SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma crossopterum
CHARACTERISTICS: The soft dorsal fin structure of breeding males for the fringed darter, Etheostoma crossopterum, and the crown darter, E. corona, is very similar. The soft dorsal fin of the fringed darter is dark with a white margin and three branches per ray. The third ray is elongated, and the second branch is much shorter than the third but slightly longer than the first. There are no knobs at the tips of the rays, which extend past the fin membranes. Six to seven horizontal rows of clear to light yellow crescents occur on the dorsal fin rays, sometimes connecting to form wavy lines. The caudal fin has five to nine clear to yellow and black alternating bands. The spiny dorsal fin is dusky with a small white knob on the tip of each spine. Fringed darters can be confused with crown, blackfin, and lollipop darters, E. corona, E. nigripinne, and E. neopterum, respectively, but occur syntopically only with E. neopterum, which has windows instead of crescents on the soft dorsal fin, large yellow knobs on the soft dorsal fin, and more light yellow bands (8-12) on the caudal fin (Page et al., 1992).
ADULT SIZE: 2 to 3.3 in (50 to 85 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Etheostoma crossopterum occurs in the Cumberland, Duck, and Buffalo river systems and Shoal Creek system in Tennessee and Kentucky. Its range in Alabama is limited to Butler and Little Butler creeks of the Shoal Creek system, and to the Six Mile Creek system, which lies just east of Shoal Creek.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Fringed darters occupy small headwater streams to medium-sized rivers. Although individuals have been taken in a variety of habitats, they are common around boulders in pool areas with reduced flow, in slabrock riffles, and in flowing pools with eroded depressions. Breeding individuals seek sheltered spawning sites, where eggs are clumped in a single layer on the underside of rocks or other objects. We have captured breeding adults from late March into early June. The diet, presumed to be similar to that of other members of the subgenus Catonotus, includes aquatic insect larvae, plant material, and possibly microcrustaceans.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Braasch and Mayden described the fringed darter in 1985.
Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.
Crossopterum means fringed fin, referring to the fringed soft dorsal fin on breeding males.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.