SCIENTIFIC NAME: Fundulus catenatus
CHARACTERISTICS: The northern studfish is one of the most beautiful topminnows in Alabama. Breeding males have 8 to 10 continuous rows of orange to reddish orange dots along iridescent blue sides. Most of the upper half of the head is light blue-green, and the cheeks are punctuated with randomly scattered, bright orange dots. The lower half of the head and gill area are yellow or yellowish green. The anal fin, and particularly the dorsal fin on breeding males, are adorned with bright orange spots. The caudal fin has distinct black, then orange to yellow, bands near its free edge. Color development on females and juveniles is more subdued, with brown or olive spots or bars along the sides, little if any bright head color, and clear, usually unmarked fins. Small scales are lightly outlined with melanophores, although this pattern may not be visible on all individuals.
ADULT SIZE: 3 to 5.9 in (75 to 150 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Fundulus catenatus occurs in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains, and upland regions of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Green river drainages. Isolated populations occur in Indiana and Mississippi. In Alabama, the northern studfish is found throughout the Tennessee River drainage. Our recent collecting efforts confirmed this species in Bear, Cypress, and Shoal creeks and in the Elk and Paint Rock river systems.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: A lively inhabitant of clear streams and backwaters, the northern studfish often prefers shallow waters where food may be abundant. Reproduction probably occurs over gravel for an extended period but generally peaks from May through June. Pflieger (1975) reports that male northern studfish establish territories in shallow, quiet waters near shore. Fisher (1981) indicates longevity of three or more years for a Kentucky population. Fundulus catenatus feeds more on benthic organisms than on creatures floating at the water surface (McCaskill et al., 1972). Adults are predominantly insectivorous, consuming a wide variety of prey (including mayflies, caddisflies, and dipterans), but they also consume small snails and bivalves.
REMARKS: The type locality for the northern studfish is Florence, Lauderdale County, in either Cypress Creek or the Tennessee River proper.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Storer described the northern studfish in 1846.
Fundulus means bottom.
Catenatus means chained.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.