Re: NANFA-- boulder darter

Christopher Scharpf (
Thu, 04 Jan 2001 17:35:26 -0400

> Was the boulder darter always a small population or did something occur to
> imperil them.


You may remember that Rick Mayden and Bernie Kuhajda talked about the boulder
darter at the NANFA Convention in Jackson.

According to Rick, systematics allowed biologists to determine which darter
species was the boulder darter's closest relative, or surrogate. That turned out
to be the wounded darter, E.vuleratum, a much more common species. Since the
wounded darter clumps its eggs on the undersides of rocks, it was inferred that
the boulder darter spawns the same way without having to actually see the fish
spawn in the wild (difficult considering its rarity), or trying to get them to
spawn in aquaria (which involves the sticky problem of having to remove a
protected fish from the wild, and may result in failure, death of the specimens,
or both). Based on this inference, conservationists now had something to do to
improve the boulder darter's chances for survival, and that was to dump rocks
back into the boulder darter's habitat to give it back some of the spawning
habitat it had lost. (By the way, egg clumping was later confirmed in aquarium

Bernie showed slides revealing that one municipality in northern Alabama was
either ignorant of the boulder darter's federally endangered status, or was just
blatantly ignoring it. Officials placed a water intake valve in the Elk River,
in the middle of prime boulder darter habitat. And since this water intake valve
was sucking air because of a drought, officials built a nice little road down to
the river. They got bulldozers all over the shoals, compacted the sediment,
killed endangered mussels, totally squished the habitat, and decided to put some
concrete structure in there and make themselves a little dam so they intake
valve wouldn't suck air anymore. A phone call to city officials prompted them to
remove the dam, but the intake valve remains.

Chris Scharpf

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