endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) Range includes the Holston and Nolichucky river systems, upper Tennessee River drainage, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia (extremely rare, South Fork Holston River above the head of South Holston Reservoir), and western North Carolina (rediscovered after reported extirpation); the species occurs in the Nolichucky River in Tennessee and North Carolina, two Nolichucky tributaries in North Carolina, and South Fork Holston River in Tennessee and Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994).
The largest and most viable populations are in the Nolichucky River, Tennessee (about 125 river km); range extends both above and below Davy Crockett Reservoir. In North Carolina (1991-1993), this darter was found at 11 of 57 sites sampled in the Nolichucky River and upstream in the lowest 8 km of the Cane River, the lowest 18.6 km of the North Toe River, and in one tributary of the last (Rohde and Arndt 1994). This species occupies not more than 5 km of the South Fork Holston River in Virginia. See Etnier and Starnes (1993) for an historical account of the known distribution.
Length: 6 cm
Habitat and Ecology
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Comments: Habitat includes fast, deep, rocky riffles in small to medium rivers; strongly flowing water in riffles and chutes of large upland creeks and medium-sized rivers where substrate consists of coarse gravel, rubble, or boulders and the water is cool or warm, usually clear or slightly turbid, with a moderate gradient (lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 2011). Where common, as in the Nolichucky River, Tennessee, this darter often occurs among lush growth of riverweed (Podostemum). In North Carolina, it is most common in riffles near river islands. See Kuehne and Barbour (1983), Burkhead and Jenkins (1991), and Rohde and Arndt (1994). Eggs evidently are buried in sand in riffle areas near the base of a large rock (Bryant 1979), apparently in the same areas of swift current that are inhabited during the nonspawning period (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats mainly immature benthic insects such as blackflies, mayflies, and midges (Bryant 1979, Page 1983).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Comments: This species is known from a couple dozen collecting localities. In 1995, Tennessee Valley Authority reported 18 locations, of which 4 are extirpated. There are at least several distinct occurrences (subpopulations); the precise number depends on how collection sites are lumped).
Menhinick (1991) mapped 5 localities (one extirpated) in North Carolina. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) mapped
Comments: Total adult population size is unknown. In North Carolina, this species is common to abundant at most occupied sites (Rohde and Arndt 1994). Most surveys find 1 to 20 individuals at a single site. This is often the most abundant darter in the Nolichucky River downstream from Irwin, Tennessee, and it is also abundant in the lower Cane River (D. Eisenhour, fide Mel Warren, pers. comm., 1999). It is "extremely rare" in Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). Overall, Page and Burr (2011) regarded it as "rare."
Life History and Behavior
Spawning period appears to extend from late June through mid-August; sexually mature in 1-2 years (Bryant 1979, Page 1983, Lee et al. 1980). Age range of breeding females generally is 1-2 years (Bart and Page 1992). Some individuals live as long as 3 years.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Etheostoma acuticeps
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Etheostoma acuticeps
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- Needs updating
- 1994Rare(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Rare(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Occurs in the South Fork Holston and Nolichucky river systems in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia; range is fragmented by impoundments and has been negatively affected by water pollution, but some populations apparently have increased with improvements in water quality; currently there are several populations not facing imminent threats, but a catastrophic pollution event in the Nolichucky River could affect conservation status.
Other Considerations: Listed by Deacon et al. (1979) as threatened, but this was prior to survey work that significantly expanded the known range.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but distribution and abundance likely are relatively stable.
Degree of Threat: B : Moderately threatened throughout its range, communities provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure of the community over the long-term, but are apparently recoverable
Comments: Populations have been greatly reduced or eliminated through siltation and inundation and cold tailwaters resulting from impoundment (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). One large toxic spill in the upper Nolichucky River could severely damage the population there and affect the conservation status of the species (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). This species is regarded as "secure" in North Carolina (Rohde and Arndt 1994).
This species apparently increased in abundance or recolonized the upper Nolichucky River in Tennessee after water quality improved there (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Some previous pollution problems in the South Fork Holston River system "have been relieved, but other potential pollution problems exist" (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994).
Restoration Potential: Populations apparently may respond quickly to improvments in water quality (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Management Requirements: The South Fork Holston River population may benefit by transplanting fishes from the Nolichucky River, though fish competitors (redline darter, sculpins) in the former stream may limit or prevent the success of such a transplant (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991).
Biological Research Needs: A life history study has already been completed.
Global Protection: None. No occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Needs: This specuies would benefit from improvements in water quality, including reduction in siltation.
The sharphead darter (Etheostoma acuticeps) is a species of darter endemic to the eastern United States, where it is only known to occur in the Holston and Nolichucky River systems. It inhabits small to medium-sized rivers, being found in rocky riffles in deep, fast-flowing waters. This species can reach a length of 8.4 cm (3.3 in), though most only reach about 5.5 cm (2.2 in).
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