Etheostoma phytophilum | Rush Darter
The Rush Darter is known from a very restricted range above the fall line in the Tombigbee-Black Warrior drainage in central Alabama. Boschung and Mayden (2004) and Warren et al. (2000) recommended endangered status for the species. As of August 9, 2011, the Rush Darter was listed as endangered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because of its very limited range and apparent small population size, the Rush Darter is very vulnerable to extinction. The primary threats to the species include runoff from non-point sources and habitat destruction through development.
The highly imperiled status of this species, combined with a lack of knowledge regarding methods for long term captive maintenance and reproduction of the fish, led us to propose this project to attempt to develop needed protocols and to establish an ark population. Maintenance of a captive population would be a means of insuring that the species was not extirpated by a single catastrophic event.
We initiated a captive propagation program for this rare fish in the fall 2008 and produced 46 young in 2009, another 110 were produced in 2010. Little is known about the life history of the species, but it spawned much like the closely related Goldstripe Darter, Etheostoma parvipinne (Rakes and Shute 2005). This species scatters eggs among the fine leaves of aquatic plants, providing no parental care. Larvae are extremely tiny, although pelagic, they tend stay in extremely slack areas with little to no current. Rush Darters produced at CFI will be used to establish an ark population, and fish produced will be available if there was determined to be a need to augment existing Rush Darter populations.