Wednesday, February 08, 2017Register
 Federally Threatened and Endangered Fishes and Amphibians of the Ozarks Aquifer

Niangua Darter
Etheostoma nianguae

Image of Niangua Darter, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife
[Photo: US Fish and Wildlife]

Description:The Niangua darter is a large darter in the Percidae or Perch family. It grows from 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long and is olive in color with eight dorsal stripes and scattered orange spots along its body. It can be distinguished from other related darters by the two small black spots at the base of its caudal (tail) fin. The Niangua darter has a slender snout that it uses to feed in crevices. Breeding males are brightly colored with bluish-green bars on their sides and an orange colored belly.

Life History: The Niangua darter can live up to four years, but two years is the average lifespan. Males and females become sexually mature at one year. The darter spawns from mid March through early June on gravel riffles when water temperatures reach 65 degrees F (18 degrees C). Females burrow into the gravel bottom where their eggs are deposited, then fertilized by the males. Females can lay anywhere from 190-750 eggs. Eggs hatch after 10-11 days and the larvae remain in the water column for 31-33 days before settling on the bottom. The Niangua darter uses its long, slender snout to forage between crevices on the stream bottom for mayfly and stonefly nymphs.

Habitat: The Niangua darter lives in shallow pools of clean, clear, medium-sized spring-fed streams with rocky bottoms. It moves to swift-moving gravel runs which are silt-free to spawn before returning to pool habitat.

Distribution: Etheostoma nianguae was historically located in eight different north flowing tributaries to the Osage River, in over 128 miles of stream. The eight waterbodies were: Maries River, Big Tavern Creek, Niangua River, Little Niangua River, Brush Creek, Pomme de Terre River, Little Pomme de Terre River, and North Dry Sac). The remaining populations of the Niangua darter are mostly concentrated in the Niangua River and Little Niangua River. The other six water bodies that were historically populated by the Niangua darter now have very small or locally extirpated populations.

Critical habitat for this species has been designated. The map below depicts the critical habitat for this species, as designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

NOTE: No warranty is given, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of these data. Data do no represent a legal description of the critical habitat boundary; refer to the textual description in the appropriate final rule for this species as published in the Federal Register.

Species Distribution of the Niangua darter (Etheostoma nianguae) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Species Distribution of the Niangua darter (Etheostoma nianguae) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image.

Status: The Niangua darter is a state endangered (Missouri) and federally listed (1985) threatened species. There is a recovery plan in place for this species. At the time of listing in 1985, populations of the Niangua darter were diminishing and a majority of suitable habitat had been lost. The Niangua darter lives in spring-fed streams; as a result, negative impacts to groundwater quality and quantity could threaten its habitat. Channelization of streams removes the darter's pool habitats. Impoundment of streams within the Niangua darter's range have resulted in fragmented habitat. Exotic species such as bass and rock bass prey on the Niangua darter. Gravel dredging in the area increases siltation, which threatens the quality of the darter's habitat.

Resources:

Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Niangua Darter Profile

USFWS, Niangua Darter Factsheet

USFWS, Federal Register Listing of the Niangua Darter

USFWS, Niangua Darter Recovery Plan

Ozark Cavefish
Ambylopsis rosea

Image of Ozark Cavefish, copyright Dante Fenolio
[Photo: copyright Dante Fenolio]

Description: The Ozark cavefish is a small, whitish-pink fish in the family Amblyopsidae. It is one of six species in the "cavefish family", with the spring cavefish and southern cavefish also found in the Ozarks region. The Ozark cavefish and southern cavefish are identical in appearance, but do not have overlapping geographic ranges. The cavefish is, on average, 1.75-2.5 inches long (4.4-6.2 cm), with a flattened head and a protruding lower jaw. The caudal (tail) fin is rounded. The Ozark cavefish lacks a pelvic fin and its dorsal and anal fins are located further back on its body than most finfish. The Ozark cavefish is completely blind, and uses sensory papillae along the sides of its head, body and tail to search for food.

Life History: Little is known of the life history and ecology of the Ozark cavefish. The Ozark cavefish can live up to ten years. Ozark cavefish spawning occurs from February to April and is likely triggered by spring flood events. The female Ozark cavefish collects eggs in her mouth (probably around 20) and transfers them to the gill cavities, where the eggs will hatch four to five months later. The Ozark cavefish has low productivity, with about 20% of females being reproductively active each year. The cavefish feeds on plankton (80% of diet), isopods, amphipods, crayfish, salamander larvae and bat guano.

Habitat: The Ozark cavefish lives in the darkened, underground streams and springs in the limestone caves of the Springfield Plateau karst area. The cavefish is most commonly found in streams with gravel bottoms or in pools with silty or sandy bottoms. The Ozark cavefish is almost always associated with bat caves (often in conjunction with gray bat populations) due to the cavefish's reliance on bat guano as a nutrient input to the cave ecosystem.

Distribution: Ambylopsis rosea occurs in the Springfield Plateau karst region of the Ozarks in southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas, and northeast Oklahoma. It is confirmed in 15 caves in this region, but historically occupied at least 24 caves or more. The largest population exists at Cave Springs, Arkansas.

Critical habitat for this species has not been determined. The map below depicts the counties where this species has been reported (USFWS).

Species Distribution of the Ozark cavefish (Ambylopsis rosea) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Species Distribution of the Ozark cavefish (Ambylopsis rosea) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image. 

Status: The Ozark cavefish is a federally listed (1984) threatened species. There is a recovery plan in place for this species. The Ozark cavefish lives in underground caves in the shallow karst groundwater of the Springfield Plateau. Due to the shallow nature of this karst area, it is highly sensitive to contamination. Threats to this species include toxic heavy metals from the tri-state mining area, animal waste from poultry and swine feedlots, commercial caving and vandalism. Physical disturbance from commercial caving and vandalism represent an important threat to this species because these disturbances not only disturb Ozark cavefish habitat, but they may cause a decline in bat populations, limiting the nutrient inputs to the cave.

Resources:

Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Ozark Cavefish Profile

USFWS, Ozark Cavefish Recovery Plan

Topeka Shiner
Notropis topeka

Image of Topeka Shiner, courtesy of Garold Sneegas, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
[Photo: Garold Sneegas, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks]

Description:The Topeka shiner is a small minnow of the Notropis or "eastern shiner" genus in the Cyprinidae family. It can grow up to 3 inches long (7.5 cm) but averages 1.8 inches (4.5 cm) in length. The shiner is an olive to silver color with a dusky stripe that runs the length of its side. Above this stripe the scales are darkly outlined, giving a latticed appearance and below this stripe the scales appear colorless. There is a wedge-shaped spot at the base of the tail fin. It has a small head and a large dorsal fin (fin along its back). Breeding males have reddish fins and facial markings.

Life History: The Topeka shiner can live up to three years. The Topeka shiner breeds in pool habitats from late May through August and prefer to spawn over sunfish nests, favoring the habitat provided by these nests to other sites. The Topeka shiner is a daytime feeder on zooplankton and insects such as midges, true flies and mayflies. The species will also occasionally feed on the eggs and larvae of other fish, as well as plant matter. Topeka shiners are a schooling fish and will school with other fish from the Cyprinidae family.

Habitat: In its southern habitat (Missouri and Kansas) the Topeka shiner is found in the main channels of small to mid-sized streams with moderate temperature regimes and relatively good water quality. Topeka shiners live in open pool habitats within these streams and optimal habitat requires connection to groundwater sources that can maintain flow in these pools during drought conditions. The Topeka shiner can tolerate some intermittency in flow (and associated higher temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen) but it is not optimal. In Missouri, Topeka shiner habitat is found in streams with bottoms that consist primarily of gravel, sand, or cobble, but can also occupy habitats with small amounts of siltation, as well. The Topeka shiner can live at depths of 0.3-6.5 feet (0.1-2.0 m) in streams with velocities less than 0.5 meters/second.

Distribution: Notropis topeka was historically found in many river drainages throughout Missouri and Kansas (southern population) and Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota (northern population). In Missouri, populations once occurred in tributaries of ten different river basins. The species now only occurs in the Missouri River basin in six tributary streams: Moniteau Creek (Cooper and Moniteau counties), Clear Creek and Heath Creek (Cooper and Pettis counties), Bonne Femme Creek (Boone County, possibly extirpated), Sugar Creek (Daviess and Harrison counties), Dog Branch (Putnam County) and Cedar Creek (possibly extirpated, Clark County).

Critical habitat for this species has been determined (2004) for the northern population. Critical habitat has not been determined for the southern population but a statewide management plan is in effect. The map below depicts the counties within the Ozark aquifer region where this species has been reported (USFWS).

Species Distribution of the Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Species Distribution of the Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image.

Status: The Topeka Shiner is a federally (1998) and state (1996) listed endangered species, although it is currently being considered for downlisting to threatened status. At the time of its listing in 1998, the Topeka shiner was only present in 19% of its historical sites in Missouri, with similar trends in other parts of its range. There are only two self-sustaining populations of Topeka shiner in Missouri: Moniteau Creek and Sugar Creek. Threats to this species include habitat degradation from changes in hydrology including increased siltation from stream impoundments and lowered water levels due to increased groundwater withdrawal. Another stressor is reduction in water quality due to non-point source pollution associated with agriculture, as well as roadways and residential construction. In addition, stocking of fish species such as largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill (which may feed on the shiner) are another threat to these populations. Habitat destruction in the form of channelization of streams and gravel mining also puts pressure on Topeka Shiner populations.

Resources:

Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Topeka Shiner Recovery Plan

USFWS, Topeka Shiner 5-Year Review

USFWS, Topeka Shiner Critical Habitat Listing

USFWS, Topeka Shiner Factsheet

Ozark Hellbender
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi

Image of Ozark Hellbender, courtesy of Jill Utrup, US Fish and Wildlife
[Photo: Jill Utrup, US Fish and Wildlife]

Description: The Ozark hellbender is a very large aquatic salamander in the Cryptobranchidae family. The Ozark hellbender grows from 11.4-22.4 inches (29-57 cm) long and has a dorsally flattened, bulky body. The hellbender has a large tail, small eyes and fleshy folds on the sides of its body used for respiration. The hellbender has a dark greenish-brown mottled appearance and can be distinguished from the closely related eastern hellbender (C. alleganiensis alleganiensis) by its smaller size and heavier mottling.

Life History: The Ozark hellbender can live up to 25 years in the wild and reaches sexual maturity at 5-8 years. The Ozark hellbender breeds from mid-September through early October. Hellbenders mate via external fertilization and eggs are deposited in nests that are prepared and defended by males, beneath large rocks or logs. Females will deposit from 138-450 eggs which hatch after 80 days. Adult Ozark hellbenders are nocturnal and feed primarily on crayfish. Both male and female hellbenders are known to eat their own eggs and the eggs of other salamanders.

Habitat: The Ozark hellbender occupies clear, clean fast-flowing streams. The hellbender lives at depths of 3-9.8 feet (0.9-2.8 m), beneath large rocks. The Ozark hellbender requires cooler waters (less than 20 degrees C [68 degrees F]) with high dissolved oxygen content for adequate respiration. Hellbenders will often congregate close to springs due to the constant temperature and high oxygen content of those waters. The home range for individual Ozark hellbenders is quite small with females occupying less than 100 square feet and males occupying about 260 square feet.

Distribution: Cryptobranchus alleganiensi bishopi is known from the White and Black River systems in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. Current population distributions represent a reduced range (including many local extirpations) within these systems, with a 70% average population decline over its range.

Critical Habitat has not been designated for this species. The map below depicts the counties where this species has been reported.

 Species Distribution of the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]

Species Distribution of the Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) [Figure: Houston Advanced Research Center using US Fish and Wildlife data]. Click on map for larger image. 

Status: The Ozark hellbender has been proposed for listing (2010) as a federally endangered species and is currently listed as a state endangered (Missouri, 2003) species. Ozark hellbender populations have experienced a major decline over the last thirty years. The North Fork of the White River (considered to be the home of the largest and most stable population of Ozark hellbenders within the species' range) saw a decline in its population from 1,150 individuals in 1973 to an estimated 200 individuals in 2006. Ozark hellbender populations are impacted by impoundments, degraded water quality, and physical disturbance of habitat. Damming of rivers creates pooled areas where fast-flowing waters used to be; causing an increase in water temperature and a decrease in dissolved oxygen. Because the hellbender relies waters with high dissolved oxygen content to survive, the pooled-water habitats are unsuitable. Degraded surface water and groundwater quality from agriculture, septic tanks, and road and residential development also threaten hellbender populations. Physical disturbance from recreational uses of these rivers can also impact hellbender habitat or directly result in the death of Ozark hellbender individuals.

Resources:

USFS, Conservation Assessment for Ozark Hellbender

USFWS, Federal Register Listing Ozark Hellbender


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