RE: NANFA-L-- Flame Chubs In Alabama Update

Bruce Stallsmith (
Fri, 04 Aug 2006 20:44:22 -0400

Yeah, the question with museum collections is often did they only keep one
or two specimens, or is that all they found? The latest issue of
Southeastern Naturalist has an article about trying to find seven rare
species of mussels in SE Alabama and western Florida. They chose survey
sites based on historic records and observations, and remark that because
these collections don't always carry comments as to how many individuals
were found versus kept, it's difficult to state population trends at most
sites (it appears that most of these species are becoming scarcer). In our
case, several times we didn't find any flame chubs at sites that had
produced 20 or more in a given museum holding.

Our methodology was to sample a 200 meter stretch of stream at 3-10 meter
intervals, usually through kick-seining with 3-5 people and a 12 foot net.
Since we were interested in presence/absence, we'd usually stop if we found
flame chubs. A more precise characterization of population size and
structure would be a separate project (once you know where to find them...).

Five sites where we didn't find flame chubs are dry now in the current
near-drought, in the Burcham Creek and Bruton Run sections of the Cypress
Creek drainage. Not just isolated pools, but no water for kilometers, from
the Natchez Trace Parkway down along Highway 20 towards Florence. Some of
these creeks show evidence of recent re-working by yahoos with bulldozers in
both the streambed and along the stream. How permanent is that damage? I
don't know. Another site nearby on Lindsay Creek was a series of isolated
pools packed with fish. In a seining we could catch 100. We did that several
times in several pools with nary a flame chub. That doesn't prove flame
chubs aren't there, but if they are they're vanishingly scarce. Or are only
small YOY present that fall through the seine mesh? They didn't show up in
several swipes with my super-fine mesh pushnet, but again... who knows for

Saying 64% range reduction may be too precise a statement. But I'm not sure
of a better way to say it. It could only be 45% or 50%, still an alarming

As to Tennessee... that needs to be done with a similar methodology. It's a
much larger area to cover, and I don't know it nearly as well. But hopefully
someone else would be up for it. Interestingly the International Union for
the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status ranking for flame chubs is "DD"
(data deficient). I hope that what we've found in Alabama is some
contribution to that deficit, but Tennessee would be the clincher for global

--Bruce Stallsmith
along the tropical Tennessee
Huntsville, AL, US of A

>From: "Dave Neely" <>
>Subject: RE: NANFA-L-- Flame Chubs In Alabama Update
>Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2006 18:24:31 -0500
>Hi Bruce,
>That's an interesting data set, they've dropped out of other parts of their
>range (and are barely hanging on in the Coosa) so the trend may be real,
>but I'd be a little hesitant to claim a 64% range reduction from single
>site visits where you didn't find flame chubs. A lot of factors could
>contribute to failure to capture flame chubs at a site (seasonal movements,
>a tendency to inhabit dense vegetation, patchy micro-distribution at a
>site, etc.), and a lot of those UAIC collections are based on single or a
>few specimens... Do you plan on expanding this to include Tennessee
>One thing is without doubt - they're awfully neat fish.
>along the mighty Mississip', St. Louis, MO
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