SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina brevicauda

CHARACTERISTICS: One of the smallest Percina species in Alabama, the coal darter has a cylindrical body, a blunt snout, and an inferior mouth. A dusky vertical bar is present below the eye and the gill cover has a distinct spot near the top. About eight to 12 somewhat oval blotches extend along the side from the gill covers to the caudal fin. Pigmentation on the back is variously developed into unorganized saddles. Scales on the body are small and outlined with pigment above the lateral line, giving then a diamond-shaped appearance. The pelvic, anal, and caudal fins are dusky. The spiny dorsal fin has a dusky marginal band followed by a light band, then a wide dusky band near the base. Membranes in the soft dorsal fin are darkly pigmented in the center, becoming dusky near the margin. Nuptial males are heavily pigmented on the ventral surface of the head and body. See Suttkus, Thompson, and Bart (1994) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 1.2 to 1.8 in (30 to 45 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Percina brevicauda is endemic to the Mobile basin in Alabama. It is uncommon in Blackburn and Locust forks of the Black Warrior River system and in Hatchet Creek and limited areas of the Coosa River system. The coal darter is widespread in the main channel of the Cahaba River ranging from near Leeds to below the Fall Line near Centreville.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Percina brevicauda prefers shoal area of flowing rivers and larger streams characterized by gravel, cobble, and sand substrates and a swift current. We have collected reproductively mature males and females in the Cahaba River in May and June. Little else is known about the species’ life history; but preferred prey likely include insect larvae, microcrustaceans, and aquatic worms.

REMARKS: The type locality for P. brevicauda is the Cahaba River at County Highway 52 near Helena, Shelby County, Alabama.

Percina is a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.

Brevicauda means descriptive of the short caudal fin; the common name, coal darter, is in reference to the dark pigmentation of nuptial males.

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