SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cottus carolinae

CHARACTERISTICS: The banded sculpin can be distinguished from the mottled sculpin by a less robust body, intense dorsal saddles with dark edges, and somewhat longer snout. Dorsal saddles or bands across the back on mottled sculpins are less defined and more mottled, and the head is longer with a shorter snout. Banded sculpins lack banding in the spiny dorsal fin, but rays in the second dorsal and caudal fins have distinct light and dark banding that runs the length of the fins. The lateral line is generally complete.

ADULT SIZE: 2.8 to 5.8 in (70 to 147 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Cottus carolinae occurs in upland habitats from the Alabama River drainage north to southern Indiana and Illinois, east to western Virginia and North Carolina, and west to the Ozarks. Subspecies of the banded sculpin include C. carolinae zopherus in the Coosa River system, C. carolinae infernatus in the Tallapoosa River system below Thurlow Dam, and the Alabama and lower Tombigbee drainages below the Fall Line, and C. carolinae carolinae in the Tennessee River drainage.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Banded sculpins generally inhabit clear, cool upland streams flowing over cobble, rubble, and flat rocks, but they also occur in large flowing streams and upland rivers. Coastal Plain populations are restricted to hard-bottomed, cool streams, in upland areas. Spawning occurs from February through April. Spawning behavior is similar to that of C. bairdi in that eggs are deposited in nests guarded by males. Adult banded sculpins are known to eat salamanders, crayfishes, large aquatic insect immatures, and small benthic bottom-dwelling fishes, while juveniles have a typical riffle-dwelling diet of small insect immatures. Starnes (1977) reports night feeding, with the young consuming insect immatures such as caddisflies, mayflies, and midges, and adult eating larger prey such as stoneflies and fishes.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Gill described the banded sculpin in 1861.

Cottus means an old name for a miller’s-thumb.
Carolinae means in honor of Caroline Henry, friend of Theodore Gill, the describer of this species.

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