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Saddleback

SADDLEBACK DARTER

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina vigil

CHARACTERISTICS: The saddleback darter has eyes set more on top of the head and less pigmentation than other members of Imostoma. It has separate to slightly connected gill membranes, a narrow frenum, and an elongate anal fin on breeding males. The back has four distinct dorsal saddles and a small, less defined saddle near the tail. On the sides are eight to 10 roughly square blotches that are separate from the saddles. The back is yellow to olive, and the venter is white or very light yellow. Distinct bars are present in front of and below the eye. The spiny dorsal fin is black at its base and margin; other fins are faintly banded or clear. A small but distinct spot is present at the base of the caudal fin. See Hay (1883) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 1.6 to 2.4 in (40 to 60 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Percina vigil occurs from Lake Pontchartrain east to the Escambia River and north in Mississippi river drainages to Illinois. Most of our collection records of the saddleback darter in the Mobile basin are from below the Fall Line. Populations are also known from the Tennessee River drainage. Healthy populations occur in the middle reaches of the Cahaba and lower Tallapoosa river systems. Percina vigil is fairly widespread and often abundant in the Conecuh River and several of its main tributaries.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: The saddleback darter is found in moderate to swift large rivers and streams over gravel and sand substrates. Chutes with swift current bisecting extensive shoal areas appear to be preferred microhabitats. Mettee et al. (1987) report collections of gravid males and gravid females in Little Escambia Creek in late February, with spawning extending from February through April. As with other Imostoma, eggs are deposited in sand and gravel shoals. Length-frequency data from Little Escambia Creek populations indicate a maximum age of two to three years. Examination of a few stomachs from this population revealed that individuals almost exclusively consumed caddisfly larvae (Cheumatopsyche, Oxyethira) in the fall, whereas the summer diet was more varied and included beetles, mayflies, and stoneflies. Interestingly, no midges were found in any of the stomachs examined.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Hay described the saddleback darter in 1882.

ETYMOLOGY:
Percina is a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.
Vigil means wide awake.

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

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.


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