Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Inhabits muddy pools of headwaters, creeks, small rivers and ponds (Ref. 5723). Also found in lakes (Ref. 10294). Tolerates unsuitable conditions (e.g., turbid, hot, poorly oxygenated, intermittent streams) for most fishes (Ref. 5723). Feeds on detritus and algae (Ref. 10294). Spawns in still-water habitats along shores (Ref. 59043). Introductions consequently caused the spread of the enteric red-mouth disease throughout northern Europe which infected wild and cultured trouts and eels (Ref. 1739). Maintained a relatively high metabolic rate and level of activity under hypoxic conditions (Ref. 77050). Individuals that survived the hypoxic conditions during winter had rapid growth rates after ice-off (Ref. 77048).
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Throughout much of North America, from Alberta and Northwest Territories to Quebec and New Brunswick, south to Alabama, Texas, northern Mexico (Chihuahua), and New Mexico; introduced in Colorado River drainage (Arizona and New Mexico), Mobile Bay drainage (Alabama), and elsewhere, through use as bait fish; most common in Great Plains, generally absent from mountains, absent on Atlantic Slope south of Delaware River; common over much of range (Page and Burr 1991).

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Range Description

Throughout much of North America, from Alberta and Northwest Territories to Quebec and New Brunswick, south to Alabama, Texas, northern Mexico (Chihuahua), and New Mexico; introduced in Colorado River drainage (Arizona and New Mexico), Mobile Bay drainage (Alabama), and elsewhere, through use as bait fish; most common in Great Plains, generally absent from mountains, absent on Atlantic Slope south of Delaware River; common over much of range (Page and Burr 1991).
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North America: Over much of North America from Quebec to Northwest Territories, Canada and south to Alabama, Texas and New Mexico, USA. Also in Mexico. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction.
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Geographic Range

Fathead minnows are native to the Nearctic region. The northern limits of their geographic ranges extends from Quebec to Alberta and Northwest Territories, Canada. Their southern limites of their geographic range extends as far southward as Alabama, Texas, and New Mexico. Fathead minnows are most abundant in the Prairie Pothole Region of the northern Great Plains. Bait-bucket introductions have also occurred in the Mobile Bay drainage, Colorado River drainage, Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. They are generally absent in mountainous regions as well as on the Atlantic Slope of Delaware River. They have also been introduced in Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), Puerto Rico, and Iran.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced , Native ); palearctic (Introduced )

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U.S.A., Canada, and northern Mexico; introduced in Europe.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 7
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Physical Description

Fathead minnows are characterized by deep, compressed bodies, typically five to eight centimeters in length, and a short head that is dorsally flattened with a blunt snout, round lateral eyes, and terminal, upturned mouth. With the exception of a dark blotch at the rostral end of the dorsal fin, their fins are generally clear. Fathead minnows are dark-olive colored with a dusky, dorsal and lateral stripe, and yellow to white underbelly. They have an incomplete lateral line, 8 dorsal rays, 7 anal rays, 14 to 17 pectoral rays, 7 to 8 pelvic rays, pharyngeal teeth, and smaller scales along the nape. Males and females vary in size, banding, and secondary sexual characteristics, however, males and females are virtually indistinguishable until reproductive maturity. Adult males range from 3 to 5 g, while adult females are slightly smaller, ranging from 2 to 3 g. Additionally, males have dark heads with 2 white to gold vertical bars posterior to the head and dorsal fin. Males also have a fleshy, dorsal pad and 16 nuptial tubercles on the lower jaw. Although females do not undergo such obvious changes in morphology, they do develop a fleshy ovipositor approximately a month prior to spawning.

Range mass: 2 to 5 g.

Range length: 5 to 8 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful; ornamentation

  • Ankley, G., K. Jensen, M. Kahl, J. Korte, E. Makynen. 2000. Description and evaluation of a short-term reproductive test with the fathead minnow. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 20: 1276-1290.
  • Ross, S. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Mississippi: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
  • Wisenden, B., T. Dye, K. Geray, J. Hendrickson, C. Rud, M. Jensen, G. Sonstegard, M. Malott, S. Alemadi. 2009. Effects of nest substrate on egg deposition and incubation conditions in a natural population of fathead minnows. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 87: 379-387.
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Size

Length: 10 cm

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Maximum size: 100 mm TL
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Max. size

10.1 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 10294)); max. reported age: 5 years (Ref. 58435)
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Diagnostic Description

The only species of genus introduced to Europe which differs from other cyprinid species in Europe by the following characters: prominent pad of spongy tissue on nape in males; dorsal fin origin about above pelvic fin origin; anal fin with 7½ branched rays; second simple dorsal ray spinous, about 50% length of the third one; lateral line incomplete, usually not reaching dorsal origin; weak midlateral stripe; 41-54 + 2 scales in midlateral row; and mouth terminal (Ref. 59043).
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Type Information

Syntype for Cliola smithii
Catalog Number: USNM 45681
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Preparation: Photograph
Collector(s): B. Evermann & Cox
Year Collected: 1893
Locality: S. Dak. Prairie Creek Near Scotland, South Dakota, United States, North America
  • Syntype:
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Freshwater

Comments: Lakes, ponds, headwaters, creeks, small rivers, ditches, reservoirs, residual pools of intermittent streams (where sometimes very abundant); usually in sluggish or still water with abundant floating and submerged vegetation; tolerant of high temperature, turbidity, low oxygen, and high salinity. Adapts well to pond culture. Eggs are laid on underside of object in quiet water in nest guarded by male. Larvae collected in shoreline drift in upper Colorado River (where introduced).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Lakes, ponds, headwaters, creeks, small rivers, ditches, reservoirs, residual pools of intermittent streams (where sometimes very abundant); usually in sluggish or still water with abundant floating and submerged vegetation; tolerant of high temperature, turbidity, low oxygen, and high salinity. Adapts well to pond culture. Eggs are laid on underside of object in quiet water in nest guarded by male. Larvae collected in shoreline drift in upper Colorado River (where introduced).

Systems
  • Freshwater
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Environment

demersal; freshwater
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In addition to small rivers and ponds,fFathead minnows are commonly found in muddy pools of headwaters and creeks. They also appear to tolerate habitat conditions that exclude many freshwater fishes such as high turbidity and temperature, variable pH and salinity, and low oxygen. Residing in such habitats may be important in decreasing risk of predation, as many predatory fish are intolerant of such conditions.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools

Wetlands: marsh

  • Nelson, J., M. Paetz. 1992. The Fishes of Alberta. Canada: The University of Alberta Press.
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Migration

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.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds opportunistically in soft bottom mud; eats algae and other plants, insects, small crustaceans, and other invertebrates (Becker 1983, Sublette et al. 1990).

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Inhabits muddy pools of headwaters, creeks and small rivers. Also found in ponds. Tolerates unsuitable conditions (e.g., turbid, hot, poorly oxygenated, intermittent streams). Interannual population density varied dramatically in response to the severity of the preceding winter for species inhabiting boreal lakes in Alberta, Canada (Ref. 77054). Populations from two shallow lakes repeatedly winterkilled, 47-94% post winterkill declines in density, increased growth rates of the surviving fish (Ref. 77054). Maintained a relatively high metabolic rate and level of activity under hypoxic conditions (Ref. 77050). Individuals that survived the hypoxic conditions during winter had rapid growth rates after ice-off (Ref. 77048). Responds to visual and chemical cues of northern pike, Esox lucius. Species found in naturally predator-free waters learned to avoid the 'scent' of introduced pike faster than the sight of them (Ref. 77049). Anti-predator responses by fathead minnows increased with higher concentrations of chemical "odor" emitted from northern pike. More frightened by the cues of smaller-sized pike, which may pose a greater predation threat than larger pike (Ref. 77062).
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Food Habits

Fathead minnows are opportunistic omnivores that can be characterized as benthic filter feeders, sifting through mud and silt in order to find food. Freshwater sediments often contain a large abundance of algae and protozoans, which represent a significant proportion of the fathead minnow diet. Secondary prey items include diatoms, filamentous algae, small crustaceans, and insect larvae. In addition, brook sticklebacks represent one of few species also common within the Prairie Pothole Region that also prey heavily on zooplankton, placing a high probability of interspecific competition between brook sticklebacks and fathead minnows. Differences in size-selection and feeding strategies, however, allow fathead minnows to consume a broader variety of zooplankton prey. Flexibility in feeding may explain why greater densities of fathead minnows exist in this region as compared to brook sticklebacks.

Animal Foods: insects; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates; zooplankton

Plant Foods: algae; phytoplankton

Other Foods: detritus

Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); herbivore (Algivore); omnivore

  • Laurich, L., K. Zimmer, M. Butler, M. Hanson. 2003. Selectivity for zooplankton prey by fathead minnows and brook sticklebacks. Wetlands, 23: 416-422.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Secluded basins and harmful conditions in the Prairie Pothole Region result in a simple fish community, with fathead minnows and brook sticklebacks being the most common species in this region. Fathead minnows are often the dominant species and experience explosive population growth with the absence of piscivorus fish and their high reproductive rate. This allows fathead minnows to reach biomass estimates ranging from 144 to 482 kg/ha during the breeding season. With both high population numbers and biomass, it is not a surprise that fathead minnows possess significant influence on the aquatic macroinvertebrate populations, one of their primary food sources. Populations of zooplankton, aquatic insects, and ostracods are greatly affected by fathead minnow predation, with peak daily consumption ranging from 10.1 to 62.6 kg/ha. Thus, fathead minnows indirectly affect species dependent on aquatic invertebrates as food, such as ducks and their young, larval salamanders, and a number of passerine birds. Higher turbidity and phytoplankton biomass also result in wetlands with the presence of fathead minnows. However, the structure of these systems is strongly dependent on the presence and abundance of fathead minnows as a low- to middle-level consumer, whether it be due to direct or indirect effects. In addition, because they are tolerant of a broad range of environmental conditions, fathead minnows are common among in a large variety of aquatic habitats throughout its geographic range. Fathead minnows represent an important food source for piscivorous fishes, as they often the only species present in human-made retention ponds due to their habitat adaptability.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

  • Stewart, K., D. Watkinson. 2004. The Freshwater Fishes of Manitoba. Canada: University of Manitoba Press.
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Predation

Fathead minnows are commonly preyed upon by piscivorous fish such as northern pike, yellow perch, largemouth bass and walleye. An important antipredator tactic is their ability to warn conspecifics of potential threats via pheromones. From distinctive epidermal club cells, fathead minnows release an alarm substance in response to mechanical cell damage other species of the nearby threat. Such cues also have the potential to attract additional predators that could disrupt the predation event. If others can disrupt the predation event and facilitate escape, warning signals may benefit other species as well as wounded prey. Interestingly, mature males lose this capability during the breeding months.

Known Predators:

  • northern pike
  • yellow perch
  • largemouth bass
  • walleye

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Known prey organisms

Pimephales promelas (Flathead Minnow (N=1)) preys on:
organic detritus

Based on studies in:
USA: Maine, Troy (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Thompson, RM and Townsend CR. 2005. Energy availability, spatial heterogeneity and ecosystem size predict food-web structure in streams. OIKOS 108: 137-148.
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Diseases and Parasites

Enteric Redmouth Disease. Bacterial diseases
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: This species is represented by a large number of subpopulations and locations.

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but relatively large.

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General Ecology

Schooling species.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Fathead minnows utilize chemical cues to differentiate between familiar (i.e., shoalmates) and unfamiliar individuals. Olfactory signals vary in relation to diet, social status, parasite load, and predation risk. Chemical signaling can occur involuntarily due to the release of an alarm signal as a result of mechanical cellular damage, or voluntarily as in the release of sexual pheromones during courtship. During breeding season, males also perform both stationary and dynamic courtship displays in order to attract females to nest sites.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual

  • Chivers, D., G. Brown, J. Smith. 1996. The evolution of chemical alarm signals: attracting predators benefits alarm signal senders. The American Naturalist, 148: 649-659.
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Life Cycle

"Males defend territories and eggs, and clean plants, stone or other materials by rubbing them with the spongy nape pad and dorsal fin, which contain mucus-secreting cells and taste buds. The mucus may have fungicidal properties" (Ref. 59043).
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Development

After fertilization, fathead minnow eggs are approximately 1.4 mm to 1.6 mm in diameter. Following several well-defined embryonic stages, eggs hatch within 4 to 5 days at 25°C. Upon hatching, fathead minnow larvae absorb the yolk sac within 1 to 2 days, afterwhich larvae become active feeders preying upon live food. These protolarvae range in length from 4.0 mm to 5.2 mm and can be characterized by an incomplete mouth, dark eyes, rudimentary pectoral fins, melanophores, which are widely distributed on the yolk sac and concentrated in regions posterior to the vent. Contrastingly, mesolarvae and metalarvae possess high concentrations of melanophores on the ventral surface of gill covers. The number of myomeres between protolarvae and mesolarvae, and metalarvae differ only slightly, with the metalarvae possessing a slightly more in the predorsal region and a few less in the postanal region. All larval stages have rounded rather than flattened eyes, similar to 'bluntnose minnows Pimephales notatus'.

Reproductive maturity in fathead minnows is identified by a number of morphological changes in both males in females. For example, males develop a dorsal pad, tubercles on their lower jaw, and banding changes. Just prior to maturation, females develop urogenital papillae. Fathead minnows reach sexual maturity within 4 to 5 months after hatching in optimal habitat conditions (e.g., water temperature of 25°C and photoperiod of 16 hours of light). Once mature and under appropriate seasonal conditions, minnows can spawn continually for a period of several months.

  • Ankley, G., D. Villeneuve. 2006. The fathead minnow in aquatic toxicology: Past, present and future. Aquatic Toxicology, 78/1: 91-102.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

On average, fathead minnows live two to three years in the wild and may be limited by high levels of postspawning mortality. Fathead minnows can live for up to 4 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
4 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
2 to 3 years.

  • Werner, R. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of the Northwestern United States: A Field Guide. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 2 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Spawns in spring and summer. Eggs guarded by male, hatch in 4-6 days at 23-30 C. Sexually mature at age 0-III, at older age in north than in south. Most adults die after spawning.

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Fathead minnows are polygynandrous and spawn between the months of May and September, producing anywhere from 1000 to 10000 offspring per season. During breeding season, reproductively mature males are responsible for the selection and preparation of nest sites on the underside of horizontal objects (e.g., rocks, wood, and vegetation). Nest sites typically occur in shallow water, typically on a sandy substrate. Preparing nest sites requires males to utilize their mouth and tubercles to form a depression in the substrate. Once the nest is complete, males become highly territorial. Agonistic behavior is directed toward other male conspecifics, heterospecific intruders, and initially, mature females. In addition, males perform a variety of courting behaviors to attract females to their site. If a mature female is persistent, and not interested in consuming eggs that may already be present in the male's nest, the male grants her access to the nest site.

Spawning behavior in fathead minnows involves close lateral contact, body vibrations, and swimming back and forth in the nest area. Once adequate stimulation is obtained, males make contact with the urogenital region of the female, causing the release of eggs along with the simultaneous release of milt prior to their sudden separation. This occurs sporadically until the male aggressively drives away the female. All of the buoyant, adhesive, fertilized eggs are then deposited in a single layer on the ceiling of the nest site and thus, the male is left to care for the eggs on his own.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Being oviparous and a fractional spawner (i.e., females spawn multiple times per breeding season), female fathead minnows may deposit 400 eggs per spawn, normally taking approximately 2 hours to perform each spawning sequence. Females may spawn between 16 and 26 times between May and September. Eggs are normally deposited at night, and each fertilized egg takes 4 to 5 days to hatch at 25°C, though it can take up to 13 days at cooler temperatures (15°C). Both sexes reach reproductive maturity between 4 and 5 months after fertilization. Fathead minnows grow rapidly, and despite high postspawning mortality, multiple generations may be alive at the same time.

Breeding interval: Female fathead minnows may participate in 16 to 26 spawnings per season.

Breeding season: Spawning occurs from May to September at water temperatures ranging from 16°C to 30°C.

Range number of offspring: 1000 to 10000.

Range time to hatching: 4 to 13 days.

Range time to independence: 4 to 5 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 to 5 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4 to 5 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous

Male fathead minnows invest a great deal of time and energy into caring for fertilized eggs. To sustain energetic demands, males rely on somatic energy reserves. If these reserves are insufficient, male fathead minnows tend to consume a number of their eggs in order to meet energetic demands. In addition to creating the nest site, males fan nest eggs to maintain sufficient oxygenation, utilize their dorsal pad to clean eggs, and defend against predators until hatching occurs. Fathead minnows spawn numerous times a season, thus, male energy expenditure during this time is significant. In addition, females prefer to deposit eggs in the nest of males that already possess eggs, while alloparental care augments the likelihood of new fertilization.

Parental Investment: male parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male)

  • Andrews, A., S. Flickinger. 1974. Spawning requirements and characteristics of the fathead minnow. Proc Southeast Assoc Game Fish Comm, 27: 759-766.
  • Ankley, G., K. Jensen, M. Kahl, J. Korte, E. Makynen. 2000. Description and evaluation of a short-term reproductive test with the fathead minnow. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 20: 1276-1290.
  • Ankley, G., D. Villeneuve. 2006. The fathead minnow in aquatic toxicology: Past, present and future. Aquatic Toxicology, 78/1: 91-102.
  • Herwig, B., K. Zimmer. 2007. Population ecology and prey consumption by fathead minnows in prairie wetlands: importance of detritus and larval fish. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 16: 282-294.
  • Miller, R., H. Robinson. 1934. Fishes of Oklahoma. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma.
  • Ross, S. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Mississippi: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
  • Wisenden, B., T. Dye, K. Geray, J. Hendrickson, C. Rud, M. Jensen, G. Sonstegard, M. Malott, S. Alemadi. 2009. Effects of nest substrate on egg deposition and incubation conditions in a natural population of fathead minnows. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 87: 379-387.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Pimephales promelas

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 20 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  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.

ATAGTGGGGACCGCTTTA---AGCCTCCTAATTCGAGCTGAACTAAGTCAACCTGGCTCACTTCTAGGTGAT---GACCAGATCTACAATGTTATTGTTACTGCTCACGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTAATACCAATTCTTATTGGTGGGTTTGGAAATTGACTTGTACCTCTAATA---ATCGGAGCACCTGACATGGCATTTCCACGAATAAATAACATAAGCTTCTGACTTTTACCCCCGTCATTCCTACTCCTCCTAGCCTCTTCTGGAGTTGAGGCCGGGGCCGGTACAGGGTGAACTGTTTATCCACCACTTGCAGGTAATCTTGCTCATGCAGGAGCCTCAGTAGACCTC---ACAATTTTCTCTCTACACTTAGCAGGTGTATCATCAATTCTAGGGGCAGTTAATTTTATTACTACAATTATTAACATAAAACCCCCAGCAATCTCTCAATATCAAACGCCCCTCTTCGTATGGGCCGTACTTGTAACTGCTGTGCTTCTGCTCCTATCACTACCTGTTCTAGCTGCC---GGAATTACTATACTTCTCACCGATCGTAATTTAAATACTACATTCTTTGACCCTGCAGGAGGAGGTGACCCTATTTTATACCAACACTTGTTCTGATTCTTCGGCCATCCAGAAGTCTATATTCTTATTTTACCCGGGTTTGGAATTATTTCACATGTCGTAGCCTACTATGCAGGTAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGCTACATAGGAATAGTTTGAGCTATGATGGCAATCGGTCTCCTAGGGTTTATTGTCTGAGCCCACCACATGTTTACTGTTGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGTGCCTAC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pimephales promelas

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 17
Specimens with Barcodes: 269
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread in North America; inhabits a variety of aquatic habitats, and tolerant of high temperatures, turbidity, and low oxygen.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
NatureServe

Reviewer/s
Smith, K. & Darwall, W.R.T.

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of the large extent of occurrence, large number of subpopulations, large population size, and lack of major threats. Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain but likely relatively stable, or the species may be declining but not fast enough to qualify for any of the threatened categories under Criterion A (reduction in population size).
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Fathead minnows are among the most prevalent fish species in eastern North America. The species is considered secure and has stable populations. The widespread nature of this species may be attributed to its ability to adapt to a variety of aquatic habitats and conditions as well as its high reproductive rate.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain but likely relatively stable or slowly declining.

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Population

Population
This species is represented by a large number of subpopulations and locations.

Total adult population size is unknown but relatively large.

Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain but likely relatively stable or slowly declining.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

Comments: Localized threats may exist, but on a range-wide scale no major threats are known.

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Major Threats
Localized threats may exist, but on a range-wide scale no major threats are known.
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Not Evaluated
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Management

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Currently, this species is of relatively low conservation concern and does not require significant additional protection or major management, monitoring, or research action.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: Popular bait fish; one of the 3 most widely cultured bait species (Sublette et al. 1990). A strain referred to as "rosy-red" minnow has been developed primarily for the pet trade (Page and Burr 1991). Has been used in carcinogenesis testing (Metcalfe 1989).

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Importance

aquarium: commercial; bait: usually
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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Although widely distributed across North America, introductions of fathead minnows as a bait species in Europe have resulted in devastating effects on the wildlife in northern Europe. Its introduction in Europe resulted in the co-introduction of enteric redmouth disease, an organism that negatively affects wild and cultured trout and eels.

  • NatureServe. 2010. "NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life" (On-line). Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Accessed May 15, 2011 at http://www.natureserve.org/explorer.
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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Fathead minnows are significant contributors to global toxicology and behavioral ecology research due to their relatively short lifespan and high reproductive rate. Likewise, it has become the most widely utilized North American model for ecotoxicology since the mid-twentieth century. They also play a significant role in fisheries as prey for important commercial and recreational fish species. Albino fathead minnows, often referred to as "rosy-red minnows," are commonly used as bait for recreational fishing, and are also used as a feeder fish in bass-bream ponds. Albino fathead minnows are commonly found in aquaria, with both sexes possessing red-orange body and fins.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Fathead minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), is a species of temperate freshwater fish belonging to the Pimephales genus of the cyprinid family. The natural geographic range extends throughout much of North America, from central Canada south along the Rockies to Texas, and east to Virginia and the Northeastern United States.[1] This minnow has also been introduced to many other areas via bait bucket releases. Its golden, or xanthic, strain, known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. This fish is best known for producing Schreckstoff (a distress signal).

Physical description[edit]

The fathead minnow in its wild form is generally dull olive-grey in appearance, with a dusky stripe extending along the back and side, and a lighter belly. There is a dusky blotch midway on the dorsal fin. Breeding males acquire a large, grey fleshy growth on the nape, as well as approximately 16 white breeding tubercles on the snout.[1][2]

fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) a breeding male displaying tubercles and thickened dorsal pad of mucous-secreting cells.

Distribution and Habitat[edit]

North America, satellite photo from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Fathead Minnows are distriuted across North America from Chihuahua, Mexico, north to the Maritime Provinces and Great Slave Lake drainage of Canada and have been introduced to Atlantic and Pacific coastal drainage basins in the United States.[3] Their tolerance for multiple environmental conditions, characteristics of their life history and their popularity as bait species contribute to their widespread distribution.[3] The fathead minnow is quite tolerant of turbid, low oxygen water and can most commonly be found in small lakes, ponds and wetlands. They can also be found in larger lakes, streams and other habitats as well.[3]

Chemical Alarm Signal[edit]

Ostariophysan fishes, which include fathead minnows, possess an alarm substance, or Schreckstoff, in distinctive epidermal club cells. The alarm substance is released upon mechanical damage to these club cells due to a predator attack, and can be detected by other ostariophysan fishes who then engage in anti-predator behaviors such as hiding or dashing away.[4] Fathead minnows learn to recognize an animal as a potential predator when it is presented in conjunction with the alarm substance. Also, alarm substance ingested by the predator will chemically label it as dangerous to naïve fathead minnows, thereby resulting in learned predator recognition.[4] Prey fishes with chemical predator recognition abilities can inhabit areas with low visibility and more quickly detect ambush predators like the fathead minnow’s primary predator, the northern pike.[5]

Breeding[edit]

Picture of egg mass adhering to underside of a "rock cave" in a home aquarium (130gal).

In the fathead minnow, the female supplies the eggs and the male cares for them until they hatch. The male will defend a nest as females pass by and spawn eggs to be cared for by the male. In choosing a nest site, the newly reproductive male fathead minnow tends to take over the nest site of a parental male and evicting its resident rather than occupying an empty one.[6] Also, when given the choice between different unguarded nest sites, it will usually choose the one that already contains eggs. The newer and more numerous the eggs are in the nest site, the more likely the current male is to be challenged by the newcomer.[6] The new male will care for the old male’s eggs, a behavior called allopaternal care. Paternal care of the eggs by the male includes rubbing the dorsal pad of mucus-secreting cells, which aerates the eggs and may help prevent disease; removing of diseased eggs from the clutch; and defending the clutch from egg predators, which include animals such as crayfish.[6] This has been shown to increase the survival of the eggs, probably because the newer male is fitter and better able to protect them than the former. Egg survival and parental care behaviors also increase as the clutch size increases.[6] Females also prefer to spawn with males who already have eggs in their nest sites, and the more the better. A male fathead minnow will defend the nest site for about three to five weeks at a time, thus there is continual turnover of new males in the population. The cost of allopaternal care is relatively small because fathead minnow eggs hatch in about five days, while the males can maintain a nest for about three to five weeks; thus, only a small proportion of the eggs that the male takes care of will ever have been adopted.[7]

The main spawning season of the fathead minnow spans from June through July, and they are in good spawning condition from mid-May to early August. In males, tubercles occur from mid-May to early August with peak development going from June to July at the same time as other indicators of reproductive condition.[8] In males, epidermal thickness is significantly higher between mid July and early August, but it stays constant in females. Mucus cell counts also rise in males during the breeding season, but it stays constant in females. The chemical alarm signal in the epidermal cells also drops to almost zero in males during the breeding season.[8]


Fathead minnows are fractional spawners, meaning they begin spawning when water temperatures approach 18 degrees Celsius and continuing until they drop below 18 degrees Celsius in late summer. Fractional spawning can result in 16 to 26 spawning events per female and an annual fecundity of 6,800 to 10,600 eggs per female. Juveniles display rapid growth, reaching 45–50 mm total length in 90 days, and most fathead minnows will die after spawning by the age of one year.[8]

Use for Determining Toxicity of Chemicals to Aquatic Animals[edit]

Because the fathead minnow is fairly tolerant of harsh conditions, it can be found in bodies of water that may be uninhabitable to other fish, such as waste drainage sites. It has also been studied to investigate the effects of these waste materials on the aquatic life.

Research has shown that natural and synthetic oestrogens, such as oestradiol and oestrone, are present in sewage treatment works effluents. It has been shown in these studies that in male fathead minnows, exposure to these steroidal compounds leads to an increase in plasma vitellogenin levels exceeding that of even mature female fathead minnows. Vitellogenin blood plasma levels are an indicator for determining if chemicals have an oestrogenic activity to fish. This is also accompanied by an inhibition of testicular growth, even if the exposure is in low concentrations or for a short period of time. These studies showed that the presence of natural oestrogens, likely originating from humans, represents a new ecotoxicological issue.[9]

Chemical Structure of Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A is a high volume chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic, epoxy resin and other chemicals. It is also weakly estrogenic, and many of the same effects of oestradiol and oestrone can be seen with this compound. In the male fathead minnows, there is reduced somatic growth. With females fathead minnows, there is reduced egg production and hatchability. The effects take place more quickly in females than in males though.[10]

The effect of low pH on the fathead minnow has also been studied. It has been shown that even though survival was minimally effected by extended exposure to low pH, their behavior was abnormal. They showed stress behaviors, such as surface swimming and hyperactivity.[11] In addition, there are also some deformities brought about by long exposure to low pH. In both males and females, their heads become smaller than normal. Males lose some of the brightness of their color. Females become heavy with eggs but may not spawn, and the number of eggs per female is reduced. The eggs themselves come out abnormal, fragile and lacking turgidity, and the lower the pH, the less likely the eggs are to eventually hatch.[11]

In fathead minnows exposed to cattle feedlot effluent, the males are feminized and the females are defeminized. The male fathead minnows have reduced testicular testosterone synthesis, altered head morphometrics, and smaller testis size, while the females have see a decreased estrogen:androgen ratio, which is defeminized sex hormone ratio.[12]

Importance to humans[edit]

The rosy-red strain of Pimephales promelas in a home aquarium

The fathead has been very commonly used as a baitfish, and more recently has emerged in the aquarium trade as the rosy-red minnow. This colour morph was discovered in several Arkansas breeding farms in 1985. Both sexes of this strain have a rosy-golden body and fins, and are sold in pet shops primarily as feeder fish. They can also be used in home aquariums as pets.[13]

This species is also important as a biological model in aquatic toxicology studies. Because of its relative hardiness and large number of offspring produced, EPA guidelines outline its use for the evaluation of acute and chronic toxicity of samples or chemical species in vertebrate animals.[14]

The fathead's invasive status in Europe is cited as the main cause for the spread of enteric redmouth disease among trout and eels there.[15]

In the aquarium and ornamental pond[edit]

Generally only the rosy-red variety is sold in pet shops (though very often several wild types come in with each shipment), and is summarily the most likely to be found in an aquarium. These fish are social, active, and moderately hardy. Like most cyprinids, they will accept almost any type of food. They can be bred in an aquarium, and the fathead minnow is one of the only cyprinids that protects its eggs in the nest (carried out by the male). Fatheads will live about two years if they have spawned, but significantly longer (potentially up to four years) if they have not.[16]

The fish can be found at many pet stores as a feeder fish under the name "rosy-red minnow". In an aquarium the fish needs to be in a school (at least 5 or 6) or it tends to be territorial but will not nip fins but instead will ram its head into other species of fish and briefly chase them.

These fish prefer a temperature of 10 – 21 °C (50 – 70 °F) and a pH range of 7.0 – 7.5.[2][13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Page, Lawrence M. and Brooks M. Burr (1991), Freshwater Fishes, p. 129-130, Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY. ISBN 0-395-91091-9
  2. ^ a b Alderton, David (2005), Encyclopedia of Aquarium and Pondfish, p. 360, Dorling Kindersley, New York, NY. ISBN 0-7566-0941-0
  3. ^ a b c Duffy, W. G. (1998). Population dynamics, production, and prey consumption of fathead minnows (pimephales promelas) in prairie wetlands: a bioenergetics approach. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 55, 15–27.
  4. ^ a b Chivers, D. P., & Smith, J. F. (1995). Free-living fathead minnows rapidly learn to recognize pike as predators.Journal of Fish Biology, 46, 949–954.
  5. ^ Chivers, D. P., & Smith, R. J. F. (1993). The role of olfaction in chemosensorybased predator recognition in the fathead minnow, pimephales promelas. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 19(4), 623–633.
  6. ^ a b c d Sargent, R. C. (1988). Paternal care and egg survival both increase with clutch size in the fathead minnow, pimephmes promelas. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 23, 33–37
  7. ^ Unger, L. M., & Sargent, R. C. (1998). Allopaternal care in the fathead minnow, pimephales promelas: females prefer males with eggs. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 23(1), 27–32. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4600182 .
  8. ^ a b c Smith, R. J. F. (1978). Seasonal changes in the histology of the gonads and dorsal skin of the fathead minnow, pimephales promelas. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 56, 2103–2109.
  9. ^ Panter, G. H., Thompson, R. S., & Sumpter, J. P. (1998). Adverse reproductive effects in male fathead minnows (pimephales promelas) exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of the natural oestrogens, oestradiol and oestrone.Aquatic Toxicology, 42, 243–253.
  10. ^ Sohoni, P., Tyler, C. R., Hurd, K., Caunter, J., Hetheridge, M., Williams, T., Woods, C., & Evans, M. (2001). Reproductive effects of long-term exposure to bisphenol a in the fathead minnow (pimephales promelas). ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, 35(14), 2917–2925.
  11. ^ a b Mount, D. (1973). Chronic effect of low ph on fathead minnow survival, growth and reproduction. Water Research, 7, 987–993.
  12. ^ Orlando, E. F., Kolok , A. S., Binzcik, G. A., Gates, J. L., Horton, M. K., Lambright, C. S., Gray, L. E., & Soto, A. M. (2004). Endocrine-disrupting effects of cattle feedlot effluent on an aquatic sentinel species, the fathead minnow. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(3), 353–358.
  13. ^ a b Quinn, John R. (1990), Our Native Fishes: The Aquarium Hobbyist's Guide to Observing, Collecting, and Keeping Them, p. 76, The Countryman Press, Woodstock, VT. ISBN 0-88150-181-6.
  14. ^ "EPA fathead minnow acute toxicity database". Epa.gov. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  15. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2006). "Pimephales promelas" in FishBase. December 2006 version.
  16. ^ Werner, Robert G. (2004), Freshwater Fishes of the Northeastern United States, p. 127, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY. ISBN 0-8156-3020-4.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: NOR chromosomal data support monophyly of the four extant species of Pimephales and suggest that the genus Pimephales belongs in a monophyletic assemblage with, among others, the cyprinid genera Cyprinella and Opsopoeodus (Li and Gold 1991); Coburn and Cavender (1992) also indicated that these three genera are phylogenetically closely related.

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