Life History and Spawning Behavior of the Western Sand Darter (Ammocrypta Clara) in Northeast Arkansas

By Driver, Lucas J.; Adams, Ginny L. | The American Midland Naturalist, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Life History and Spawning Behavior of the Western Sand Darter (Ammocrypta Clara) in Northeast Arkansas


Driver, Lucas J., Adams, Ginny L., The American Midland Naturalist


Abstract.-

Members of Ammocrypta (Percidae), known as sand darters, have experienced widespread population declines, yet little is known regarding their ecology and life history. The purpose of this study was to examine life history traits and provide much needed information on the western sand darter (Ammocrypta clara) from a population in Northeast Arkansas. The Strawberry, Black, and Current rivers were sampled by seine or trawl from Jun. 2007-Sep. 2008. Life history traits were examined on 379 specimens. Mean size was 42.9 mm standard length (max. 50 km SL) and males and females reached maturity between 35-40 mm SL. The spawning season was May to Aug. and mean monthly gonadosomatic index (GSI) ranged from 3.4-4.9%. Gravid females averaged 57 eggs per clutch and mean egg size was 0.79 mm across mature, ripening, and ripe stages. Significant relationships existed between female standard length, ovarian mass, and clutch size. Observation of captive specimens in aquaria revealed crepuscular spawning with eggs (mean = 1.22 mm) buried singly in the sand and clutches released over short periods of time (hours to days). Overall, A. clara from Arkansas possessed several life history traits that differed from data reported for A. clara in Wisconsin and other species of Ammocrypta. We found that fish were smaller in size, had lower GSI values, smaller clutch sizes, and smaller egg sizes compared to other Ammocrypta, reflecting potentially important life history trade-offs between size and age (longevity) and the relationship among GSI, clutch size, and egg size.

Introduction

The western sand darter ( Ammocrypta clara) is one of six species of sand darters within the genus Ammocrypta and is generally distributed along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, from Minnesota and Wisconsin down through Arkansas and Louisiana. Additional populations exist in rivers of the western gulf slope in Texas and Louisiana, as well as fragmented populations in the Ohio and Tennessee River drainages in the eastern U.S. (Williams, 1975; Lee et al., 1980; Page, 1983; Cincotta and Welsh, 2010; Tessler et al., 2012). Like other members of its genus, A. clara inhabits moderate sized rivers with loose sand, gravel substrate, and moderate current (Williams, 1975; Kuehne and Barbour, 1983; Page, 1983). Although widely distributed, A. clara is reportedly sporadic and considered uncommon throughout much of its range. Reports indicate widespread decline in A. clara may be attributed to habitat degradation, particularly siltation (Becker, 1983; Kuehne and Barbour, 1983; Pflieger, 1997). Currently, A. clara is recognized as vulnerable across its entire range (Natureserve ranking: G3, N3; Warren et al., 2000; Jelks et al., 2008), and 13 of 15 states have a listed conservation status: state endangered (IL), state threatened (IA, TN, VA), species of concern (AR, IN, KY, LA, MO, TX, WI), rare (OK), and extirpated (MS). The population is apparently stable in Minnesota, and the species was rediscovered only recently in West Virginia.

Despite the decline and nearly unanimous state-level concern for this species, A. clara has been generally overlooked and little is known of its ecology and life history. Published literature addressing this species is sparse both historically and at present. Indeed, several sources have reported aspects of habitat, reproductive, or behavioral characteristics of A. clara, but little of this information was quantitative. Additionally, the current body of literature deals almost exclusively with populations from the upper Mississippi Valley (Starrett, 1950; Williams, 1975; Lutterbie, 1979; Kuehne and Barbour, 1983; Simon and Wallus, 2006). Currently there is no information, outside of generalized observations and collection records, from populations within the southern extent of the range (Williams, 1975).

Within Arkansas A. clara occurs across disjunct river systems including the Black and White River systems in the Northeast and the lower Saline and Red rivers in southern Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan, 1988). …

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