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Bayou darter

The Bayou darter (Etheostoma rubrum) is endemic to Bayou Pierre and the lower reaches of the tributaries of White Oak Creek, Foster Creek, and Turkey Creek in Mississippi [1]. It is a habitat specialist, requiring swift, shallow riffles or runs over coarse gravel and pebble [2]. The extent and quality of habitat appear to be related to headcutting. Upstream of the headcutting, very little stream meandering occurs and there is generally a well-developed forest canopy. Downstream of the headcutting, stream meandering begins, riffles become numerous and the streambank widens considerably. The best darter habitat occurs downstream of headcuts.

Darter habitat is potentially threatened by gravel mining, clearing of riparian vegetation with subsequent cultivation to the riverbank, road and bridge construction and transmission line construction and maintenance. Neither historic nor recent population estimates are available for the Bayou darter, but a range expansion has been documented over the past thirty years. From 1963 through 1975, the Bayou darter reached its upstream limit in Bayou Pierre 7.5 km downstream of the Smyrna Bridge [2]. In 1977 and 1978, it was present but uncommon at the Smyrna Bridge and only abundant at the confluence of White Oak Creek and Bayou Piere [2]. In 1993-1994 it was common 2-3 km upstream of Smyrna Bridge and in 1992, a single fish was collected 23 km upstream [2]. While the dater's upstream range increased, it continued to occupy its downstream-most location (at or near the confluence of Bayou Pierre and Little Bayou Pierre) [3, 4]. The population density remained stable between 1986 and 1988 [2] and between 1986 and 1994 [2].

[1] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1990. Bayou Darter Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, Mississippi. 25pp.
[2] Ross, S. T., M. T. O'Connell, D. M. Patrick, C. A. Latorre, W. T. Slack, J. G. Knight, and S. D. Wilkins. 2001. Stream erosion and densities of Etheostoma rubrum (Percidae) and associated riffle-inhabiting fishes: biotic stability in a variable habitat. Copeia 2001:916-927
[3] Slack, W.T, S.T. Ross and J.A. Ewing, III. 2004. Ecology and population structure of the bayou darter, Etheostoma rubrum: disjunct riffle habitats and downstream transport of larvae. Environmental Biology of Fishes 71:151–164
[4] Stephen Ross, Eco-Consulting Services, personal communication, 8/15/2005.

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