SCIENTIFIC NAME: Crystallaria asprella

CHARACTERISTICS: Crystallaria asprella has a long, slender body with enlarged pectoral fins and a moderately long head and snout. Four to five dark saddles extend forward from the back to below the lateral line. The first saddle is entirely in front of the spiny dorsal fin. A small, narrow frenum is present on the upper lip. The body is fully scaled except on the venter and breast. Except for the dark saddles, live individuals are translucent. Simons (1991) places this species in the genus Crystallaria and the remaining Ammocrypta species in the genus Etheostoma, subgenus Ammocrypta. We elect to maintain Ammocrypta at the generic level, pending the results of further taxonomic studies of the group. See Jordan (1878b) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 2 to 5.1 in (50 to 130 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Crystal daters previously occurred throughout the upper Mississippi and Ohio river basins south to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, but today’s isolated populations stem from the fact that many of their habitats have been drastically altered. The species is possibly extirpated from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Completion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway greatly reduced or eliminated many populations in the western Mobile basin. Most Mobile basin records are from near or below the Fall Line. A small, isolated population inhabits the lower Conecuh River system.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: This species prefers sand and gravel bars in large flowing rivers and streams of the Coastal Plain. It has the interesting habit of burying itself in the sand, leaving only its eyes above exposed; this is presumably to minimize body movement, thus conserving energy, and to maintain its position in the swift waters of its preferred habitats. Most individuals remain in deep water during the day and move to shallow sand and gravel bars at dusk to search for aquatic insects. Spawning begins in late February (Simon et al., 1992) or early March through late April.

REMARKS: The crystal darter is protected by rules and regulations of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Jordan described the crystal darter in 1878.

Crystallaria means crystallike, referring to the clear, translucent body.

Asprella means diminutive form of aspro, meaning rough, in reference to scales.


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

Crystal darter