SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phenacobius mirabilis
CHARACTERISTICS: The suckermouth minnow is a slender species with very small eyes and a horizontal mouth on the bottom of the head. It is similar in body form and shape to the riffle minnow, Phenacobius catostomus, differing primarily in having fewer lateral line scales 41 to 50 (59 to 69 for Catostomus) and a generally smaller, more robust body. The mouth has pigment lobes, the fins are rounded, and the snout is large and blunt. Body color is dark brown to straw above and silvery below, with a distinct spot at the base of the caudal fin.
ADULT SIZE: 2.6 to 3.5 in (65 to 90 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Phenacobius mirabilis is commonly found throughout the upper Mississippi basin north and west of Alabama, and it sporadically in western Gulf slope drainages. Alabama records are limited to the Bear Creek system, a tributary of the Tennessee River in northwestern Alabama (Wall, 1868), and recent collections are few. The single specimen we obtained while collecting at night in Cedar Creek in 1993 may represent the first record of this species from Alabama in nearly 30 years.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Occurring in a variety of habitats, from small streams to large rivers and also pools, the suckermouth minnow prefers medium-sized streams with extensive riffle areas over gravel shoals. The individual shown above was taken in the middle of a large rubble riffle in swift current. Trautman (1981) reports that the suckermouth minnow in Ohio prefers turbid, moderate-gradient streams rich in organic matter and that it occurs in lower numbers in clear streams, streams of high gradient, and low gradient, turbid streams. This is a bottom-dwelling species consuming benthic insects and other invertebrates. Etnier and Starnes (1993) report tuberculate males from May through July in Tennessee, and spawning is presumably in gravel and sand shoals, as with the riffle minnow. Little is known about the biology of the suckermouth minnow in Alabama, because the periphery of its range captures only a small part of the Tennessee River drainage in the state.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: The suckermouth minnow was described by Girard in 1856.
Phenacobius means deceptive life, because this species" bottom feeding habits suggest that it, like the stoneroller, is herbivorous.
Mirabilis means wonderful.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.