endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Upper Kentucky and upper Green (including Barren River) river systems, eastern and central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee; primarily in upland streams of the Cumberland Plateau and central portions of the Highland Rim; fairly common in Kentucky River drainage (where occurs from Red River upstream and including the South Fork), uncommon and localized in Green River drainage; in the Green River occurs, primarily upstream of the confluence of the Little Barren and Green rivers; in the Barren River, most common upstream of the confluence of Drakes Creek and the Barren River; in Tennessee, restricted to large tributaries of the Barren River system in Clay, Macon, and Sumner counties; there is an old record from the Nolin River system, where the species no longer occurs; reports of this species (as P. cymatotaenia) from Obion Creek in western Kentucky, creeks near Paducah (Kentucky), and the Big Sandy and Licking River drainages (Kentucky) are based on misidentified specimens of Percina sciera (Burr and Page 1993, Page and Burr 1991). See Burr and Page (1993) for spot map and list of localities.
- Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.) 1999 Catalog of fishes. Updated database version of November 1999. Catalog databases as made available to FishBase in November 1999. (Ref. 33021)
Catalog Number: USNM 231070
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): R. Bouchard & W. Starnes
Year Collected: 1969
Locality: Jacks Ck At Ky 66. Clay Co., Ky. Kentucky R Dr., Clay County, Kentucky, United States, North America
- Paratopotype: Burr, B. B. & Page, L. M. 1993. Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History. 16: 19, 1.
Habitat and Ecology
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Comments: Quiet water areas, especially flowing pools, backwater pools, and vegetated riffle margins of clear creeks and small to medium rivers (usually stream orders 3-5). More often swims in midwater than near bottom. May rest on submerged mats of tree roots along bank. In winter, may be found in accumulations of dead leaves.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
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.
Life History and Behavior
Spawning evidently peaks from mid-March through mid-April; probably lives a maximum of about 3 years (Burr and Page 1993).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Percina stictogaster
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: Percina stictogaster
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Total adult population size is unknown but relatively large.
In the Green River, apparently less abundant now than in the 1960s (Burr and Page 1993).
Comments: Vulnerable to decimation through perturbations such as strip mining; stream channelization projects threaten available habitat in Tennessee (Burr and Page 1993).
The frecklebelly darter (Percina stictogaster) primarily occurs in the upper Kentucky and Green river systems of eastern and central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee, being found mostly in the Cumberland Plateau and Highland Rim regions. The fish gets its name from gets its name from the scattered dark spots on its relatively pale underside. However, a possible more telling characteristic of the species is the systematical arrangement of the spots at the base of the tail as well as the continuous stripes down either side of the back. Total population size is unknown but figured to be relatively large. The frecklebelly darter is a benthic darter that relies on invertebrates as its principal diet. The frecklebelly darter can be found primarily in creeks and small rivers with a moderate gradient and a pool/riffle type flow, and spends most of its time in midwater areas of the stream. The major threats of the frecklebelly darter include decimation through perturbations such as strip mining as well as stream channelization projects. The darter is thought to have a high resilience with minimum population doubling time less than 15 months; it is also believed to have low vulnerability. Frecklebelly darter females contain about 100-300 mature ova depending on size. Fish become mature by age 1. Spawning in this darter species involves egg burial where the male mounts the female and deposits eggs in deep depressions created by receptive females.
The frecklebelly darter has a rather small distribution. Found in only two states, Tennessee and Kentucky, the species is endemic to higher elevation streams and reservoirs. found primarily in the Upper Kentucky and upper Green (including Barren River) river systems in eastern and central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee. The darter propagates upland streams of the Cumberland Plateau and central portions of the Highland Rim. Fairly common in Kentucky River drainage (where occurs from Red River upstream and including the South Fork), the darter is uncommon and localized in the Green River drainage. In the Green River, the frecklebelly darter occurs primarily upstream of the confluence of the Little Barren and Green rivers. In the Barren River, it is most common upstream of the confluence of Drakes Creek and the Barren River. The frecklebelly darter is restricted to large tributaries in Tennessee, primarily of the Barren River system in Clay, Macon, and Sumner counties. There is an old record from the Nolin River system, where the species no longer occurs. The frecklebelly darter as well as most other darter species in the area are vulnerable to decimation through perturbations such as strip mining; stream channelization projects threaten available habitat in Tennessee. It is believed that these factors as well as the damming of natural river systems may have extirpated the species from other areas in the southeast. Non-native Invasive fish species could also be a cause of limited distribution.
The frecklebelly darter is a benthic fish which inhabits quiet water areas, especially flowing pools, backwater pools, and vegetated riffle margins of clear creeks and small to medium rivers (usually stream orders 3-5). The darter most often swims in midwater than near bottom. Oftentimes it can be found resting on submerged mats of tree roots along bank. In winter the fish may be found in accumulations of dead leaves. Spawning of the species evidently peaks from mid-March through mid- April. The fish is estimated to live about 3 years. The frecklebelly darter does not show any time of migration. The darter feeds on invertebrates which include river snails, hydropsychid caddisfly larvae, midge larvae, and small mayfly nymphs such as baetids. This fish is likely a prey item for almost any piscivorous fish that occur within the darter’s range, such as Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and other large piscivores. Fish with similar habitat requirements are the greatest competitors to the fish. It seems that this particular species desires cooler water temperatures that come with higher elevations. Many of the regions where the fish exist are suspect to mining operations as well as river damming. Either of the these projects could very well be detrimental to the fish species.
The frecklebelly darter has a poorly studied life history. Spawning of the species evidently peaks from mid-March through mid-April. The fish is estimated to live about three years. Based on length frequency data this species is reproductively mature at age one. Spawning occurs in temperatures of 7 to 16 °C (45 to 61 °F) in areas with strong current and fine gravel. Aquarium observations confirm that this species buries its eggs in a manner similar to other Percina darters. Fertilized eggs are about 2.5 mm in diameter, clear, demersal and slightly adhesive. At 10 °C (50 °F) eggs hatched in 18–25 days. Females of the species are thought to reach sexual maturity at age one and when spawning, lay their eggs in the substrate of the lake or river bed. Males of the species have a semicircular keel on the caudal peduncle that appears to function as a ploughshare which, in conjunction with the long anal fin, delivers sepermatozoa to buried in the substrate. Compared to sympatric darters, early spawning results in relatively large young, which may reduce predation in this relatively pelagic species.
- Warren Jr, Melvin L., et al. "Diversity, distribution, and conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States." Fisheries 25.10 (2000): 7-31.
- Strange, Rex Meade, and Brooks M. Burr. "Intraspecific phylogeography of North American highland fishes: a test of the Pleistocene vicariance hypothesis." Evolution (1997):885-897.
- Page, Lawrence M. "The subgenera of Percina (Percidae: Etheostomatini)." Copeia (1974): 66-86.
- Reproductive Biology and Early Life History of Fishes in the Ohio River Drainage: Percidae - Perch, Pikeperch, and Darters, Volume 4 (Google EBook). Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
- Kentucky Darters. Kentucky Darters. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013http://johno.myiglou.com/fish/darters.html
- "Percina Stictogaster Burr & Page, 1993." FishBase. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=56238
- Percina Stictogaster. (Frecklebelly Darter). N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013 http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/202597/0
- Page, Lawrence M., and Mark H. Sabaj. "The function of the caudal keel in Percina (Percidae)." Environmental biology of fishes 40.1 (1994): 105-107.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Has been included in P. cymatotaenia by some authors (Kuehne and Barbour 1983). Most closely related to P. cymatotaenia (Burr and Page 1993).