SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma trisella
CHARACTERISTICS: Etheostoma trisella is distinguished from other members of the subgenus Ozarka by a complete lateral line, uninterrupted supratemporal canal, and single anal spine. The back of this small species is yellow-brown crossed by three dark brown saddles. The venter and breast are yellow or white. A thin bar is present below the eye. Breeding males are bright orange, with dusky fins and about four green blotches along the sides. The spiny dorsal fin develops a median band of red spots. Etnier and Starnes (1993) provide additional meristic data for this uncommon species.
ADULT SIZE: 1.3 to 1.6 in (33 to 40 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: The trispot darter is endemic to the Conasauga and Coosawattee river drainages in the upper Coosa River system of Tennessee and Georgia. This species was described from a single specimen collected in 1947 from Cowens Creek, Cherokee County, Alabama. When the type locality was inundated in 1960 by Weiss Reservoir, the species was believed extinct until Howell and Caldwell (1967) discovered several misidentified specimens collected in 1954. In 2010, the trispot darter was found in Little Canoe Creek, a tributary to Big Canoe Creek. In 2011, it was found in an additional tributary.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Life history and habitat are summarized from Ryon (1981). The trispot darter has two distinct habitat types. The nonbreeding habitat consists of slow, clear backwaters or eddies of streams with small cobble, pebble, and gravel substrates, often covered with a thin layer of silt. Breeding habitat consists of spring seepage over marsh grasses in lowland areas adjacent to the nonbreeding habitat. Trispot darters spawn from January through March. Following courtship, the pair apparently swim upward through the water column in unison, the female releasing adhesive eggs that are fertilized and, upon falling, adhere to plants, rocks, or the substrate. Adults survive for two to three years. The diet consists of midge larvae, mayflies, microcrustaceans, and lesser amounts of other aquatic insect taxa.
REMARKS: The type locality of the trispot darter is Cowens Creek, Cherokee County, Alabama.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Bailey and Richards described the trispot darter in 1963.
Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.
Trisella means three-saddled, in reference to the three dorsal saddles.
Except for the note on the recent collection of a trispot darter in Alabama, the copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.