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NFC: Leoperd Darter
Threatened fishes of the world:Percina pantherina (Moore & Reeves, 1955)
by Paul W. James
Department o f Biological Sciences, Central Washington University,
Ellensburg, WA 98926, U SA
Environmental Biology of Fishes 45:342, 1996
Common name: Leopard darter (E).
Conservation status:Threatened (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
International Red List).
Identification: A slender-bodied. olive-brown darter with a row of 10-14
lateral black spots, numerous irregular dark blotches on dorsum, black
preorbital and suborbital bars. LL 81-96 D XIV-XV + 10-14. A II + 10, P
13-14. Maximum size 80 mm SL. Drawing by Will Randall
Distribution:Confined to four streams in the Little River system which
drain southern portion of the Quachita Mountains in Oklahoma and
Arkansas. U.S.A. (34 10-34 30'N. 94 0- 95 15 W)
Abundance:Leopard darters occur in relatively low densities throughout
their distribution. Glover River currently supports the largest
population (Eley et al 1975. Robison 1978) with total estimates ranging
from about 3000 (Jones et al 1983) to 10000 individuals (personal
Habitat and ecology: Leopard darters inhabit shallow. rocky pools having
little detectable current. They have highly specific habitat preferences
and are almost always found at water depths of 25-125 cm over cobble and
boulder substrates They are short-lived, fast growing, benthic dwellers
that feed mainly on benthic invertebrates. They arc usually observed
swimming in close contact with the substrate, but are rarely seen resting
on the bottom Their major predators are large centrarchids.
Reproduction: Spawning occurs on patches of fine gravel in riffles during
March-April. Females select spawning sites and usually mate with one
male. although occasionally 1-2 sneaker males will mate simultaneously
with a spawning pair (James & Maughan 1989). Egg clutches averaging 58
eggs are buried in the substrate and abandoned. Riffles with suitable
spawning conditions appear to be limiting.
Threats:Loss of habitat due to inundation from reservoir construction and
operation is the most immediate threat to the species. A major reservoir
has been authorized for construction on Glover River. which supports the
largest population of leopard darters. Siltation, eutrophication and an
overall degradation of water quality is occurring due to intensive
silviculture and poultry faming within the Little River drainage.
Conservation actions: Critical habitat designated in three of the four
streams supporting populations provides protection under the U S
Endangered Species Act. A current leopard darter recovery plan has been
Conservation recommendation: Water quality standards already in place
should be strictly enforced, immediate threats of habitat loss due to
proposed reserviors should be avoided by banning any further water
Remarks: The leopard darter has many life-history characteristics that
are unique among darters (James et al 1991). It is endemic to the
Quachita Mountain region In North America which supports several unique,
endemic plants and animals.
Eley, R L . J.C. Randolph & R.J Miller. 1975 Current status of the
leopard darter Percina pantherina. Southwestern Naturalist 20:343 354
James,. P.W.. & O.E. Maughan. 1989. Spawning behavior and habitat of the
threatened leopard darter. Percina patherlna. Southwestern Naturalist
James, P.W., O.E. Maughan & A V Zale. 1991. Life history of the leopard
darter. Percina pantherina, in G/over River Oklahoma. American Midland
Jones,. R.N., O.E Maughan, H.W. Robison & R.J. Miller. 1983. Status of
the leopard darter in Oklahoma and Arkansas. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Report No 12. Albuquerque 68 pp.
Robison,. H.W 1978 Status of the leopard darter. U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service Endangered Species Report No. 3. Albuquerque 28 pp.
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