the dorsal fin.

Bluespar Darter (Etheostoma meadiae)

The Bluespar Darter is found in the Powell and Clinch river systems in northeast Tennessee and southeast Virginia. They are found in slow-moving sections, usually pools and stream banks with sandy or rocky substrate, of small to medium fast-moving rivers. As the common name suggests, male Bluespar Darters have bright blue vertical bars along their side in breeding season.

Tuckasegee Darter (Etheostoma gutselli)

The Tuckasegee Darter is found in the Pigeon and Little Tennessee river systems in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. They are found in riffles of creeks to medium rivers. Tuckasegee Darters have a coloration of W’s and X’s on their lower sides which turn green in breeding males. They also have large pectoral fins and can reach a maximum size of five inches.

Golden Darter (Etheostoma denoncourti)

The Golden Darter is found in the Tennessee River Drainage from the Duck River System in west-central Tennessee upstream to the Clinch River System in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. Populations within the Tennessee River Drainage are heavily fragmented due to reservoir construction. They are found in runs and riffles of large streams and rivers. As the common name implies, Golden Darters have a golden edge to their first dorsal fin and an orange coloration with dark bars on the back of their body.

Bluemask Darter (Etheostoma akatulo)

This federally endangered species is restricted to streams in the Caney Fork River System in north-central Tennessee. Bluemask Darters are threatened from reservoir construction, invasive species (Redbreast Sunfish, Lepomis auritus), an unusual habitat where rivers seasonally dry, and a small native range. The common name reflects the bright blue cheek and throat coloration (mask) that male Bluemask Darters develop during the breeding season.

Vermilion Darter (Etheostoma chermocki)

The Vermilion Darter is a federally endangered species that is restricted to seven miles of a single stream in the Black Warrior River System. This species has a wide range of spawning habitats, including gravel substrate and vegetation over silt. This may be the only endangered species in the Southeast that is also a city mascot.