SCIENTIFIC NAME: Percina smithvanizi
CHARACTERISTICS: The muscadine darter is a recently described, although long recognized, species of the subgenus Alvordius. Individuals are characterized by separate or slightly connected gill membranes and no breeding tubercles. The back and upper sides are dusky tan with a pale to mottled venter. A thin mid-dorsal line extends from the head to the end of the soft dorsal fin; dorsal saddles are weakly developed. A dark lateral band, extending from the snout to the caudal fin base, is expanded into seven or eight lateral blotches. The spiny dorsal fin is low and somewhat arched, with dusky membranes in breeding males. The soft dorsal, caudal, and anal fins have dusky margins. Nuptial color is limited to darkened and dusky males. The muscadine darter is distinguishable from its near relative, the blackside darter, Percina maculata, by a scaled nape, modally 10 soft dorsal rays, and 56 to 65 lateral line scales. The blackside darter has a naked nape, modally 12 soft dorsal rays, and 66 to 75 lateral line scales.
ADULT SIZE: 1.8 to 2.3 in (45 to 58 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: This species occurs from disjunct populations in the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River system and the Piedmont portion of the Tallapoosa River system. Etnier and Starnes (1993) recognize populations in the Conasauga River system in Georgia and Tennessee as another species, the “bridled darter.”
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Muscadine darters are found below riffles of large rubble in deeper runs with moderate to slow current over sand and gravel. This species is consistently found over swift gravel shoals of main river channels. Wieland and Ramsey (1987) report spawning from March through early June in Tallapoosa River tributaries, with peak activity in April. They estimate a life span of two to three years. Individuals consume stream drift of midges, blackflies, stoneflies, and mayflies, generally in the early evening hours. Because of its lower reproductive potential and diet diversity relative to other Percina in the Tallapoosa River system, Wieland and Ramsey (1987) indicate that this pollution-sensitive species may require regular monitoring throughout its range.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Williams and Walsh described the muscadine dater in 2007.
Percina is a diminutive of Perca, meaning perch.
Smithvanizi is named for the Alabama ichthyologist William F. Smith-Vaniz.
The copyrighted information above is modified from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.