SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma wapiti
CHARACTERISTICS: The body of breeding males is olive to gray; the posterior half has 10 to 14 distinctive horizontal stripes between scale rows. The head, venter, breast, and prepectoral areas are also grayish, while the throat area is blue. The spiny and soft dorsal fins and caudal fin are dark gray with a thin black margin and pale yellow submarginal band. Etheostoma wapiti can be confused with the redline darter, E. rufilineatum, and the bluebreast darter, E. camurum. The boulder darter lacks the distinctive bars associated with the eye and cheek of E. rufilineatum, and it has 13 to 14 dorsal fin spines compared to the 11 to 12 of E. camurum. The spiny dorsal fin of E. wapiti is longer than but not as high as that in E. camurum.
ADULT SIZE: 1.7 to 2.8 in (43 to 70 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Extant populations of this species are known from a small mainstem section of the Elk River along the Alabama-Tennessee state line and from two large Elk River tributaries in Tennessee. In 1993 we collected and released boulder darters at three locations in the Elk River, all upstream of Alabama Highway 127 in Limestone County. The type locality of the species is Shoal Creek in Lauderdale County; However, no specimens have been observed there since 1884.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Boulder darters appear restricted to swift riffles over fractured limestone cobble and to fast chutes with gravel and small cobble substrates. We collected individuals in the same net haul with E. camurum and E. rufilineatum. Little is known of boulder darter life history; however, as in other Nothonotus, spawning likely occurs in late April and May. Food items include aquatic insect larvae and other riffle-dwelling invertebrates.
REMARKS: The type locality for the boulder darter is Shoal Creek (exact location unknown), Lauderdale County, Alabama. The bouler darter is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Etnier and Williams described the boulder darter in 1989.
Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.
Wapiti comes from the Cherokee word for elk, in reference to the Elk River.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects this fish from capture or possession. Federally listed as endangered, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on the boulder darter.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.