SOUTHERN STARHEAD TOPMINNOW
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Fundulus blairae
CHARACTERISTICS: Despite the diverging views among ichthyologists, we have elected to recognize Fundulus blairae as a distinct species because individuals in Alabama are distinguishable from the bayou topminnow, F. notti, on the basis of body coloration. Male southern starhead topminnows lack vertical bars; females have more spots and other less discrete dashes between lateral stripes. The systematics of the confusing notti species group, and especially its close relatives F. blairae and F. dispar, have been much investigated in recent years. Based upon his study of morphological characteristics, Wiley (1977) determined that the F. notti species group contained five species blairae, dispar, escambiae, lineolatus, and notti. Later investigations by Cashner et al. (1992), however, found no significant genetic differences between blairae and dispar, leading them to eliminate blairae and reduce the number of species to four.
ADULT SIZE: 1.4 to 1.9 in (35 to 47 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: The southern starhead topminnow is found from the Brazos River drainages in Texas east through the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Mobile basin. In Alabama, this species is found in the lower Tombigbee and Alabama river drainages south to the Mobile River tributaries.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Southern starhead topminnows occur in and around shoreline vegetation of clear lakes and ponds, backwaters, and overflow pools of large rivers. The population sampled for the above photograph was occupying a large overflow pool that had darkly stained water and that was isolated from the main river channel. The bottom was soft with deep accumulations of detritus, while the margins were heavily vegetated. In smaller steams, this species prefers quiet backwaters with slow or no current and shallow depths. Although little is known about its biology, the southern starhead topminnow is presumed to feed near the surface, where it consumes drifting organic matter, insects, and other animals associated with the water surface. As with other topminnows, this species probably has a spawning season that peaks in May or June, more protracted seasons may occur in some areas.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Wiley and Hall described the southern starhead topminnow in 1975.
Fundulus means bottom.
Blairae is in honor of Blair Kniles, whose extensive field efforts yielded many specimens for the description of this species.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.