SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina tanasi
CHARACTERISTICS: Percina tanasi is characterized by eyes placed toward the top of the head, four distinct dorsal saddles, a blunt snout, and short, rounded pectoral and pelvic fins. The back is speckled brown with four dark saddles under the spiny dorsal fin. Nine to 12 round or oval dark blotches form a variously developed lateral band. The venter is white or light green. The spiny dorsal fin has a gray margin and basal band; remaining fins lack distinct banding. Breeding males have an enlarged and tuberculate anal fin.
ADULT SIZE: 2.2 to 3.1 in (55 to 80 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Snail darters were originally thought to occur only in the lower Little Tennessee River and adjacent Tennessee River. Introduction and subsequent sampling expanded their range into Chickamauga Creek, a downstream segment of the Tennessee River, and the Sequatchie, Hiwassee, Holston, andElk river systems. The only confirmed location in Alabama is from the lower Paint Rock River in Jackson County.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Starnes (1977) presents a comprehensive life study of the snail darter. Percina tanasi is found over gravel and sand shoals with moderate current in large tributaries and free-flowing rivers. Spawning occurs in gravel shoals from February until April. Eggs are deposited in the sand and gravel. Juveniles usually inhabit quiet pool areas, migrating to shoals by three to four months of age. Life span varies from two to four years, with most individuals living about two years. As its common name implies, the primary food item of this species is aquatic snails, which comprised more than 60 percent of the food volume consumed in the Little Tennessee River population. Other prey items include caddisflies, midges, and blackflies.
REMARKS: The snail darter is listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Etnier described the snail darter in 1976.
Percina means a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.
Tanasi means a former Cherokee settlement on the Little Tennessee River, this species’ type locality; derivation of the word tanasi gave rise to the name Tennessee.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.