SPRING PYGMY SUNFISH
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Elassoma alabamae
CHARACTERISTICS: Males and females of this and most other pygmy sunfish species exhibit substantially different color patterns, a condition known as dichromatism. Breeding males are generally dark brown with five to seven narrow, silver or gold vertical bars along their sides. The venter is pale amber to white. The dorsal and anal fins have darkened bases, becoming lighter near their free margins. Clear areas in the last two or three membranes of the dorsal and anal fins form a distinctive window found in no other Elassoma species (Mettee, 1974). Females are brown on the back, mottled brown and white along the sides, and cream to white on the venter. Other indentifying characteristics include a golden crescent beneath and behind the eye, 16 to 18 scales around the caudal peduncle, 28 to 30 lateral scales (no lateral line), and three dorsal spines.
ADULT SIZE: 0.75 to 1 in (19 to 25 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: The spring pygmy sunfish is endemic to the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama. Early collections recorded the species at Cave Spring, Lauderdale County, in 1937 and Pryor Spring, Limestone County, in 1941. The Cave Spring population appears to have been extirpated; however, a new population was successfully reestablished at Pryor Spring (Mettee and Pulliam, 1986) through the efforts of local landowners and state and federal biologists.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Spring pygmy sunfish inhabit thick concentrations of Myriophyllum, coontail, and other aquatic vegetation along the margins of springs and spring runs. They are common in Moss Spring, an unshaded spring tributary of Beaverdam Creek and an area currently used for watering livestock. High densities occur in shallow, heavily vegetated margins of the spring run below a large lake on Beaverdam Creek proper. Recent sampling efforts extended the known range downstream in Beaverdam Creek to near its impounded reach within Wheeler Reservoir (P. W. Shute, 1994, personal communication). Smaller populations exist in several seepage areas and smaller tributaries to both sides of the creek. Spawning occurs from March into April, after which most adults die. Pygmy sunfishes in Alabama usually deposit their eggs in aquatic vegetation; centrarchids, on the other hand, lay eggs directly on the bottom in cleared nests. Spawning behavior, embryology, and larval development in aquariums were described by Mettee (1974).
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Mayden described the spring pygmy sunfish 1993.
Elassoma means small body.
Alabamae means of Alabama, the location of the species.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects spring pygmy sunfish from capture or possession. Federally listed as threatened on October 2, 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on spring pygmy sunfish.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.