SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cyprinella galactura
CHARACTERISTICS: The whitetail shiner is easily recognized by the two milky white spots at the base of its caudal fin. It is a large species, with a terete, elongate, slightly compressed body. In breeding males, the back is an iridescent bluish silver, and the dorsal fin is greatly expanded. The head is large and elongate, with a protruding snout and a distinctly subterminal mouth; both the snout and lips are bright red. The anal fin and paired fins are milky white, while the caudal fin is white at the base, red in the center, and black along the margin. Small whitetail shiners may be confused with the spotfin shiner, Cyprinella spiloptera; the steelcolor shiner, C. whipplei; or the warpaint shiner, Luxilus coccogenis. Cyprinella galactura has more predorsal and lateral line scales than do C. spiloptera or C. whipplei and a much smaller mouth than does L. coccogenis. See Cope (1868a) for original description.
ADULT SIZE: 3 to 5.1 in (75 to 130 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: The whitetail shiner is widely distributed on both sides of the Mississippi River. To the west it occurs in the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountain region, while to the east it occurs in the Tennessee and Cumberland river drainages and in the upper Savannah and Santee river drainages. In Alabama this species occurs in the Tennessee River drainage, most frequently in the Bear Creek, Town Creek, Elk River, Bluewater Creek, Second Creek, and Paint Rock River systems.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Cyprinella galactura is found in small to moderate, high-gradient, clear, flowing streams with hard, stable substrates. Its diet is diverse, consisting of drifting insects, insect larvae, and occasionally plant material. Outten (1958) reports a diet of mayflies, diptera, and beetles for individuals in the upper French Broad River in North Carolina. Outten indicates that whitetail shiners live for two or three (but sometimes as many as four) years. In Alabama reproduction occurs from June to August, and the behavior is described as fractional crevice spawning (Pflieger, 1975)—that is, at intervals throughout the breeding season, the shiner deposits its eggs in the crevices of submerged logs or fractured rocks.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Cope described the whitetail shiner in 1868.
Cyprinella is a diminutive of Cyprinus, the carp.
Galactura means milk tail, referring to the white areas on the caudal fin.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.