SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina phoxocephala

Characteristics: Slenderhead darters have moderately connected gill membranes, an orange submarginal band in the spiny dorsal fin, a wide frenum on the upper lip, and a single spot at the base of the caudal fin. The snout is moderately pointed. The sides have from 10 to 16 round or oval blotches. The back and sides are yellow-brown, and the venter is white or light yellow. Beyond occasional light stippling, the fins are clear.

ADULT SIZE: 2 to 3.1 in (50 to 80 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Percina phoxocephala is found throughout the Mississippi River basin from Ohio to South Dakota and south to Oklahoma and Alabama. Records of this uncommon species in the study area are limited to the Bear Creek system of the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama and Mississippi.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Page and Smith (1971) report a variable habitat preference for this species, ranging from small-stream riffles to large rocky riffles and sandy pools of large rivers. The preferred habitat includes a moderate to swift current over gravel raceways in large streams and small rivers. We collected this species only in knee- to waist-deep pools over a sandy, silty bottom with detritus. We have no life history information for this species in Alabama, owing to the fact that Alabama is at the southern periphery of its range and individuals are somewhat rare. Page and Smith (1971) indicate peak spawning during late May and June in gravel riffles for an Illinois population. Thomas (1970) reports a longer spawning season, perhaps extending into August. The life span of most individuals is two to three years (Page and Smith, 1971; Thomas, 1970; Karr, 1963). Midges, blackfiles, mayflies, and caddisflies are primary food items.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Nelson described the slenderhead darter in 1876.

Percina is a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.

Phoxocephala means tapered head.

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