The Arkansas darter is a three-inch cousin of the walleye and yellow perch. Its back has many fine, black specks and a dark, vertical wedge-shaped spot beneath its eye. Its body has 12 to 14 dusky stripes along the sides. In April and May, breeding males are bright orange underneath.
Range: The species is found in the Upper Arkansas, Fountain Creek, Horse Creek, Upper Arkansas at John Martin, Big Sandy Creek, Rush Creek, Black Squirrel Creek and Chico Creek drainages. Their distribution has not changed significantly based on comparisons of historic data, particularly since 1979. Darter populations in Colorado persist in large, deep pools during late summer low-water periods when streams may become intermittent.
Habitat: The Arkansas darter prefers shallow, clear, sandy streams with spring-fed pools an abundant rooted aquatic vegetation.
Diet: Arkansas darters feed on a variety of aquatic insects and some plant material, including small seeds.
Reproduction: Arkansas darters may spawn throughout spring and summer. Spawning takes place in shallow water over a bottom of coarse gravel. Darters are sexually mature in one year or less. Eggs are usually deposited in open areas, on organic material that covers a sandy streambed.
Endangered status: The Arkansas darter is listed as threatened in Colorado and is a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Darters are very vulnerable to the presence of predators such as northern pike. Protection of riparian buffer corridors from overgrazing by livestock, protection of springs, pool refugia and groundwater levels from depletion; removal of introduced fish predators and elimination of water pollution along occupied streams would greatly enhance the Arkansas darters' habitat, abundance and distribution.
For more information, see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.