Etheostoma spilotum - Gilbert, 1887
Cumberland Plateau Darter
Other English Common Names: Kentucky Arrow Darter
Synonym(s): Etheostoma sagitta spilotum Gilbert, 1887
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105403
Element Code: AFCQC02661
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Perches and Darters
 
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: 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.
Concept Reference Code: B80LEE01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Etheostoma sagitta spilotum
Taxonomic Comments: This species formerly was included in E. sagitta. Page and Burr (2011) and Catalog of Fishes (as of early 2012) recognized E. spilotum as a distinct species. Page et al. (2013) did not accept this change.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 06Aug2012
Global Status Last Changed: 06Aug2012
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Occurs in a few dozen streams in the upper Kentucky River drainage in Kentucky; moderately common in some areas; habitat in many areas has been severely degraded; extirpated from 50 percent of historically occupied streams; captive propagation and reintroduction in restored streams are underway.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N3 (06Aug2012)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Kentucky (S2S3)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT: Listed threatened (05Oct2016)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast
American Fisheries Society Status: Vulnerable (01Aug2008)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 1000-20,000 square km (about 400-8000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range includes the upper Kentucky River drainage, Kentucky (Burr and Warren 1986, Page and Burr 2011). Surveys in 2007-2008 indicated that "the strongest populations exist in Clemons Fork (Troublesome Creek watershed within the University of Kentucky's Robinson Forest) and several streams in the Red Bird River watershed, mostly within the boundaries of the Daniel Boone National Forest" (Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commissioner's Newsletter, December 2008).

Historical distribution included the upper Kentucky River system in eastern Kentucky; distribution spanned portions of five subbasins: Red River (Rockbridge Fork of Swift Camp Creek), Sturgeon Creek, South Fork Kentucky River, Middle Fork Kentucky River, and North Fork Kentucky River (see USFWS 2010). This darter continues to occupy portions of the upper Kentucky River basin in eastern Kentucky, including the five sub-basins listed above (USFWS 2010).

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a fairly large number of occurrences (subpopulations) and locations. Surveys in 2007-2008 found this species in 29 streams, though not all of these are necessarily separate occurrences. Surveys completed in 2007-2010 detected this species in 34 streams and 45 sites (see USFWS 2010). In 2010, additional surveys were initiated within the historical range but in streams lacking previous records. A total of 14 new streams were surveyed across the basin, but no individuals of this darter were observed (see USFWS 2010).

Population Size: Unknown
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but not very large. This species has been characterized as occasional and locally common in the upper Kentucky River system (Burr and Warren 1986), or uncommon (Page and Burr 2011).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Few to some (4-40)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: This darter can tolerate moderate siltation, but heavy siltation and acid runoff from regional surface mining for coal probably has eliminated many populations (Page and Burr 1991, Etnier and Starnes 1993). All of the range is in coal producing areas (Etnier and Starnes 1993).

USFWS (2010) summarized threats as follows: Habitat has been severely degraded and limited by water pollution from surface coal mining and gas exploration activities; removal of riparian vegetation; stream channelization; increased siltation associated with poor mining, logging, and agricultural practices; and deforestation of watersheds. These threats are (1) widespread across the range; (2) imminent (the effects are manifested immediately and will continue); and (3) severe (stressors are of high intensity or high strength and can lead to mortality). The severity (or intensity) of these threats, especially impacts from mining and gas exploration activities, is high - these activities can permanently alter stream water quality (e.g., elevated conductivity) by contributing sediment, dissolved metals, and other solids to streams supporting populations. These water quality changes can be permanent and render these habitats unsuitable for the darter. Recent and past research has demonstrated that this darter is intolerant of these conditions, and it has been eliminated from a number of streams across its range. Current regulatory mechanisms have been inadequate to prevent these impacts. The small, remnant nature of many populations may prohibit the natural interchange of genetic material between these populations, and the small population size may reduce the reservoir of genetic diversity within populations. This can lead to inbreeding depression and reduced fitness of individuals. It is possible that some populations are below the effective population size required to maintain long-term genetic and population viability. No available information indicates that the magnitude or imminence of these threats is likely to be appreciably reduced in the foreseeable future.

Warren et al. (2000) categorized subspecies spilotum as "vulnerable" (a taxon that may become endangered or threatened by relatively minor disturbances to its habitat or that deserves careful monitoring of its distribution and abundance). Jelks et al. (20080 also categorized spilotum as "vulnerable," based on present or threatened destruction, modification, or reduction of habitat or range.

Short-term Trend Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but distribution and abundance probably are slowly declining.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: This species has undergone a substantial decline over the past few decades. A 2007-2008 survey of 50 historically occupied streams in the Kentucky River basin found Kentucky arrow darters in only 29 of those streams (Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commissioner's Newsletter, December 2008). During surveys completed in 2007-2010, the species was observed at only 34 of 68 historically occupied streams and 45 of 100 historical sites (see USFWS 2010).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Habitat is in need of further protection from detrimental effects of coal mining.

Distribution
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Global Range: (1000-20,000 square km (about 400-8000 square miles)) Range includes the upper Kentucky River drainage, Kentucky (Burr and Warren 1986, Page and Burr 2011). Surveys in 2007-2008 indicated that "the strongest populations exist in Clemons Fork (Troublesome Creek watershed within the University of Kentucky's Robinson Forest) and several streams in the Red Bird River watershed, mostly within the boundaries of the Daniel Boone National Forest" (Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commissioner's Newsletter, December 2008).

Historical distribution included the upper Kentucky River system in eastern Kentucky; distribution spanned portions of five subbasins: Red River (Rockbridge Fork of Swift Camp Creek), Sturgeon Creek, South Fork Kentucky River, Middle Fork Kentucky River, and North Fork Kentucky River (see USFWS 2010). This darter continues to occupy portions of the upper Kentucky River basin in eastern Kentucky, including the five sub-basins listed above (USFWS 2010).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States KY

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
KY Breathitt (21025), Clay (21051), Harlan (21095), Jackson (21109), Knott (21119), Lee (21129), Leslie (21131), Owsley (21189), Perry (21193), Wolfe (21237)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
05 North Fork Kentucky (05100201)+, Middle Fork Kentucky (05100202)+, South Fork Kentucky (05100203)+, Upper Kentucky (05100204)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Spawning probably peaks in early spring.
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Moderate gradient, Pool, Riffle
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes upland creeks and streams, generally in headwaters, but juveniles and sometimes adults also sometimes are found in larger streams; generally this darter occurs in slow to moderate current in cool, sluggish pools or areas above and below riffles (avoids swift currents) over bedrock, rubble, cobble, and pebble, often interspersed with sandy areas (Burr and Warren 1986, Etnier and Starnes 1993). This darter is common only in intermittently flowing first- or second-order creeks, preferring protective stones near the bank, or ledges and recesses at stream margins (Kuehne and Barbour 1983, Etnier and Starnes 1993). Spawning occurs apparently in riffles in water about 5-15 centimeters deep (Kuehne and Barbour 1983) or under or near rocks in raceways (Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: The diet includes mainly larval insects, plus copepods and crayfishes (Page 1983, Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) reported that CFI, in cooperation with Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, developed captive propagation protocols for reintroduction of the Kentucky arrow darter into streams within its native range to restore populations that have been extirpated. Reintroduction sites will be chosen where habitat conditions are suitable and there is some level of protection (e.g., within wildlife management area or national forest boundaries). Survivability and movement patterns of released fish will be assessed through mark-recapture methods and through periodic monitoring using non-invasive methods, such as visual census techniques. Accordingly, 110 juvenile Kentucky arrow darters were released to Sugar Creek, Kentucky in an effort to restore the species to a stream (near the source population) where the species had apparently been extirpated, but which exhibited currently suitable habitat.
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: 06Aug2012
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 22Sep2010
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
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  • BRANSON, B.A. AND D.L. BATCH. 1984. FISHES OF THE MIDDLE FORK OF THE KY. RIVER. SOUTHEASTERN FISHES COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS 4(3):4-9.

  • Burr, B. M., and M. L. Warren, Jr. 1986a. Distributional atlas of Kentucky fishes. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, Scientific and Technical Series No. 4, Frankfort, Kentucky. 398 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.

  • 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.

  • U.S. Fish and Widlife Service (USFWS). 2010. Etheostoma sagitta ssp. spilotum. Species assessment and listing priority assignment form.

  • 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.

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