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First Record of Carpiodes velifer (Highfin Carpsucker) in the Apalachicola River, Florida
Shawn P. Young, Timothy B. Grabowski, Patrick C. Ely, and J. Jeffery Isely

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 9, Issue 1 (2010): 165–170

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2006 NORTHEASTERN NATURALIST 13(1):39–42 First Record of Carpiodes velifer (Highfin Carpsucker) in the Apalachicola River, Florida Shawn P. Young1, Timothy B. Grabowski2,3, Patrick C. Ely4,5, and J. Jeffery Isely6,* Abstract - We document the discovery of Highfin Carpsucker in the Apalachicola River, FL. Three specimens were captured between river kilometer 170–171 on the Apalachicola River in the vicinity of Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam during spring 2007. The specimens were captured within a reach 0.5–1.0 km downstream from the dam and just upstream from a major spawning area for several other catostomids. This is the first record of the species east of the Choctawhatchee River, FL–AL, and is a range extension of 185 km eastward into the Florida Panhandle region of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Coast. Carpiodes velifer (Rafinesque) (Highfin Carpsucker) is a species of the family Catostomidae and the smallest of the three Carpiodes spp. Highfin Carpsuckers are native to the northern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic slope drainages. In the Gulf of Mexico, the species occurs in drainages from the Pearl River, LA and MS, to the Choctawhatchee River, AL and FL (Lee et al. 1980, Marcy et al. 2005, Mettee et al. 1996), including the Mississippi River basin and lower Missouri River (Lee et al. 1980, Pfl ieger 1975). On the Atlantic Slope, the species is found from the Cape Fear River to Altamaha River drainages. Gulf of Mexico drainage and Atlantic slope populations likely differ at the species level (H.L. Bart, Jr., Tulane University Museum of Natural History, Belle Chasse, LA, pers. comm.; R.E. Jenkins, Roanoke College, Salem, VA, pers. comm.; Lee et al. 1980, Mettee et al. 1996). We report the discovery of Highfin Carpsucker and the low abundance of this catostomid in relation to other sucker species in the Apalachicola River, FL. The genus Carpiodes contains primitive, deep-bodied, silver-colored carpsuckers with a long dorsal fin (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). The Highfin Carpsucker is named for the elongate, anterior dorsal fin rays, which when depressed reach to, or nearly to, the dorsal fin base (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Trautman 1981). Boschung and Mayden (2004) indicate that the length of these rays are equal or greater than the base of the dorsal fin and may actually reach the caudal fin base when depressed in adults. The species may also be identified by several other morphometric and meristic characteristics, including 21–27 dorsal fin rays, 7–8 anal fin rays, 33–38 lateral line scales, and a blunt, rounded snout (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Mettee et al. 1996). Highfin Carpsuckers are commonly distinguished from C. cyprinus (Lesueur) (Quillback Carpsucker) by a jaw that reaches the front edge of the eye, and a nipple-shaped projection on the front edge of the lower lip (Boshung and Mayden 2004, Etnier and Starnes 1993). Further, Highfin Carpsuckers are distinguished from, C. carpio (Rafinesque) (River Carpsucker) by anterior dorsal fin rays at least longer than one-half the base of the dorsal fin and a deeper body, with a body depth to standard length ratio of less than 2.6 (Robison and Buchanan 1988). The largest populations of Highfin Carpsuckers tend to be found in moderately deep waters of relatively clear, medium to large rivers with firm Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 9/1, 2010 165 166 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 9, No. 1 substrates of gravel (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Pfl ieger 1997, Robison and Buchanan 1988). However, this species may also inhabit lowland overfl ow ponds, oxbows, and, less frequently, reservoirs (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Trautman 1981). Highfin Carpsucker is considered to be the member of Carpiodes least tolerant to increased turbidity, siltation, and impoundment (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Pfl ieger 1997, Robison and Buchanan 1988). This sensitivity is a presumed factor in the observed decline of the species throughout its range. Highfin Carpsucker was once the most abundant carpsucker species in Illinois and is now considered rare in the state (Smith 2002). Highfin Carpsucker is currently deemed a species of special concern in Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, and Missouri. Our discovery of the species in the Apalachicola River is the first record of a Gulf Slope population east of the Choctawhatchee River, and represents a range extension of 185 km eastward into the Florida Panhandle region of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Coast. Three adult Highfin Carpsuckers were captured using a boat-mounted electrofisher on 27 February, 5 March, and 1 April 2007. All individuals were captured over gravel in shallow water with swift current immediately below the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam (JWLD) tailrace and upriver of a major spawning area for several other catostomids (Fig. 1). Figure 1. Location of study site within the southeastern United States and within the Apalachicola River Basin. Schematic represents the study site and of Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam. Solid arrows indicate permanent stable fl ow, and dashed arrows indicate intermittent variable fl ow. Solid star denotes Highfin Carpsucker capture site. Textured circles indicate location of gravel bars where other catostomid species were captured. 2010 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 167 Water temperatures on capture dates ranged from 14–19.5 °C. The specimens were photographed, fin-clips were collected from each for genetic analysis, and one voucher specimen was preserved. Identification of voucher specimen was verified by Dr. Wayne Starnes, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC, and the preserved specimen was deposited at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC, catalog number NCSM45841 (Fig. 2a). Dr. Henry L. Bart, Jr., Tulane University Museum of Natural History, Belle Chasse, LA, further verified identification using genetic techniques. Figure 2. (a) Lateral view of C. velifer (Highfin Carpsucker) specimen captured below Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam, Apalachicola River. (b) Ventral view of jaw and snout for C. velifer and C. cyprinus (Quillback Carpsucker) specimens from the Apalachicola River. 168 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 9, No. 1 In the field, Highfin Carpsuckers were identified and distinguished from Quillback by comparing head, snout, and lip form, and the presence of a nipple-like projection on lower lip (Fig. 2b.). Total lengths and weights of the three specimens were 340 mm and 735 g, 353 mm and 808 g, and 350 mm and 550 g. We counted 35 lateral line scales, 18 caudal peduncle scales, 24 dorsal fin rays, 8 anal fin rays, and 16 pectoral fin rays for each. The catalogued specimen’s lateral line and caudal peduncle scale counts, and dorsal, anal, and pectoral fin ray counts conform to species descriptions. Also, the body depth to standard length ratio was less than 2.6, and a nipple-like projection was present on lower lip. However, the anterior dorsal fin rays were shorter than described by Boschung and Mayden (2004) for Highfin Carpsucker, but still longer than one-half length of dorsal fin base as described for River Carpsuckers (Robison and Buchanan 1988). The age of all three Highfin Carpsuckers was estimated at 5–7 years from scale annuli. The age estimate from otolith cross-sections from one specimen agreed with the estimate from scales. The lengths, weights, scale counts, fin ray counts, and ages are similar to previous reports from Mississippi River Basin populations (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Trautman 1981) and other Gulf Slope populations (Mettee et al. 1996). Two individuals were tuberculate; however, tubercles were not characterized. Huntsman (1967) stated that nuptial tubercles differ between C. velifer and C. carpio, and thus, that information may have been useful for further verification. Carpiodes spp. may be abundant in tailwaters of locks and dams in Alabama rivers (Mettee et al. 1996), but our data suggest that Highfin Carpsucker is rare below JWLD. We captured 336 individuals of three other species (Moxostoma sp. cf. poecilurum [Grayfin Redhorse], Minytrema melanops (Rafinesque) [Spotted Sucker], and Quillback Carpsucker) and observed many other individuals of these three species during sampling for non-catostomids during the same time period. Mettee et al. (1996) considered Highfin Carpsucker a schooling fish; however, we captured only solitary specimens. We captured specimens just below JWLD in an area frequented by other migratory fishes (Ely et al. 2008). Highfin Carpsuckers may also have been in spawning migration when we captured them. The sampling area was consistent with the habitat preferences reported for Highfin Carpsucker (cited above). However, Mettee et al. (1996) reported tuberculate Highfin Carpsuckers from an Alabama population during April–June; thus, our sampling period may not have overlapped with the peak spawning period. We hypothesize that the presence of Highfin Carpsuckers in the Apalachicola River does not represent recent colonization. Our discovery of Highfin Carpsucker in the Apalachicola River at this time is likely an artifact of a small, and likely declining, population that remained undetected due to a lack of survey effort historically for non-game species like catostomids (Cooke et al. 2005). Declining abundance of Highfin Carpsuckers has been reported and linked to habitat degradation and fragmentation caused by siltation, pollution, and impoundment (Etnier and Starnes 1993, Marcy et al. 2005, Pfl ieger 1975, Rohde et al. 1994), all major issues for the Apalachicola River basin. Human-induced variability of fl ow-regimes has been identified 2010 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 169 as a major factor contributing to the wide-spread decline of freshwater fish populations (Cooke et al. 2005; Master 1990; Warren et al. 1997, 2000). The Apalachicola River is a highly-regulated system, and fl ow alterations in regulated- rivers affect Highfin Carpsucker recruitment (Peterson and Jennings 2007) and catostomid spawning success (Grabowski and Isely 2007a, b). The apparent decline of the Highfin Carpsucker is paralleled by other catostomids and the North American freshwater ichthyofauna as a whole (Henne et al. 2007, Pfl ieger 1975, Rohde et al. 1994, Thieme et al. 2001). Further studies targeting Highfin Carpsucker in the Apalachicola River are needed to determine the current population status and to investigate habitat alterations that may be responsible for their apparent low abundance. Acknowledgments. Cooperators of the US Geological Survey South Carolina and Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Clemson University, The University of Georgia, and the Wildlife Management Institute. We thank Matt Noad, Nathan Barton, Nick Grzych, and John Anderson for assistance with data collection. We greatly appreciate assistance with identification and consultation on historical presence provided by Dr. Wayne Starnes of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC; Dr. Henry L. Bart, Jr. of the Tulane University Museum of Natural History, Belle Chasse, LA; and Dr. Robert E. Jenkins of Roanoke College, Salem, VA. Literature Cited Boschung, Jr., H.T., and R.L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Press, Washington DC 736 pp. Cooke, S.J., C.M. Bunt, S.J. Hamilton, C.A. Jennings, M.P. Pearson, M.S. Cooperman, and D.F. 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Polyculture of endangered Bonytails and Razorback Suckers in recirculated water. North American Journal of Aquaculture 69:388–394. Huntsman, G.R. 1967. Nuptial tubercles in carpsuckers (Carpiodes). Copeia 1967:457–458. Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. 1080 pp. Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllsiter, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC. 854 pp. Marcy, Jr., B.C., D.E. Fletcher, F.D. Martin, M.H. Paller, and M.J.M. Reichert. 2005. Fishes of the Middle Savannah River Basin. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 462 pp. 170 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 9, No. 1 Master, L. 1990. The imperiled status of North American aquatic animals. Biodiversity Network News 3:1–2, 7–8. Mettee, M.F., P.E. O’Neil, and J.M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. 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Effects of pool formation and fl ash fl ooding on relative abundance of young-of-year Flannelmouth Suckers in the Paria River, Arizona. Regulated Rivers - Research and Management 17:145–156. Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio, Revised Edition. The Ohio State Press, Columbus, OH. 782 pp. Warren, Jr., M.L., P.L. Angermeier, B.M. Burr, and W.R. Haag. 1997. Decline of a Diverse Fish Fauna: Patterns of Imperilment and Protection in the Southeastern United States. Pp. 105–164, In G.W. Benz, and D.E. Collins (Eds.). Aquatic Fauna in Peril: The Southeastern Prospective. Southeast Aquatic Research Institute, Lenz Design and Communications, Decatur, GA. 554 pp. Warren, Jr., M.L., B.M. Burr, S.J. Walsh, H.L.J. Bart, Jr., R.C. Cashner, D.A. Etnier, B.J. Freeman, B.R. Kuhajda, R.L. Mayden, H.W. Robison, S.T. Ross, and W.C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, distribution, and conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25:7–31. 1Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634- 0317. 2Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2152. 3Current address - Institute of Biology, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, Is-101 Reykjavik, Iceland. 4Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0372. 5Current address - Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2152. 6US Geological Survey, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0372. *Corresponding author - jisely@clemson.edu.