SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma jessiae

CHARACTERISTICS: Howell (1968) and Etnier and Starnes (1993) define the Etheostoma stigmaeum complex, of which the blueside darter is a member, as a series of highly variable subspecies. Along with Smith-Vaniz (1968), Page and Burr (1991), Boschung (1992), and Layman (1994), we consider these two taxa to be distinct species. The blueside darter, Etheostoma jessiae, and the speckled darter, E. stigmaeum, are different morphologically, as well as in coloration of breeding males. Specifically, individuals of the blueside darter have a moderately long and more pointed snout, generally with a narrow frenum on the upper lip (no frenum on E. stigmaeum), a larger mouth (compared to a smaller mouth), and a deep blue body (compared to turquoise-blue). Male blueside darters have nine or 10 V- or W-shaped blotches or bars along their sides, which appear as solid blue square blotches confined to the lateral area during the spawning season. The back has six hourglass-shaped saddles and is diffusely speckled. The spiny dorsal fin has a blue band and a wide orange band immediately dorsal to it. The soft dorsa, caudal, and pectoral fins are dusky, with distinct orange stippling in all rays. Iridescent blue is restricted to the preopercle and lower opercles. In contrast, the fins of breeding males of E. stigmaeum lack orange stippling, the turquoise-blue bands on their sides are elongate and extend from the back to the venter, and most of the head region is colored. See Jordan (1878a) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 1.4 to 2.4 in (35 to 60 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Etheostoma jessiae is commonly found throughout the Tennessee River drainage in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia. It is widespread, though not necessarily abundant, in the Paint Rock River system in Alabama. It is also known from scattered collections in Bear, Barren Fork, Second, and Shoal creek systems, all of which are tributaries of theTennessee River.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Etheostoma jessiae inhabits gravel and rubble riffles and shoals, as well as sand and gravel-bottomed pools and slow-moving areas of streams below riffles. We have collected gravid females and colorful males in early April. Spawning occurs in clean sand and gravel shoals from March to early May.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Jordan and Brayton described the blueside darter in 1878.

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

Jessiae is in honor of Jessie Brayton, wife of the junior author of the species.

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