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©2003 Graphic by William Singleton

Updated: March 17, 2004

Kentucky

Kentucky is home to a total of 2894 identified species of plants and animals, including 47 species listed as threatened and endangered.  This ranks Kentucky 22nd of the fifty states for number of species and 13th for number of listed species.

Kentucky has 13 species in the Candidate Project.

Cumberland Johnny darter (Etheostoma susanae)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1985, a total of 19years.

Range: KY

The Cumberland johnny darter is a fish endemic to the upper Cumberland River system, above Cumberland Falls, in KY and TN. Though the Cumberland johnny darter was recorded as abundant in 1883, it is now considered to be rare and extremely restricted in range. The remaining 16 occurrences are thought to form six population clusters that are isolated from one another by poor quality habitat, impoundments, or natural barriers. Siltation, primarily from coal mining activities, but also from forestry and agricultural activities, road construction, and urban development, appears to be the major factor contributing to the decline of the Cumberland johnny darter throughout its range. It has been on the candidate list since 1985, waiting for federal protection under the ESA.

Holsinger's cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus holsingeri)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1989, a total of 15years.

Range: KY

This small, eyeless, reddish-brown insect is a cave dweller that feeds upon small cave invertebrates. The species lives only in Icebox Cave, Bell County, Kentucky. Despite searches of caves in the vicinity of Icebox Cave, no more than two specimens of P. frigidus have been found since 1981. Icebox Cave is within the city limits of Pineville and is frequently visited, heavily vandalized, and contains a lot of trash. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, closure or alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. The Kentucky Natural Heritage Program ranks the Icebox Cave beetle as Critically Imperiled, yet it receives no state or federal protection. The Icebox Cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1989.

Slabside pearlymussel (Lexingtonia dolabelloides)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1984, a total of 20years.

Range: AL, TN, VA, KY

The slabside pearlymussel occurs in Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia. Currently, it is limited to nine streams in the Tennessee River system, having been eliminated from the river's main stem, as well as the entire Cumberland River system. It has been extirpated from about three-fifths of the total number of streams from which it was historically known. The decline in freshwater mussel populations can be directly attributed to impoundments and diversions for water storage, agricultural irrigation, and flood control. Dams, in particular, disrupt stream ecosystems by altering nutrient levels and water flow, and increasing scouring and silt loads, which can kill mussels. The slabside pearlymussel has been on the candidate list since 1984.

Icebox Cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus frigidus)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

This small, eyeless, reddish-brown insect is a cave dweller that feeds upon small cave invertebrates. The species lives only in Adams Cave in Madison County, Kentucky. Adams Cave has now become one of the most outrageously vandalized caves in the eastern United States, with large amounts of trash, batteries, discarded clothing and other debris throughout the cave. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, closure or alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. The Kentucky Natural Heritage Program ranks the Lesser Adams cave beetle as critically imperiled, yet it receives no state or federal protection. The Lesser Adams cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Lesser Adams cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus cataryctos)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

This small, eyeless, reddish-brown insect is a cave dweller that feeds upon small cave invertebrates. The species lives only in one cave about a mile from Clifton cave in Woodford County, Kentucky. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, and closure or alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. The entrance to the species' historical habitat, Clifton cave, was enclosed due to road construction. The Kentucky Natural Heritage Program ranks the Clifton cave beetle as critically imperiled, yet it receives no state or federal protection. The Clifton cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Clifton cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus caecus)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

Cave beetles in the genus Pseudanophthalmus are fairly small, eyeless, reddish-brown insects. These include the: Beaver Cave, Clifton, Greater Adams, Lesser Adams, Tatum, Louisville, Icebox Cave, Inquirer, and Surprising Cave beetles. All are predatory and cave-dependent (troglobites), with an extremely limited distribution, occurring in just a single separate cave in Kentucky. Their populations have been greatly reduced, possibly to extinction, from impacts such as cave vandalism, water and chemical pollution, and trash accumulation. All are waiting for protection under the ESA, and currently receive no federal protection. The Icebox Cave beetle and Inquirer Cave beetle have been on the candidate list since 1989; the Clifton Cave beetle, Lesser Adams Cave beetle, Beaver Cave beetle, Greater Adams Cave beetle, Tatum Cave beetle, and Louisville Cave beetle have been on the candidate list since 1994; and the Surprising cave beetle has been a candidate since 2001.

Tatum cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus parvus)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

The Tatum cave beetle is a small, eyeless, reddish-brown cave-dwelling insect that feeds upon small cave invertebrates. The species lives only in Tatum Cave, Marion County, Kentucky. Despite searches in 1980 and in 1996, the species has not been observed in Tatum Cave since 1965, and there are no other known caves in the vicinity of Tatum Cave that could support the species. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, closure or alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. The Kentucky Natural Heritage Program ranks the species as Critically Imperiled, yet it receives no state or federal protection. The Tatum cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Greater Adam's cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus pholeter)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

Greater Adam's cave beetles are small, eyeless, reddish-brown insects that feed upon small cave invertebrates, such as spiders, mites, and millipedes. Known from just a single limestone cave, the unique and fragile environment supports a variety of species that have evolved to survive and reproduce under the demanding conditions found in cave ecosystems. Adams Cave in Madison County, Kentucky, has now become one of the most outrageously vandalized caves in the eastern United States, where large amounts of trash, batteries, discarded clothing and other debris is found throughout the cave. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, closure or alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. Considered Critically Imperiled by the Kentucky Natural Heritage Program, yet receiving no federal protection, the species has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Louisville cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus troglodytes)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1994, a total of 10years.

Range: KY

The Louisville Cave beetle is a small, eyeless, reddish-brown cave-dwelling insect that feeds upon small cave invertebrates. The species lives only in Eleven Jones Cave near Louisville, Kentucky and no longer exists in Oxmoor Cave, where the entrance was bulldozed shut and a residential subdivision built over the area in 1990. The species is vulnerable to events both outside and inside the cave, such as toxic chemical spills, discharges of large amounts of polluted water, closure and alteration of entrances, which can have serious adverse impacts on these beetles and result in their extinction. The Kentucky Natural Heritage Program ranks the Louisville Cave beetle as Imperiled, yet it receives no state or federal protection. The Louisville Cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Inquirer cave beetle (Pseudanophthalmus inquisitor)

This species has been waiting for protection since 2001, a total of 3years.

Range: KY

The Surprising cave beetle is a small, eyeless, reddish-brown insect that feeds upon small cave invertebrates, such as spiders, mites, and millipedes. The species can be found in Mammoth Cave, White Cave, and Great Onyx Cave, in Mammoth Cave National Park (MCNP), Edmonston County, Kentucky. The basis of the food chain in Mammoth Cave that once supported P. inexpectatus was discarded wood. About 40 years ago, this wooden debris was removed from the cave, and the species has not been observed at the site since then. There has been a gradual decrease in the number of Surprising cave beetles in White Cave, as the quantity of wood available has decreased. The Surprising cave beetle has been a candidate for ESA protection since 1994.

Fluted kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus subtentum)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1999, a total of 5years.

Range: AL, KY, TN, VA

The fluted kidneyshell is a relatively large mussel that reaches about 13 centimeters (5 inches) in length. The shape of the shell is oval elongate, hosting a series of flutings or corrugations that give this mussel its name. The fluted kidneyshell is found in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and is currently limited to nine streams in the Cumberland River system and seven streams in the Tennessee River. Population size data gathered during the past ten years indicates that the fluted kidneyshell is rare in all stream systems and particularly imperiled in Kentucky. It requires flowing, well-oxygenated waters to thrive, and the primary causes of decline are impoundments, stream channel alterations, water pollution, and sedimentation. It has been a candidate for listing since 1999.

Short's bladder-pod (Lesquerella globosa)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1975, a total of 29years.

Range: IN, KY, TN

Short’s bladderpod has yellow flowers that appear March through May and grows on steep, rocky wooded slopes and talus areas, as well as along cliff tops, bases, and ledges. The species usually is found adjacent to rivers or streams, in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, in population sizes from 2 to about 1,500 individuals; most contain fewer than 50 plants. All remaining populations are small and vulnerable to extirpation. Road construction and road maintenance have played a significant role in the decline of the plant. Water impoundments and artificial water level manipulation threatened and, in a case along the Cumberland River, have destroyed habitat sites. Additionally, invasive plants, trash dumping, cattle and goat grazing threaten the species. It was designated as a candidate for ESA protection in 1975.

White fringless orchid (Platanthera integrilabia)

This species has been waiting for protection since 1975, a total of 29years.

Range: AL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA

The white fringeless orchid is a perennial herb with a light green stem and white flowers borne in a loose cluster at the end of the stem. The plant flowers from late July through September, and grows in wet boggy areas at stream heads and on seepage slopes. The species currently is found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee, but has been extirpated from Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia. The 53 sites supporting the species are threatened by road, residential, and commercial construction, soil and site hydrology-altering projects that reduce site suitability for the species, pesticide spraying near power lines, all-terrain vehicles, timber management, commercial collection, fungal pathogens, deer browsing, wild boar rooting, and invasive non-native plants. It was placed on the ESA candidate list in 1980.