Iowa Fish Atlas

Least darter-Etheostoma microperca

Native: Yes

State Rank: S1

ITIS Code: 168411          

National Rank: N5           

Global Rank: G5

Modeled By: Anna Loan-Wilsey

State Range:

The least darter is listed as an endangered species in Iowa (571 IAC 77.2(1) (2004)).  In fact, it may be the rarest fish in the state (Harlan et al. 1987).  Limited to the Cedar and Maquoketa Rivers and their tributaries, this fish was documented in pre-1900 collections (Meek 1892) and then again only recently at two sampling sites (Harlan et al. 1987). 

Habitat Affinities:

The least darter inhabits a wide variety of habitats from clear streams and springs to sluggish pools, ponds and lakes but the existence of abundant filamentous algae or thick growths of aquatic vegetation are essential (Clay 1975; Etnier and Starnes 1993; Pflieger 1997; Phillips et al. 1982; Robison and Buchanan 1988; Trautman 1981). The least darter tolerates a variety of substrate types as well but avoids yellow clayey silts (Trautman 1981) and is susceptible to localized habitat destruction from stream alterations such as gravel mining (Pflieger 1997). Although widely ranging, the distribution of this small darter is discontinuous (Page 1983).  In southern parts of its range, the least darter is found in clear, quiet pools in stream floodplains, pools below springs, seeps and small creeks with permanent flow and dense vegetation (Kuehne and Barbour 1983; Pflieger 1997). In Iowa and other parts of its northern range, the least darter prefers weedy portions of lakes and clear streams with sluggish flow (Harlan et al. 1987; Kuehne and Barbour 1983). 

Predictive Model(s):

Statewide Model: Range Only

The distribution is based upon existing collection records and professional review.

No Prediction

Literature Cited:

Clay, W.M.  1975.  The fishes of Kentucky.  Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Frankfort, Kentucky.  416 pp.

Endangered and threatened plant and animal species.  2004.  Iowa Administrative Code 

571: 77.2(1).

Etnier, D.A., and W.E. Starnes.  1993.  The fishes of Tennessee.  University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee.  681 pp.

Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew.  1987.  Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Kuehne, R.A., and R.W. Barbour.  1983.  The American darters.  University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.  177 pp.

Meek, S.E.  1892.  Report upon the fishes of Iowa, based upon observations and

collections mad during 1889, 1890, 1891.  Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 10(1890):217-248.

Page, L.M. 1983.  Handbook of darters.  T.F.H. Publishing, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey.  271 pp.

Pflieger, W.L.  1997.  The fishes of Missouri.  Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, Missouri.  372 pp.

Phillips, G.L., W.D. Schmid, and J.C. Underhill.  1982.  Fishes of the Minnesota region.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  248 pp.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988.  Fishes of Arkansas.  University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas.  536 pp.

Trautman, M.B.  1981.  The fishes of Ohio.  Revised Edition.  Ohio State University Press in collaboration with the Ohio Sea Grant Program Center for Lake Erie Area Research,  Columbus, Ohio.  782 pp.

Data Sources:

Coon, T.G.  1980.  Fish sampling data sheets. University of Missouri-Columbia,

Columbia, Missouri.

Meek, S.E.  1892.  Report upon the fishes of Iowa, based upon observations and

collections mad during 1889, 1890, 1891.  Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 10(1890):217-248.

Olson, J.R.  1998.  Historic fish survey database.  Water Quality Bureau, Iowa

Department of Natural Resources, Des Moines, Iowa.

Additional References:

Bart, H.L., Jr., and L.M. Page.  1992.  The influence of size and phylogeny on life history variation in North American percids.  Pages 553-572 in R. L. Mayden, editor.  Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes.  Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calfiornia. xxvi + 969 pp.

Burr, B.M., and L.M. Page.  1979.  The life history of the least darter, Etheostoma microperca, in the Iroquois River, Illinois.  Illinois Natural History Survey Biological Notes No. 112:1-15.

Cross, F.B.  1967.  Handbook of fishes of Kansas.  University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication  No. 45, Lawrence, Kansas.  357 pp.

Cross, F.B., and J.T. Collins.  1995.  Fishes in Kansas.  University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Public Education Series No. 14, Lawrence, Kansas.   315 pp.

Dalton, K.W.  1990.  Status of the least darter, Etheostoma microperca, in Canada.  Canadian Field-Naturalist 104:53-58.

Douglas, N.H.  1974.  Freshwater fishes of Louisiana.  Claitor’s Publishing Division, Sponsored by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  443 pp.

Eddy, S., and J.C. Underhill.  1974.  Northern fishes; with special reference to the upper Mississippi Valley.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  414 pp.

Johnson, J.D., and J.T. Hatch.  1991.  Life history of the least darter Etheostoma microperca at the northwestern limits of its range.  American Midland Naturalist 125(1):87-103.

Kelly, G., editor.  1986.  Animal habitat relations handbook.  Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Jefferson City, Missouri.  293 pp.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr.  1980.  Atlas of North American freshwater fishes.  North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina.  867 pp.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr.  1991.  A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

Petravicz, J.J.  1936.  The breeding habits of the least darter, Microperca punctulata (Putnam).  Copeia 1936(2):77-82.

Pflieger, W.L.  1971.  A distributional study of Missouri fishes.  University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History  20(3):225-570.

Pflieger, W.L.  1989a.  Aquatic community classification system for Missouri.  Missouri Department of Conservation.  Jefferson City, Missouri.  Aquatic Series No. 19. 70 pp. plus Supplement.

Pflieger, W.L.  1989b.  The stream resources of Missouri.  D-J Project - F-1-R-28.  Study S-20.  Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, Missouri.  

Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott.  1991.  Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada.  American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20, Bethesda, Maryland. 183 pp.

Thom, R.H., and J.H. Wilson.  1980.  The natural divisions of Missouri.  Transactions of the Missouri Academy of Science  14:9-24.

Winn, H.E.  1958.  Comparative reproductive behavior and ecology of fourteen species of darters (Pisces- Percidae).  Ecological Monographs 28:155-191.

Photo Credits:

Upper Left:       Photo courtesy of Konrad P. Schmidt, copyright Konrad P. Schmidt.

Upper Right:     Photo courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Fish and Wildlife Information System,