SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma stigmaeum
CHARACTERISTICS: The speckled darter has a blunt snout but no frenum and slightly joined gill membranes. The body is light brown to straw-colored along the back and sides, grading to light yellow and white on the venter. The back is marked by six dark brown saddles and many large specks; the lateral band is marked with seven to 11 W- or V-shaped blotches. Breeding males have around eight large turquoise bars along their sides. The bases of the pelvic and anal fins are turquoise, while their margins and all other fins are generally clear. The spiny dorsal fin has a deep blue margin, a white band followed by a rusty red band, another blue band, and a basal black band. The cheeks, gill covers, gular region, and lips are brilliant turquoise. Etheostoma stigmaeum is similar to the blueside darter, E. jessiae, which exhibits dark blue, will-defined blotches along its sides rather than elongate turquoise bars, and has a more pointed snout and distinct frenum. Layman (1994) recently completed a detailed review of the subgenus Doration, settling many unresolved systematic questions. See the blueside darter account for further information and Jordan (1877a) for original description.
ADULT SIZE: 1.2 to 2 in (30 to 50 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Above and below the Fall Line in the Mobile basin this species is widespread and abundant. It occurs in low numbers in the Escatawpa and Perdido river systems and reaches its eastern range limit along the Gulf Coast in the Escambia River drainage in Alabama and Florida. Speckled darters occur in the upper reaches of the Bear Creek system, but are absent in the remainder of the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Etheostoma stigmaeum occupies shallow to deep pools of small to large streams having slow to moderate flow and coarse detritus mixed with gravel, small cobble, and sand. It occurs in shallow riffles and shoals, but rarely in swift deep riffles. Spawning is from late March through early May. Eggs are deposited in shallow, sandy pools at the base or head of riffles (O’Neil, 1980). Longevity of this species approaches three years. Its diet consists largely of midge larvae and microcrustaceans supplemented by mayflies and caddisflies.
REMARKS: The type locality of the speckled darter is tributaries to the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, Floyd County, Georgia.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Jordan described the speckled darter in 1877.
Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.
Stigmaeum means speckled or spotted.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.