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Observations of Notropis photogenis (Silver Shiner) and Etheostoma zonale (Banded Darter) in the Flint River, Alabama
Bruce Stallsmith and Brian Thompson

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 11, Issue 4 (2012): 779–782

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Observations of Notropis photogenis (Silver Shiner) and Etheostoma zonale (Banded Darter) in the Flint River, Alabama Bruce Stallsmith1,* and Brian Thompson1 Abstract - Notropis photogenis (Silver Shiner) and Etheostoma zonale (Banded Darter) were collected from the Flint River in Madison County, AL, a northern tributary to the Tennessee River. Both species have been found in other northern tributaries to the Tennessee River in Alabama, but have not been widely reported from the Flint River. The Flint River is currently considered to be impaired water due to elevated turbidity, and has also been impaired in recent years from organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen and pathogens in the form of fecal coliform. The south bend of the Tennessee River in north Alabama defines a drainage containing a large part of Alabama’s diverse fish fauna, with 163 recognized species to date (Boschung and Mayden 2004). Many species found in this drainage are at the southern edge of ranges that often extend well to the north in the Mississippi, Ohio or Great Lakes drainages. Two such species are the cyprinid Notropis photogenis Cope (Silver Shiner) and the percid Etheostoma zonale Cope (Banded Darter). Both species are known from some of the northern tributaries to the Tennessee River in Alabama. The Banded Darter has not been observed in the Flint River, one of the larger tributaries in the southern bend of the Tennessee (Boschung and Mayden 2004, Lee et al. 1980, Mettee et al. 1996). The Silver Shiner has not been reported as present in the Flint River in those three references, but has been observed in the river in an erratic fashion since 1971 in less widely circulated literature (Mettee et al. 2002, Shepard et al. 2009, TVA 1971). We have recently found both species in the Flint River independently. The status of the Silver Shiner, especially, may be sensitive to human influences on the river . Much of the Flint River has been listed as impaired water since 2000 due to organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen levels, pathogens (fecal coliform), or turbidity (ADEM 2000, US EPA 2012, Hoos et al. 2002, TDEC 2000). A 15.32-mile segment of the river, from Highway 72 north to Mountain Fork, was first placed on the State of Alabama’s §303(d) use-impairment list for pathogens in 2000. The source of the pathogens was listed as pasture grazing. This segment of the Flint River is still listed as impaired for turbidity, but is no longer listed for organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen levels or pathogens. The Silver Shiner has been known from Shoal Creek in Lauderdale County and the Elk River system in Limestone County, AL, from sites very close to the Tennessee state line to the north (Boschung and Mayden 2004). The species is typically found in moderate- to high-gradient, clear, weedless streams over sand and gravel. Mettee et al. (1996) describe the species as “a rare occupant of Alabama waters.” Biologists with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) found Silver Shiners in the Flint River in 1969 (TVA 1971), but repeated efforts by the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) to find the species were unsuccessful (Mettee et al. 2002). Multiple collections of Silver Shiners have been made since 1996 at Shoal Creek and in the Elk River and its tributary Sugar Creek (Mettee et al. 2002, Shepard et al. 2009). A survey team from the GSA also found Silver Shiners at 3 locations in the Flint River since 2002 (Pat O’Neil, Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, unpubl. data). 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899. *Corresponding author – stallsb@uah.edu. Notes of the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 11/4, 2012 779 780 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 11, No. 4 The conservation status of the Silver Shiner in Alabama is rated by NatureServe (2011) as S1 (critically imperiled), while the global status is G5 (secure) in its range as far north as Ontario. Boschung and Mayden (2004) recommend special concern status in Alabama. The state of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ranks the Silver Shiner as a P3 species, of moderate conservation con cern. We first found Silver Shiners by chance in the Flint River in June 2011. The site is in Madison County, 1.3 km WSW of Bell Factory, downstream from the Winchester Road bridge (34°49'17''N, 86°28'58"W). The river here is about 35 m wide, with a 200-m-long shallow riffle over a substrate of broken sandstone bedrock ending in a slightly deeper run over mixed bedrock and sand. Using a seine with the measurements 4 m long by 1.2 m deep, 5 Silver Shiners were collected at this site in June 2011, 8 were collected in July 2011, 25 were collected in August 2011, and 11 were collected in September 2011. The standard length of specimens ranged between 50 mm and 110 mm. Two individuals from the June 2011 collection were examined by Dave Neely and confirmed as Silver Shiners (D. Neely, Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN, pers. comm.). Specimens from the July collection are now catalogued in the University of Alabama Ichthyology Collection, UAIC 16023.01. The Banded Darter has a wide range within the Mississippi basin, with 3 disjunct populations in the Ouachita Highlands, the upper Mississippi valley, and the upper Great Lakes, including northern Illinois and Indiana, and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. The species has been reported from a wider range of Alabama streams than the Silver Shiner. In Alabama, Mettee et al. (1996) collected Banded Darters in northern tributaries to the Tennessee River in Shoal and Cypress Creeks, the Paint Rock and Elk river systems, and a single collection from a southern tributary, Bear Creek. Boschung and Mayden (2004) report the same range as Mettee et al. (1996). The species’ conservation status in Alabama is reported as S2 (imperiled) by NatureServe (2011) with a global status of G5. The Banded Darter has no state-protected status in Alabama. We first found and identified Banded Darters by chance in September 2010 in the Flint River at the same site and with the same method as described above for Silver Shiners. The species is very common in the riffles, especially the highest-gradient riffles, with extensive moss beds covering the boulders. Other species found in these riffles include the percids Etheostoma rufilineatum Cope (Redline Darter), E. blennioides Rafinesque (Greenside Darter), and E. caeruleum Storer (Rainbow Darter) and the cyprinid Erimystax insignis Hubbs and Crowe (Blotched Chub). Specimens collected in November 2010 are catalogued at the University of Alabama Ichthyology Collection, UAIC 15752.01. In the Flint River, both of these species are most commonly found in fast-flowing water in areas of moderate to high gradient over a substrate of boulder, cobble, and gravel. At the far northern limit of its range in Ontario, the Silver Shiner is described as rheophilic, found in relatively high-gradient streams (McKee and Parker 1982). The Banded Darter also prefers rocky riffles and fast but not necessarily torrential flow over cobble and gravel (Boschung and Mayden 2004). Both species have also been found 6 km downstream from the original collection site. Not too far downstream from this point the Flint River is probably unsuitable habitat for both species, as current slows down and depth increases before the river empties into the impounded Tennessee River. Both species are at the far southern edge of their range, and presumably at the upper limit of their thermal tolerance. The Banded Darter is one of the two most abundant darter species in this 6-km stretch of the Flint River, being the most common darter in the riffles, while Etheostoma duryi Henshall (Black Darter) is the most common darter in slower water near shore (B. Stallsmith and B. Thompson, unpubl. data). Silver 2012 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 781 Shiners can be observed in loose schools of 10–20 individuals in the middle of the river, and are hard to catch in deeper, faster-flowing water, while other local cyprinids such as Luxilus chrysocephalus Rafinesque (Striped Shiner) and Blotched Chub are more common in slower side channels or in shallow water near shore. The water quality in the Flint River has been recognized as impaired in various ways since 2000, largely from nonpoint-source agricultural inputs such as bovine fecal matter. Water quality is also threatened by the effects of the suburban expansion of nearby Huntsville, AL. The river basin is being rapidly developed, and what was historically farmland is becoming suburban development with different nonpoint-source pollutants: soil runoff, lawn nutrient loading, and trash deposition. The Silver Shiner in particular is very sensitive to this kind of stress, even more than the Banded Darter, needing cool, clean water. In late summer, benthic macroalgae blooms form in the stretch of Flint River where Silver Shiners have been found, often a sign of nutrient loading. Remediation efforts by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation have recently improved river water quality in terms of pathogens and organic enrichment, but turbidity still exceeds federal standards (US EPA 2012). Episodes of elevated pollution may have interfered with Silver Shiner reproduction and survival in recent decades, making the species more difficult to find. Even with this expansion of the known range of the Silver Shiner in Alabama, the current state status for this species of P3 (moderate conservation concern) is warra nted. Acknowledgments. We would like to thank the BYS 315 Ichthyology class at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for help collecting Silver Shiners, Dave Neely for confirming their identity, and Pat O’Neil for making available GSA data. Jeremy Conant, Robert Hanson, and Alex Hazelwood helped with the collection of both Banded Darters and Silver Shiners. The comments of two reviewers improved this manuscript. Literature Cited Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). 2000. Alabama’s 2000 water quality report to Congress (Clean Water Act 305(b) Report). Montgomery, AL. Boschung, H.T., Jr., and R.L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Press, Washington, DC. 736 pp. Hoos, A.B., J.W. Garrett, and R.R. Knight. 2002. Water quality of the Flint River Basin, Alabama and Tennessee, 1999–2000. US Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 01- 4185, Nashville, TN. 37 pp. McKee, P.M., and B.J. Parker. 1982. The distribution, biology, and status of the fishes Campostoma anmalum, Clinostomus elongates (Cyprinidae) and Fundulus notatus (Cyprinodontidae) in Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology 60:1347–1358. Lee, D.S., C.R. Carter, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC. 854 pp. Mettee, M.F., P.E. O’Neil, and J.M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Birmingham, AL. 820 pp. Mettee, M.F., P.E. O’Neil, T.E. Shepard, S.W. McGregor, and W.P. Henderson. 2002. A survey of protected fish species and species of uncommon occurrence in the Tennessee River drainage of north Alabama and northeast Mississippi. Alabama Geological Survey Bulletin 171, Tuscaloosa, AL. 173 pp. NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Version 7.1. Nature- Serve, Arlington, Virginia. Available online at http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. Accessed 2 October 2011. 782 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 11, No. 4 Shepard, T.E., P.E. O’Neil, S.W. McGregor, and M.F. Mettee. 2009. Survey of the Elk River system in Alabama for fish species of moderate to highest conservation concern, 2004–06. Alabama Geological Survey Bulletin 180, Tuscaloosa, AL. 124 pp. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). 2000. The 1998 303(d) list. Division of Water Pollution Control. Available online at http://www.state.tn.us/environment/ water.htm. Accessed 8 June 2012. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). 1971. Valley streams: Their fish, bottom fauna, and aquatic habitat: Flint River drainage basin, 1969. Unpublished report, Division of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Development, Norris, TN. US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2012. Watershed assessment: Track and environmental results. Waterbody History Report for AL06030002-0401-102. Available online at http://iaspub.epa.gov/tmdl_waters10/attains_wb_history.control?p_listed_water_ id=AL06030002-0401-102&p_cycle=2006. Accessed 8 June 2012.