SCIENTIFIC NAME:  Etheostoma zonistium

CHARACTERISTICS: The bandfin darter has an olive to tan back and a cream to white venter. The sides have nine or so lateral dark blotches extending to just above and below the lateral line. The lower head, throat, and breast of breeding males are light blue-green. Males acquire an intense orange to red-orange wash throughout the venter extending dorsally to the lateral band. The anal and pelvic fins are turquoise with a clear base. The alternating dark and light spiny dorsal fin coloration is characteristic for the species with the following order of colors beginning at the margin: dark blue, light, brick red, light, black, light, and a faint dark basal band. The soft dorsal fin has a distinct red medial band on the posterior two-thirds of the fin. The bandfin darter is distinguishable from the Coosa darter, Etheostoma coosae, by having five rather than six rays in the gill membranes, ovoid lateral blotches confined to the lateral area, and orange to yellow on the lower sides and venter.

ADULT SIZE: 1.4 to 2.2 in (35 to 56 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Etheostoma zonistium was described from populations in the Bear Creek system, small tributaries to the Tennessee River in extreme western Lauderdale County, and in Hubbard Creek, a tributary of the Sipsey Fork and Upper Black Warrior River system. Populations in Hubbard Creek and the upper reaches of Bear Creek lack the distinctive red ocellus in the front of the spiny dorsal fin; they have been tentatively recognized as a new species awaiting description.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Bandfin darters usually inhabit the margins of small streams having either fine gravel substrates and little flow or a moderate flow over slab and bedrock substrates (Carney and Burr, 1989). These authors report peak spawning activity from March through May. Single eggs are deposited on cobble, rubble, submerged logs, and snags. Bailey and Etnier (1988) indicated spawning in April and May and suggest a longevity of three years. Aquatic insect larvae and microcrustaceans comprise the diet.

ORGINAL DESCRIPTION: Bailey and Etnier described the bandfin darter in 1988.

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

Zonistium means banded fin, referring to the banding pattern in the spiny dorsal fin of male.


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