Duskytail Darter

Common Name - Duskytail Darter

Category - Fish

ScientificName - Etheostoma percnurum

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Osteichthyes

Order - Perciformes

Family - Percidae

Genus - Etheostoma

Species - percnurum


Description - Drab, dark head; brown body; 10 -15 dark brown vertical bars on sides; white belly; as with all darters, two dorsal fins, the first with spiny rays, the second with soft rays

Size - 2.25 - 2.5 in. (5.715 - 6.35 cm) long

Ecological Role - The duskytail darter, like other darters, is a bottom dweller. It is also an insectivore, feeding primarily on aquatic insects.

Fun Facts - As with most darters, the duskytail darter spends most of its time on the stream bottom and will dart to cover if disturbed. This species of darter was not recognized in Kentucky until 1995 when two scientists, Eisenhower and Burr, collected it. Some of the few known populations have already disappeared.

Food - Aquatic insect larvae, small crustaceans





Habitat - Large clear streams and moderate sized rivers; prefers pools one to four feet in depth located at the head of riffles with rocky and sandy river bottoms; areas with little or no siltation

Kentucky Distribution - Big South Fork of the Cumberland River within the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, the greatest abundance near the mouth of Troublesome Creek

Life Cycle

Life Span - 2 years

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - Males develop dark head, white anal fin, and golden knobs on tips of dorsal fin during the spring breeding season. These fleshy knobs on the dorsal spines keep the males from puncturing the eggs while guarding them. The duskytail also migrates from pools to a suitable spawning habitat in shallower water. The male must find suitable nest rocks for the female to lay her eggs under.

Spawning - April - June; male chooses a territory under a rock; male chases female into the nest cavity; female deposits eggs on underside of rock; more than one female may lay eggs under the rock, depending upon space; male guards eggs until they hatch; can reproduce at 1 year

Status - Endangered (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, April 27, 1993). Localized populations scattered in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina indicate that this species was once more abundant.




What We Can Do - Protect streams where the duskytail darter might live. Siltation and pollution have limited the amount of suitable habitat for this darter.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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