Swamp Darter

Family: 
Percidae (perches) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fish)
Description: 

A slender darter that (like the slough darter) has the lateral line arched upward, separated by only 3 scale rows from the spinous dorsal fin. Gill covers not broadly connected by a membrane across throat. Unlike the slough darter, the breast, belly and nape (body surface in front of dorsal fin) fully scaled; sensory canal beneath eye incomplete and with 4 or 5 pores; snout bluntly rounded. Lateral line ending beneath spinous dorsal.

Back and upper sides brownish, with indistinct dark saddles on the back and indistinct dark blotches along the sides; lateral line stands out as a pale line; never with greenish lateral blotches as in the slough darter. Lower sides and belly are cream-colored with scattered brownish spots. Fins banded with brownish lines.

Breeding males lack bright colors, but they are darker than others and have tubercles along the rays of pelvic and anal fins.

Size: 
Adult length: to about 2¼ inches (maximum).
Habitat and conservation: 
Although most darters prefer swift, clear streams and riffles, this darter does not. Allred Lake is one of the least disturbed remnants of cypress swamp left in Missouri. The other place this species occurs in our state is a slough and abandoned stream channel in Butler County. In Arkansas, this species occurs in swamps, bayous and oxbow lakes without current over a bottom of mud and detritus, almost always in association with dense aquatic vegetation.
Foods: 
Swamp darters eat microscopic crustaceans (such as copepods and cladocerans), midge and mosquito larvae and amphipods.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Known only from southeast Missouri’s Butler County: from Allred Lake and from a slough along Cane Creek. It occurs elsewhere in the eastern United States, but until 1981 it was unknown from Missouri.
Status: 
State Endangered; a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri. Although this species lives in other states, it has limited habitat and small numbers within Missouri. It has probably never been common or widespread in our state, but draining our southeastern wetlands and converting them to agricultural and urban areas has decreased the habitat for this fish. (Many other species of plants and animals in southeast Missouri have this problem, too.)
Life cycle: 
Eggs are laid on the stems of aquatic plants. Swamp darters become sexually mature in one year, and apparently they rarely live to be more than two years old.
Human connections: 
Missourians can be proud of our state for many reasons. One bragging point we have over most of the neighboring states is the richness of our fish community, including rare types like this darter. There are more than 200 kinds of fish in our state. Kansas, for example, only has about 140.
Ecosystem connections: 
Most darters are adapted for life in the swift-flowing sections of clear, rocky streams. This species is one of the few darters that prefer still waters. A unique fish for a special habitat, it has a special ecological role, too.