SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina sciera

CHARACTERISTICS: The dusky darter is distinguished by moderately joined gill membranes, three vertical spots at the base of the caudal fin, which may be fused, and oval lateral blotches. The cheeks, opercles, and nape are usually scaled. Bright nuptial color does not develop in this species, although individuals are frequently marked and mottled with dark pigment. Males develop a distinctive row of mid-ventral scales. The body is olive, with around eight dark saddles on the back and eight to 12 dusky oval blotches on the sides. Banding is usually weak or absent in the fins; breeding males occasionally develop a yellow or orange band near the margin of the spiny dorsal fin.

ADULT SIZE: 1.6 to 4.3 in (40 to 110 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: The range of the dusky darter extends through the Mississippi basin south to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mobile basin west to the Guadalupe River drainage in Texas. Most collections from the upper Tombigbee River proper date from before construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway; current population status is unknown. We have recently collected specimens at several locations in the Tennessee River drainage and lower Alabama River system.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Percina sciera inhabits shoal areas of large streams and rivers with gravel and small rubble substrates and a moderate to swift current. Suttkus and Ramsey (1967) report that when P. sciera and the blackbanded darter, P. nigrofasciata, occur together, the dusky darter appears more common over clean sand, silt, and gravel substrates with no aquatic plants, whereas P. nigrofasciata inhabits vegetated areas with a variable substrate. Our observations indicate that spawning occurs in Alabama from March through June, whereas Page and Smith (1970) report peak spawning from May through July in Illinois. They also report that fertilized eggs are scattered over gravel substrates, individuals have a life span of three or four years, and adults consume midge larvae, blackflies, caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Swain described the dusky darter in 1883.

Percina is a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.

Sciera means dusky.

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