SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma cinereum

CHARACTERISTICS: The ashy darter is considered one of the more primitive species in the genus Etheostoma (Page, 1983). Individuals are characterized by a long snout, papillose lips, separate gill membranes, and a very long soft dorsal fin in breeding males. The sides have an obvious mid-lateral row of 12 small, dark gray-brown elongated blotches. Four to six longitudinal rows of small brown spots extend along the upper side of the body and back from the head to the caudal fin. General body color is dusky yellow. The spiny dorsal fin of breeding males has a margin with red markings throughout and a bright blue-green spot in the first membrane; the soft dorsal fin has bright red membranes. The chin, lower gill covers, breast, belly, and lower caudal peduncle are bright blue, as are the anal and pelvic fins. See Storer (1845b) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 2.4 to 3.9 in (60 to 100 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Although E. cinereum has not been collected in Alabama since 1845, a 1981 Elk River collection near Fayetteville, Tennessee, offers hope that the species may still inhabit state waters near the Alabama-Tennessee state line.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Life history information about the ashy darter is from Shepard and Burr (1984). The ashy darter occurs in clear pools and eddies of medium to large upland streams characterized by a sluggish flow and silt-free sand or gravel substrates. It is usually found in low numbers and is associated with cover such as snags, boulders, or stands of water willow. This is a long-lived species, with a maximum life span of four years. Generally, only the large males and females spawn, from January to April, peaking in March. Small individuals feed on midge larvae, while large individuals feed on burrowing mayflies and worms. Etnier and Starnes (1993) report a considerable amount of detritus and sand grains in stomachs of fishes they examined.

REMARKS: Storer (1845) gave the type locality of the ashy darter as “near Florence.”

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Storer described the ashy darter in 1845.

Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.

Cinereum means ashy, referring to the ashy gray color of the diagonal bands along the flanks.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.