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First Record of Agonostomus monticola (Family: Mugilidae) in
Mississippi Freshwaters with Notes of its Distribution in the
Southern United States
Wilfredo A. Matamoros1,2,*, Jacob Schaefer1, Paul Mickle1, William Arthurs3,
R. Joan Ikoma3, and Renee Ragsdale3
Abstract - An individual of Agonostomus monticola (Mountain Mullet) was collected in southern
Mississippi while conducting a series of community surveys on 7 November 2007. This is the first
documented report of Mountain Mullet in Mississippi freshwaters, even though there are reports
of three specimens collected in Mississippi estuarine waters in 1937. Given its life history and
difficulties in sampling, it is likely that Mountain Mullet has a broader distribution and more frequently
occurs in Gulf Coast drainages in the southern US than was previously thought.
Agonostomus monticola Bancroft (Mountain Mullet), is a diadromous species
found in marine, brackish, and freshwaters from the Atlantic slope of tropical and
subtropical North America (Rohde 1976, 1980) to northern South America (Greenfield
and Thomerson 1997, Miller et al. 2005). Its Atlantic range includes the West Indies
and the Caribbean coast of Mexico to Venezuela (Greenfield and Thomerson 1997,
Miller et al. 2005). Along the Pacific slope, it is found from southern California to
Ecuador (Thomson 1997). In the US, Mountain Mullet has been recorded in Atlantic
(North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida), Pacific (California), and
Gulf of Mexico (Florida, Louisiana, and Texas) drainages (Hoehn 1998, Light et al.
1998, Marcy et al. 2005, Menhinick 1991, Pezold and Edwards 1983, Schlicht 1959,
Suttkus 1956, Thomson 1997; Fig. 1, Table 1). Although there are reports of Mountain
Mullet from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, it has not been previously reported in
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 8/1, 2009
Figure 1. Map of southeastern United States showing museum and literature collection localities
of A. monticola. Multiple records in close geographic proximity may be represented by a
single symbol. The recent collection in Mississippi freshwater is designated by a star.
176 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 8, No. 1
either Mississippi or Alabama inland waters. We report the first record of Mountain
Mullet in Mississippi freshwaters and review its range in freshwater habitats within
Mountain Mullet is commonly found in tropical freshwater systems and it seems
to prefer high-gradient streams with fast-moving waters (Carr and Goin 1955, Cruz
1987), even though it has also been found in lentic waters (Loftus et al. 1984). It is
considered a generalist that feeds mainly on filamentous algae and aquatic insects,
but it also consumes detritus, snails, plant material, mollusks, and small fishes (Aiken
1998, Cruz 1987, Loftus et al. 1984, Phillip 1993, Torres-Navarro and Lyons 1999).
In the tropics, the spawning season of Mountain Mullet appears to coincide with the
local rainy season (Aiken 1998, Cruz 1987). However, juvenile Mountain Mullet
have been found year round in the coastal lagoons of Costa Rica’s Pacific slope (Chicas
2001). Furthermore, in Honduras, juveniles smaller than 30 mm SL have been
collected throughout the year in freshwater streams, suggesting that spawning may
occur year round in some portions of the range (W.A. Matamoros, unpubl. data).
Table 1. Existing collection records for Mountain Mullet in the US listed by state and county.
Collections queried and abbreviations as follows: Harvard University Museum of Comparative
Zoology (HMCZ), Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS), Museum Natioanale
D’ histoire Naturalle (MNHN), North Carolina State Museum of Natural Science (NCSMNS),
Texas A&M University (TAMU), Texas Natural History Collection (TNHC), Tulane University
Museum of Natural History (TU), University of Florida, Florida State Museum (UF), University
of Louisiana Monroe (ULM), and The University of Southern Mississippi Museum of Ichthyology
(USM). Citations indicate Mountain Mullet records found in the scientific literature but not
museum records. Additional collections reviewed that contained no records include: California
Academy of Science (CAS), Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), Natural History Museum
of Los Angeles County (LACM), and The University of Kansas (KU).
State County or parish Museum number/source
California Pacific Ocean - open water MNHN-1894-0044, MNHN-1894-0045,
Florida Brevard, Dade, Gadsden, HMCZ-36297, UF-87919, UF-105964,
Hamilton, Indian River, UF-207953, UF-205749, UF-209035,
Keys, Levy, Liberty, UF-34916, UF-33933, UF-40906,
Madison, Martin, Okaloosa, UF-234402, UF-166098, UF-115476,
Palm Beach, Pinellas, St. Lucie, UF-55971, UF-57835, TU-24279,
St. Johns, Volusia TU-22385, TU-39592, TU-22481,
UF-47345, UF-21078, UF-44918,
NCSMNS-31849, UF-16656, UF-79993,
Georgia Burke, Columbia, Jefferson, UF-107063, Marcy et al. 2005
McDuffie, Richmond, Screven
Louisiana Cameron, Plaquemines TU-1160, TU-146916, TU-147051,
TU-156292, ULM-33490, ULM-33610
Mississippi Harrison, Perry MMNS-5876, MMNS-5877, MMNS-5878,
North Carolina Brunswick NCSM-10444
South Carolina Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell Marcy et al. 2005
Texas Aransas, Bell, Brazos, TNHC-28665, TNHC-10490, TNHC-1054,
Cameron, Galveston, Hidalgo, TU-22052, TNHC-11716, TNHC-24842,
Jefferson, Liberty, Madison TNHC-24934, TAMU-847, TAMU-1429
2009 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 177
Researchers have differing opinions on the migratory habits of this species. Some
authors believe Mountain Mullet is amphidromous (Erdman 1972), with spawning
occurring in freshwater, eggs drifting to sea where they hatch, and larvae growing at
sea before returning to freshwater as juveniles (McDowall 2007). Others (Anderson
1957, Cruz 1987, Phillip 1993) believe the species to be catadromous, with adults
returning to sea to spawn. Further, some researchers discuss the possibility of mixed
strategies (Marcy et al. 2005).
Mountain Mullet is an important part of the local fisheries in southern Mexico
(Torres-Navarro and Lyons 1999) and Honduras (Cruz 1987). Conservation and fisheries
management efforts in these areas have focused on factors infl uencing habitat
quality and availability, pollutants, and anthropogenic obstacles to migration (Anderson
et al. 2006, Cruz 1987, March et al. 2003).
On 7 November 2007, a single juvenile Mountain Mullet (31 mm standard length)
was captured as a part of an electrofishing survey of the Leaf River (31.223°N,
89.076°W) in Perry County, MS. The specimen has been deposited in the University
of Southern Mississippi Museum of Ichthyology (USM-31633). The specimen was
identified based on the keys by Greenfield and Thomerson (1997) and Miller et al.
(2005). Identification was further confirmed by T. Slack, Mississippi Museum of
Natural Science (MMNS).
To determine the distribution of Mountain Mullet in southern US waters, we
compiled locality data from museums and the literature. Of the fourteen museums
queried, ten had records for Mountain Mullet (Table 1). Six of these had three or
fewer records (HMCZ, MMNS, NCSMNS, TAMU, ULM, USM) and one (MNHN)
did not contain any freshwater samples.
Occasional misidentification and difficulties in sampling may have led to a lack of
representation of this species in the literature. Collection records at MMNS (Jackson,
MS) indicate a single collection of Mountain Mullet (n = 3) in Mississippi coastal
waters from 1937 (MMNS-5876–5878). These specimens were originally misidentified and catalogued as Menidia sp. (T. Slack, pers. comm.). A number of authors
have commented on the difficulty in sampling this species (Lyons and Navarro-Perez
1990, Pezold and Edwards 1983), with Carr and Giovannoli (1950) speculating that
the fish was only susceptible to capture with dynamite. However, in surveys of freshwater
streams along the Honduran Caribbean coast, electrofishing has proven to be
effective while other fishing gear has failed (61 sites sampled yielded 195 Mountain
Mullet captured at 25 sites; W.A. Matamoros, pers. observ.). Sporadic occurrences
in the literature, difficulties in capture, and a lack of basic life-history information
have resulted in a poor understanding of this species. It is possible that the Mountain
Mullet is more abundant and more widely distributed than previously thought.
Acknowledgments. We thank R.H. Robins of the Florida Museum of Natural History
(UF). N.E. Rios of Tulane University Museum of Natural History (TU), W.C.
Starnes of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM), and J.
Carr of the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) for their assistance with database
queries of collections. Two anonymous reviewers assisted with an earlier draft.
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1The University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Biological Sciences, 118 College Drive
Box 5018, Hattiesburg, MS 39406. 2Instituto Regional para la Biodiversidad (IRBIO), Escuela
Agrícola Panamericana El Zamorano, El Zamorano, Francisco Morazán, Honduras. 3NCASI,
Northwest Aquatic Biology Facility, 1219 Q Avenue, Anacortes, WA 98221. *Corresponding
author - email@example.com.