Etheostoma cinereum - Storer, 1845
Ashy Darter
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Etheostoma cinereum Storer, 1845 (TSN 168381)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102328
Element Code: AFCQC02130
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Perches and Darters
Image 231

© Noel Burkhead & Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries (Fishes of Virginia)

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Actinopterygii Perciformes Percidae Etheostoma
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B91ROB01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Etheostoma cinereum
Taxonomic Comments: The only member of the subgenus Allohistium; relationships with other darters is poorly known; generally regarded as a very primitive member of the genus (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 08Dec2011
Global Status Last Changed: 04Feb2000
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Known from 15 river reaches in the Cumberland and Tennessee river drainages, mainly in Tennessee and Kentucky; recent collections are largely restricted to seven river reaches; impoundments have eliminated and fragmented habitat; potential threats include pollution and siltation.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N3 (05Dec1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SX), Georgia (SH), Kentucky (S3), Tennessee (S2S3), Virginia (S1)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable
American Fisheries Society Status: Endangered/Vulnerable (01Aug2008)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: This species has a widespread but spotty distribution in the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Duck river systems of Kentucky and Tennessee (Etnier and Starnes 1993); it has been extirpated in Georgia (known from one specimen collected several decades ago) and Alabama (known from a pre-1845 collection; Boschung and Mayden 2004), and it is rare in Virginia, where it is known from one specimen collected in 1964 (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994) and confirmed as still present in the Clinch River in 2004 (Pat Rakes, Conservation Fisheries, Inc.). In recent years, ashy darters have been found in Big South Fork and Rockcastle River of the Cumberland River system in Kentucky and Tennessee and Buffalo, Little, Emory, Elk, and Clinch rivers of the Tennessee River system. The most substantial populations exist in Big South Fork (Cumberland River system) and Buffalo River of the (Tennessee River system) (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Populations in the Emory and Elk rivers are represented by few recent specimens; very small populations may exist there (See Powers et al. 2004). Various populations probably were extirpated before they could be discovered (Etnier and Starnes 1993).

Area of Occupancy: 101-2,000 1-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy has not been reported, but it appears to be less than 2,000 square kilometers and possibly less than 500 sq km. Shepard and Burr (1984) noted that this species exhibits an extremely patchy distribution and is not continuously distributed throughout its range.

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is known from 15 river reaches; recent collections are largely restricted to seven river reaches (may still exist in a couple additional reaches) (Powers et al. 2004).

Population Size: 2500 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably is at least a few thousand. This darter is apparently rare or uncommon over most of its range, but fairly common locally in a few streams (Page and Burr 2011). It is difficult to collect by routine seining methods (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994), so it may be more widespread/abundant than available information indicates (Etnier and Starnes 1993). In the Little River population, Etnier and Starnes (1993) estimated (mark-recapture via seine) that probably about 300 individuals occurred in one patch of habitat between two riffles. However, snorkeling is the best way to estimate abundance.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The decline of this species is due primarily to elimination and fragmentation of habitat by inundation (reservoir construction) and degradation of habitat by nonpoint-source siltation resulting from land clearing and agricultural development (Boschung and Mayden 2004, Powers et al. 2004).

Powers et al. (2004) cited genetic distinctness and recommended that each major unit of the distribution (Duck River, Upper Tennessee River, and Cumberland River) be considered imperiled. Jelks et al. (2008) categorized four segments of this species separately: Duck River populations = vulnerable, lower Tennessee River populations = endangered, upper Cumberland populations = vulnerable, and upper Tennessee River populations = endangered.

Urbanization is a threat to habitat in the lower reaches of the Little River (Powers et al. 2004). Potential threats include pollution, siltation, and inundation of habitat.

Short-term Trend: Unknown
Short-term Trend Comments: The Little River, Blount County, Tennessee, formerly had a substantial population (one of the healthiest; Etnier and Starnes 1993), but the species recently has become very rare there (Powers and Mayden 2002, Powers et al. 2004).

Populations in the upper Tennessee River are at risk of disappearing (Powers et al. 2004).

Recent collections of ashy darter from New River, Little South Fork Cumberland River, Tennessee, suggest a possible rebound in distribution, although observable population densities continue to be low (1-2 individuals/collection (R. Brian Evans, unpublished MS thesis).

Warren et al. (2000) categorized this species as "threatened."

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: This species has been extirpated or nearly extirpated from about half of the tributary systems in which it is known to have been extant during the past few decades (Shepard and Burr 1984).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Additional surveys may be needed in Tennessee: Emory River, Upper Duck River, Roaring River, Obey River system.

Protection Needs: All populations deserve some sort of protection.

Distribution
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Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) This species has a widespread but spotty distribution in the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Duck river systems of Kentucky and Tennessee (Etnier and Starnes 1993); it has been extirpated in Georgia (known from one specimen collected several decades ago) and Alabama (known from a pre-1845 collection; Boschung and Mayden 2004), and it is rare in Virginia, where it is known from one specimen collected in 1964 (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994) and confirmed as still present in the Clinch River in 2004 (Pat Rakes, Conservation Fisheries, Inc.). In recent years, ashy darters have been found in Big South Fork and Rockcastle River of the Cumberland River system in Kentucky and Tennessee and Buffalo, Little, Emory, Elk, and Clinch rivers of the Tennessee River system. The most substantial populations exist in Big South Fork (Cumberland River system) and Buffalo River of the (Tennessee River system) (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Populations in the Emory and Elk rivers are represented by few recent specimens; very small populations may exist there (See Powers et al. 2004). Various populations probably were extirpated before they could be discovered (Etnier and Starnes 1993).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ALextirpated, GA, KY, TN, VA

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
GA Catoosa (13047)*
KY Jackson (21109), Laurel (21125), Logan (21141)*, McCreary (21147), Pulaski (21199), Rockcastle (21203), Wayne (21231)*
TN Anderson (47001), Bedford (47003), Blount (47009), Campbell (47013), Clay (47027)*, Coffee (47031)*, Hancock (47067), Jackson (47087)*, Lawrence (47099), Lewis (47101), Lincoln (47103), Marshall (47117), Montgomery (47125)*, Morgan (47129), Overton (47133)*, Pickett (47137)*, Robertson (47147)*, Rutherford (47149)*, Scott (47151), Wayne (47181)
VA Russell (51167), Scott (51169), Wise (51195)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
05 Rockcastle (05130102)+, Upper Cumberland-Lake Cumberland (05130103)+, South Fork Cumberland (05130104)+, Obey (05130105)+, Upper Cumberland-Cordell Hull (05130106)+, Stones (05130203)+*, Red (05130206)+
06 Watts Bar Lake (06010201)+, Upper Clinch (06010205)+, Emory (06010208)+, Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga (06020001)+*, Upper Elk (06030003)+, Pickwick Lake (06030005)*, Upper Duck (06040002)+, Buffalo (06040004)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed (based on multiple information sources) Help
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A fish (darter) that reaches a maximum length of 12 cm.
Reproduction Comments: Spawning may extend from late January to early April, with a peak in March (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Age range of breeding females is 1-3 years (Bart and Page 1992). Maximum life span is 3-4 years (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): MEDIUM RIVER, Pool
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes typically clear, cool and warm, moderate gradient, small to medium upland rivers; typically this species is caught in shallow water (0.5-2 meters) with little current, over clean gravel and rubble (sometimes with a slight silt overlay) in sluggish pool margins just above or below riffles, often under or near slab-rock boulders, particularly in or near stands of water willow (Justicia) or sometimes near cut banks (Lee et al. 1980, Etnier and Starnes 1993, Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). Eggs are laid possibly on the sides of boulders or water willow stems (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Shepard and Burr (1984) described ideal habitats as clear pools with eddies over silt-free sand or gravel substrates with adequate cover, boulders, snags, or water willow (Justicia sp.) beds.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Diet is dominated by midge larvae, with the burrowing mayfly EPHEMERA a significant item in the Cumberland drainage (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Length: 8 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Powers et al. (2004) recommended the following conservation measures: (1) populations from the Cumberland, Duck, and upper Tennessee rivers should be considered different management units (MUs), and highest priority should be given to efforts to preserve each of them; (2) each MU should be considered imperiled, and stream surveys should be conducted in extant and historical localities to assess the relative size of each population of E. cinereum throughout its range; (3) efforts should be made to reduce the impact of urbanization in the lower reaches of the Little River; (4) if propagation and/or reintroduction efforts are made, brood stock for efforts should come from within the major drainage units, and as many individuals as possible should be used in breeding to perpetuate genetic diversity of each MU; any offspring produced by propagation efforts should be released in areas within the historical range but not currently inhabited by E. cinereum to avoid decreasing genetically effective population size of current populations; and (5) morphological variation within E. cinereum should be reevaluated and interpreted under more contemporary species concepts.
Management Requirements: Phylogenetic analysis of cytochrome b sequence from individuals (n = 14) representing each of the extant populations indicated genetic differentiation among populations inhabiting the Cumberland, Duck, and upper Tennessee River drainages; these analyses are concordant with previously noted patterns of morphological variation and minimally support three different management units (MU) currently recognized as E. cinereum (Powers et al. 2004).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Darters

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs and larvae) in appropriate habitat.
Separation Barriers: Dam lacking a suitable fishway; high waterfall; upland habitat.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Data on dispersal and other movements generally are not available. Though larvae of some species may drift with the current, Turner (2001) found no significant relationship between a larval transport index and gene flow among several different darter species.

Separation distances are arbitrary but reflect the likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than several kilometers of aquatic habitat would represent truly independent populations.

Because of the difficulty in defining suitable versus unsuitable habitat, especially with respect to dispersal, and to simplify the delineation of occurrences, a single separation distance is used regardless of habitat quality.

Occupied locations that are separated by a gap of 10 km or more of any aquatic habitat that is not known to be occupied generally represent different occurrences. However, it is important to evaluate seasonal changes in habitat to ensure that an occupied habitat occurrence for a particular population does not artificially separate spawning areas and nonspawning areas as different occurrences simply because there have been no collections/observations in an intervening area that may exceed the separation distance.

Date: 21Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 08Dec2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G., J. M. Clayton, F. Dirrigl, Jr., and P. W. Shute
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 20Nov2007
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Bart, H. L., Jr., and L. M. Page. 1992. The influence of size and phylogeny on life history variation in North American percids. Pages 553-572 in R.L. Mayden, editor. Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. xxvi + 969 pp.

  • Etnier, D. A., and W. C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee. xiv + 681 pp.

  • Jelks, H. L., S. J. Walsh, N. M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Díaz-Pardo, D. A. Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N. E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J. S. Nelson, S. P. Platania, B. A. Porter, C. B. Renaud, J. Jacobo 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.

  • Kuehne, R. A., and R. W. Barbour. 1983. The American Darters. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. 177 pp.

  • Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp.

  • Nelson, J. S., E. J. Crossman, H. Espinosa-Perez, L. T. Findley, C. R. Gilbert, R. N. Lea, and J. D. Williams. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 29, Bethesda, Maryland. 386 pp.

  • Page, L. M. 1983a. Handbook of Darters. T. F. H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey. 271 pp.

  • Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

  • Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. xix + 663 pp.

  • Powers, S. L., R. L. Mayden, and D. A. Etnier. 2004. Conservation genetics of the ashy darter, Etheostoma cinereum (Percidae: subgenus Allohistium), in the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers of the southeastern United States. Copeia 2004:632-637.

  • Powers, S. L., and R. L. Mayden. 2002. Threatened fishes of the world: Etheostoma cinereum Storer, 1845 (Percidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 63:264.

  • Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.

  • Rohde, F. C., R. G. Arndt, D. G. Lindquist and J. F. Parnell. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 222 pp.

  • Shepard, T. E. and B. M. Burr. 1984. Systematics, status, and life history aspects of the ashy darter, Etheostoma cinereum (Pisces: Percidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97:693-715.

  • Warren, M. L., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. 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(10):7-31.

References for Watershed Distribution Map
  • Boschung, H. T., and R. L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 960 pp.

  • Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland. xxiii + 1079 pp.

  • Mettee, M. F., P. E. O'Neil, and J. M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Birmingham, Alabama. 820 pp.

  • State Natural Heritage Data Centers. 1996a. Aggregated element occurrence data from all U.S. state natural heritage programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, Navajo Nation and the District of Columbia. Science Division, The Nature Conservancy.

  • State Natural Heritage Data Centers. 1996c. Aggregated element occurrence data from all U.S. state natural heritage programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, Navajo Nation and the District of Columbia: Export of freshwater fish and mussel records from the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1997. Science Division, The Nature Conservancy.

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