SCIENTIFIC NAME: Noturus munitus

CHARACTERISTICS: In Alabama, the frecklebelly madtom is the only species that has four distinct, dark saddles across a yellow to golden back. Its common name derives from the many small, black specks that are scattered across the venter. Two dark, crescent-shaped bands occur on the slightly rounded caudal fin. Each well-developed pectoral spine has six to 10 prominent, recurved teeth on its posterior edge and some smaller but well-developed serrae on the anterior edge. The rounded anal fin contains only 12 to 15 rays, leaving a large space between the anal and caudal fin bases.

ADULT SIZE: 2 to 3 in (50 to 75 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Several isolated but fairly abundant populations of frecklebelly madtoms previously occurred in the Mobile basin. Frecklebelly madtoms were also once common in sections of the upper Tombigbee and Alabama rivers. However, populations in both systems have dwindled in recent years, primarily because the construction and maintenance of inland waterways have destroyed most of the permanent gravel bars that the species inhabited. Our 1993-95 collections indicate this species still inhabits the Sipsey, Luxapallila and Buttahatchee tributaries of the upper Tombigbee River system. Pierson et al. (1989) note that the Cahaba River could also be a refuge for the species in Alabama. Isolated populations occur in the Etowah and Conasauga river systems in Georgia and Tennessee.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: This species prefers permanent gravel shoals and riffles of moderate or large flowing streams and rivers. Large and small individuals also occur in clumps of river weed and under large, flat rocks. In the upper Etowah and Conasauga main channels, frecklebelly madtoms have been collected in moderate to swift current over boulders, rubble, cobble, and coarse gravel and around concentrations of river weed (Podostemon). Trauth et al. (1981) report spawning in June and July in the Tombigbee River, Mississippi, and Miller (1984) remarks that individuals in the Tombigbee River consume aquatic insect larvae and mayfly nymphs. The life span of this species is estimated to be four or five years.

REMARKS: Ramsey (1986) lists Noturus munitus as a species of concern in Alabama. Its collection in state waters is restricted by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Suttkus and Taylor described the frecklebelly madtom in 1965.

Noturus means back tail, referring to fusion of the adipose and caudal fins.

Munitus means armed, referring to the extensive development of serrae on both sides of the pectoral spine.

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