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Historical Distribution of Bluehead Shiner (Pteronotropis hubbsi)
Chad W. Hargrave and Kaitlen P. Gary

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 16, Special Issue 9 (2016): 110–116

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Southeastern Naturalist C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 110 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 Historical Distribution of Bluehead Shiner (Pteronotropis hubbsi) Chad W. Hargrave1,* and Kaitlen P. Gary1 Abstract - We documented the historical distribution of Pteronotropis hubbsi (Bluehead Shiner) based on a survey of museum records. To compile historical records, we searched 6 online databases and contacted 28 individuals associated with natural history museums, state agencies, and public and private universities. Eleven individuals had records of Bluehead Shiner in their collections. Geographically, the records were from 5 states, which included a disjunct population in Illinois. In the core of the distribution (i.e., 4 states), all collections were in the Red River and 4 major tributary rivers to the Red River. The number of different localities within each of these waterways ranged from 1–17. These records spanned 57 y (1949–2006), with the majority (95%) of records from the 1970s to the 1990s. The number of specimens cataloged per locality ranged from 1 to 144 individuals. All major-tributary drainages had at least 1 collection with more than 25 individuals archived. We argue that this geographic analysis of the historical distribution of Bluehead Shiner illustrates a great need to launch a modern field effort to document the current status of Bluehead Shiner throughout the Red River drainage in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Introduction Pteronotropis hubbsi (Bailey and Robison) (= Notropis hubbsi) (Bluehead Shiner) is a lowland species that inhabits quiet, backwater habitats of sluggish, tannin-stained streams/bayous and oxbow lakes of the Gulf Coastal Slope (Bailey and Robison 1978). Bluehead Shiners are often associated with submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation over mud or mud/sand substrates (Bailey and Robison 1978). The species forages on a diversity of vegetative and invertebrate food items found throughout the water column and benthos (Burr and Heidinger 1987, Fletcher and Burr 1992). Localities supporting Bluehead Shiners typically have intact riparian zones and are in watersheds with little anthropogenic disturbance (Burr and Warren 1986). Thus, there is concern that the persistence of the Bluehead Shiner throughout its native range in the Gulf Coastal Slope may be impacted by humanrelated activities that threaten lowland habitats (Burr and Warren 1986, Fletcher and Burr 1992, Pfleiger 1997, Phillippi et al. 1986, Robison and Buchanan 1988). Based on distributional records listed in published references (e.g., The Fishes of Arkansas), Bluehead Shiner occurs in the Red, Ouachita, White, and Atchafalaya river systems of southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma, and northeast Texas (Douglas 1974, Miller and Robison 2004, Robison and Buchanan 1988, Smith 2002, Thomas et al. 2007). A disjunct population also occurs 1Department of Biological Sciences and Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77340. *Corresponding author - Manuscript Editor: Jerry Cook Proceedings of the 6th Big Thicket Science Conference: Watersheds and Waterflow 2016 Southeastern Naturalist 15(Special Issue 9):110–116 Southeastern Naturalist 111 C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 in southwestern Illinois in Wolf Lake, likely as a result of an unintentional introduction (Burr and Warren 1986). To our knowledge, there is no publication that compiles existing Bluehead Shiner records aimed at documenting the known historical distribution of this species throughout its range. We believe a distributional field survey based on historical records is needed as a general resource for researchers. For example, Bluehead Shiner has been petitioned for federal listing under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is currently under review for a 12-month finding (Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission 2001, Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board 1999, Jelks et al. 2008, Lemmons et al. 1997, Miller 1984, Texas Parks and Wildlife 2001). Therefore, our analysis is the first step in understanding the current status of this species throughout its range by providing researchers the opportunity to (1) identify distributional gaps in historical records to provide areas for targeted sampling efforts, (2) identify historical localities that can be targeted for resampling efforts, and (3) conduct geospatial analyses on historical and current distribution records to evaluate potential population trends over time. Herein, we report on the spatial, temporal, and density patterns for the historical distribution of Bluehead Shiner in the US. Methods We searched for Blue Shiner records on 6 internet databases: Fishnet2 (http://, FishBase (, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (, Fishes of Texas (http://www.fishesoftexas. org/home/), University of Michigan Ichthyology Collection (http://www.lsa.umich. edu/ummz/fishes/), and University of Alabama Ichthyology Collection (http://uaic. We contacted 29 individuals via email or telephone, including curators from natural history museums, ichthyologists, and naturalists at public and private institutions of higher education, as well as biologists from state agencies that potentially held unpublished collection records of Bluehead Shiner. We asked these individuals to search their museums and databases for Bluehead Shiner records. We used GeoLocate Version 3.22 (Rios and Bart 2010) to georeference any collection records that lacked geographical data. We used the locality string (name of water body, county, and state information) and visual inspection of satellite imagery to best identify the coordinates of the collection locality. Of the 170 records collected from our museum search, we georeferenced 34 collection localities using the method described above. Following georeferencing, we examined all data for duplicate collection localities and deleted any we identified. We analyzed patterns in Bluehead Shiner distribution using GIS. Results and Discussion Of the 29 individuals associated with natural history museums, state agencies, and public and private universities, 28 responded to our requests and, of those responses, 11 had Bluehead Shiner records in their collections (Table 1). Our search resulted in a total of 100 independent records for Bluehead Shiner, representing 57 Southeastern Naturalist C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 112 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 different localities (46 stream/bayous and 11 lake/oxbows), from 15 counties and 5 states (Fig. 1). All records from Illinois are from a single locality: Wolfe Lake, Union County. This disjunct population in Illinois was introduced and may no longer persist (Ranvestel and Burr 2004, Scharpf 2005). Thus, the native range of Bluehead Shiner (i.e., the distribution excluding the population in Illinois) includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. The records documented a native range of Bluehead Shiner that potentially spanned 51,956 km2, and most (48) localities were tributaries and backwaters within the Red River drainage (Fig. 1). In Arkansas, Bluehead Shiner was documented from 6 counties (Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Ouachita, and Union) within the Figure 1. Map showing the historical distribution (gray-filled circles) of Pteronotropis hubbsi (Bluehead Shiner) based on 100 known archived records. Table 1. List of museums/institutions and individuals contacted that held archived Blue Shiner records, and the number of records held in their respective ichthyology collections. Museum/institution Contact Records Arkansas Tech University Dr. Charlie Gagen 2 Texas A & M University Dr. Kevin Conway, 2 Heather Prestridge University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Dr. Tom Buchanan 2 Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty 3 Oklahoma Department of Environmental Policy Randy Parham 6 University of Oklahoma Sam Noble Museum Sarah Cartwright 6 Illinois Natural History Survey Dr. Chris Taylor; Chris Mayer 9 Tulane University Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection Dr. Hank Bart 13 Henderson State University Dr. Renn Tumlison 16 University of Texas Biodiversity Collections Dr. Dean Hendrickson, 23 Adam Cohen Oklahoma State University Dr. Tony Echelle 24 Southeastern Naturalist 113 C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 Ouachita River drainage. The Arkansas records were from 15 different localities (14 stream/bayou, 1 lake/oxbow) and spanned a geographic range of 2100 km2. In Oklahoma, Bluehead Shiner was documented from 12 different localities (7 streams/ bayous, 5 lakes/oxbows) within the Little River drainage, McCurtain County, and spanned a range of 140 km2. In Louisiana, Bluehead Shiner was documented from 2 parishes (Ouachita and Morehead) in the Ouachita drainage and 2 parishes in the Red River drainage (La Salle and Rapides). The Louisiana collections were from 11 different localities (10 streams/bayous, 1 lake/oxbow) and spanned a geographic range of 3995 km2. In Texas, Bluehead Shiner was documented from 3 counties (Cass, Harrison, and Marion). All collections from Texas were within the Cypress Creek drainage (including Caddo Lake), and represented 17 different localities (14 stream/bayou, 3 lake/oxbow) that spanned a geographic range of 673 km2. In Texas, 1 record was reported from Lake Texoma (Grayson County). C.W. Hargrave has extensively sampled Lake Texoma (see Gido et al 2002) and never collected Bluehead Shiner. Thus, we believe this record is suspect and suggest verification of fish identification as well as locality based on field notes; we left this record out of the distribution map and did not include the locality in the summary above or in the temporal analysis below. Three records did not have data identifying the date of the collection (1 collection from Arkansas and 2 collections from Texas); we excluded these records from our temporal analysis. Bluehead Shiner collection records existed for the following decades: 1940s, 1 record; 1950s, 2 records; 1970s, 29 records; 1980s, 38 records; 1990s, 25 records; 2000s, 2 records (Fig. 2). In Illinois, all 8 records were from 1973 and 1974. In Arkansas, 15 records were from the 1970s, 4 from 80s, and 4 from 90s. Oklahoma collections were from the 1980s (21 records), 1990s (7 records), and 2000s (1 record). Louisiana had 2 records from the 1970s, 5 from the 1980s, 6 from the 1990s, and 1 record from the 2000s. Texas had records from 5 decades: 1 record from 1949, 2 records from the 1950s, 4 records from 1970s, 8 from 1980s, and 8 from 1990s. A majority of all Bluehead Shiner collection records from within the native range were from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (84; 94%). We believe this may reflect a period of intensive sampling by field-active ichthyologists, namely: W. Matthews, A. Echelle (Oklahoma), H. Robison, T. Buchanan (Arkansas), R. Suttkus, R. Cashner, H. Bart (Louisiana), and Clark Hubbs (Texas). Since the predominance of records were historical (20 to 40 y old), we argue that there is a need for renewed sampling effort across this region. The ability to use fish-count data from museum collections to infer natural density is limited. Sampling efforts may not have been standardized across collections, and, in many cases, it is impossible to know whether archived collections represent all individuals collected or a subsample of individuals (e.g., voucher specimens). Although these count data may be biased or inaccurately identified, all regions had collections with high fish counts. For example, Oklahoma and Texas had 4 records where more than 25 individuals were archived, Arkansas had 2 records with more than 25 individuals archived, and Louisiana had 1 record where more than 25 individuals were archived. This finding indicates there is currently no known area Southeastern Naturalist C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 114 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 within the Red River drainage that is the epicenter of the native Bluehead Shiner distribution. Rather, we believe these data suggest that large populations exist on the periphery of a potential epicenter of this distribution. Our results may imply that Bluehead Shiner is more widely distributed across this region, and collections that document occurrence of Bluehead Shiner within the interior of this geographic distribution may be lacking. Our review of the museum records for Bluehead Shiner support the known distribution reported in state and regional references (e.g., Robison and Buchanan 1988). However, because these sources often do not provide detailed collectionlocality data (see Douglas 1974, Miller and Robison 2004, Thomas et al. 2007), our study is important because it provides, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive list of all Bluehead Shiner records throughout its range to date. Although, we made a strong attempt to identify and contact all individuals within the region that likely held records of Bluehead Shiner, we acknowledge that we may have missed records Figure 2. Map showing the number of known archived records of Pteronotropis hubbsi (Bluehead Shiner) by decade and locality for Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Southeastern Naturalist 115 C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 collected by individuals unknown to us. However, because we contacted a number of major field biologists, ichthyologists, and associated museums throughout this region, we feel that any missed records likely would not change our interpretation of the results. We suggest that this spatial and temporal analysis of historical museum records for Bluehead Shiner result in 2 general conclusions. First, we believe that our results illustrate that there are 4 known population centers of Bluehead Shiner throughout its native range. These populations exist on the periphery of the species’ geographic range, and, thus, there is a large geographic area within this boundary with no records. It is possible that there are localities within the center of this boundary that may support Bluehead Shiner and that this finding illustrates a great need to explore and sample suitable habitat within this region. Second, our results show that the vast majority of documented records are between 20 and 40 y old—the typical length of an active field career. Thus, this temporal pattern may represent intensive sampling by a few individuals throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Unfortunately, the current status of Bluehead Shiner from historical localities is unknown. Human populations continue to grow, and habitat alterations continue to progress throughout this region; therefore, there is a great need to revisit known localities. There currently is interest in listing Bluehead Shiner as federally endangered (USFWS 2011). This interest is driven by the perceived rarity of the species across its range, the lack of current distribution data, the species’ affinity for lowland aquatic habitat, and the continued threat to such habitats for agriculture, oil and gas development, and urbanization. Our study, which provides a summary of historical distribution data for Bluehead Shiner, supports the impetus to consider conservation action for this species. However, our summary also illustrates a great need to invest in sampling efforts that will illuminate the current status of Bluehead Shiner throughout its native geographic range in the Gulf Coastal Slope of the Southeastern US. Acknowledgments This research was funded by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to the authors. We also would like to thank all individuals that provided collection records. These individuals and their affiliations are listed in Table 1. Finally, we would like to acknowledge a technical advisory panel, which helped oversee the technical aspects and quality of this research. Literature Cited Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. 2001. Animals of special concern. Department of Arkansas Heritage Inventory Research Program, Little Rock, AR. Bailey, R.M., and H.W. Robison. 1978. Notropis hubbsi, a new cyprinid fish from the Mississippi River Basin, with comments on Notropis welaka. Occasional Papers from the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 683:1–21. Burr, B.M., and R.C. Heidinger. 1987. Biology and preliminary recovery plan for the endangered Bluehead Shiner in Illinois. Final Report to Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board, Illinois Department of Conservation, Springfield, IL . 19 pp. Southeastern Naturalist C.W. Hargrave and K.P. Gary 2016 116 Vol. 15, Special Issue 9 Burr, B.M., and M.L. Warren. 1986. Status of the Bluehead Shiner (Notropis hubbsi) in Illinois. Transactions of the Illinois Academy of Science 79:129–136. Douglas, N.H. 1974. Freshwater Fishes of Louisiana. Claitor’s Publishing Division, Baton Rouge, LA. 443 pp. Fletcher, D.E., and B.M. Burr. 1992. Reproductive biology, larval description, and diet of the North American Bluehead Shiner, Pteronotropis hubbsi (Cypriniformes: cyprinidae), with comments on conservation status. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwater 3:193–218. Gido, K.B., C.W. Hargrave, W.J. Matthews, G.D. Schnell, D.W. Pogue, and G.W. Sewell. 2002. Structure of littoral-zone fish communities in relation to habitat, physical, and chemical gradients in a southern reservoir. Environmental Biology of Fishes 63:253–263. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. 1999. Checklist of endangered and threatened animals and plants of Illinois. 20 pp. Current (effective 19 May 2015) list is available online at for_webpage_051915.pdf. Jelks, H.L., S.J. Walsh, N.M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Diaz-Pardo, D.A. Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N.E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J.S. Nelson, S.P. Platania, B.A. Porter, C.B. Renaud, J.J. Schmitter-Soto, E.B. Taylor, and M.L. Warren Jr. 2008. Conservation status of imperiled North American freshwater and diadromous fishes. Fisheries 33(8):372–407. Lemmons, R.P., M.J. Hood, and L.G. Hill. 1997. New Oklahoma localities for the Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus), Largescale Stoneroller (Campostoma oligolepis), and Bluehead Shiner (Pteronotropis hubbsi). Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 77:125–126. Miller, R.J. 1984. The occurrence of Notropis hubbsi in Oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 64:45. Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. 496 pp. Pfleiger, W.L. 1997. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO. 372 pp. Phillippi, M.A., B.M. Burr, and R.A. Brandon. 1986. A preliminary survey of the aquatic fauna of the Cache River in Johnson and Pulaski counties, Illinois. Report submitted to Illinois Department of Conservation, DeWitt, IL. 252 pp. Ranvestel, A.W., and B.M. Burr. 2004. Conservation assessment for Bluehead Shiner (Pteronotropis hubbsi). American Currents 30(1):17–25. Rios, N.E., and H.L. Bart. 2010. GEOLocate (Version 3.22) computer software. Tulane University Museum of Natural History, Belle Chasse, LA. Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, AR. 536 pp. Scharpf, C. 2005. Annotated checklist of North American freshwater fishes including subspecies and undescribed forms, Part 1: Petromyzontidae through Cyprinidae. American Currents, Special Publication 31(4):1–44. Smith, P.W. 2002. Fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press. Champaign, IL. 352 pp. Thomas, C., T.H. Bonner, and B.G. Whiteside. 2007. Freshwater Fishes of Texas: A Field Guide. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, TX. 220 pp. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2011. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; partial 90-day finding on a petition to list 404 species in the southeastern United States as endangered or threatened With critical habitat. Federal register 76(187):59836–59862.