Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Cyprinella lepida

plateau shiner



Type Locality

Rio Frio (tributary Rio Nueces), either Real or Uvalde Co., Texas (Girard 1857).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Cyprinella – small carp; lepida – scaled, referring to its large scales (Scharpf 2005).



Cyprinella lepida Girard 1857:197-198; Lytle (1972); Matthews (1987); Hubbs et al. 1991:17; Edwards et al. 2004).

Notropis bubalinus Jordan and Evermann (1896).

Notropis lutrensis luxiloides Hubbs 1953:226.

Notropis lepidus Hubbs 1954:283.

Notropis lutrensis Hubbs (1972); Matthews 1980:285.


A genetic study of Cyprinella lepida populations in the Frio, Nueces, and Sabinal rivers indicated that the Nueces River population is a distinct species (Richardson and Gold 1995; Edwards et al. 2004). The population inhabiting the Nueces River is now referred to as the Nueces River shiner (Cyprinella sp.; Richardson and Gold 1995); formal naming of this species is pending. It has been noted that nomenclature may be problematic as Girard (1857) described Cyprinella lepida from material taken from the Frio River [these materials were lost (Hubbs 1954)], whereas nearly all morphological information describing C. lepida (Matthews et al. 1987; Mayden 1989) is from the apparently distinct C. sp. in the Nueces River (Richardson and Gold 1995; Edwards et al. 2004). Matthews (1987) examined only four specimens from the Frio River, and all material used by Mayden (1989) was from the Nueces River (C. sp.; Richardson and Gold 1995).



Maximum size: 75 mm (2.95 in) TL (Page and Burr 1991).


Coloration: Girard (1857) described Frio River specimens as light reddish above, pale sulphur-yellow beneath. Matthews (1987) gave a composite description of peak nuptial coloration based on individuals from both the Nueces (this population since recognized as C. sp.; Richardson and Gold 1995) and Frio River (4 specimens) populations; difference in coloration between the two species is noted: Dorsal region of head green; eyes orange; narrow bluish or purplish vertical bar at front of prepercle; opercle gold-orange or yellow; purple or dark blue scapular bar, wider dorsally and narrowing ventrally near pectoral base; middorsum anterior to dorsal fin dark green in some; upper two-thirds of sides distinctly cross-hatched; scales of upper sides are yellow gold with a purple-blue posterior border, giving an overall distinctive orange against purple throughout upper sides, strongest anteriorly; dorsal fin with yellow on distal portions of membranes in some; pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins bright yellow; anal fin yellow, yellow-orange, or red-orange; sides often with a dark but diffuse mid-lateral band, fading anteriorly in some.  Matthews (1987) indicated that only Frio River specimens had red nuptial coloration at tip of snout. Hubbs et al. (2008) noted that the black median stripe on chin extends no farther posteriorly than below eye and  interradial membranes of dorsal fin have melanophores.


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 0,4-4,0; or 2,4-4,2 or 1,4-4,1. Fewer than 45 lateral line scales; fewer than 10 soft rays on dorsal fin (Hubbs et al. 2008).


Mouth position: Slightly subinferior (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


Body shape: Head blunt and rounded (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Girard (1957) described specimens from the Frio River: body elongated and fusiform, with the greatest depth taken from the anterior third of the body being contained four and one-half times in the total length.


Morphology: Tubercles on head of dominant male larger on occiput than on snout; dorsal fin less triangular, last fin ray about one-half length of the longest;  first obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched fin ray, especially at tip; lower lip thin without a fleshy lobe; lateral line usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch; premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Scales are larger than those of “hitherto known cogeners” (Girard 1857; noted in partial description of specimens from the Frio River).  Intestine simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Found only in Texas.


Texas distribution: Plateau shiners are an endemic species inhabiting the Frio and Sabinal rivers (Richardson and Gold 1995; Edwards et al. 2004). May be endemic to the upper reaches of the Guadalupe River Basin (Mayden 1989; Hubbs et al. 1991; Page and Burr 1991), this is undergoing further investigation (Edwards et al. 2004). Warren et al. (2000) listed distribution of plateau shiners in the state (question mark following drainage unit represents “native with reservation” category): San Antonio Bay drainage unit (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River) (?), Nueces River drainage unit.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, Non-governmental organizations)

Cyprinella lepida listed as critically imperiled/imperiled (Edwards Plateau region of southwest Texas; The Nature Conservancy 2004; Scharpf 2005); vulnerable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Inhabits clear, cool, spring-fed headwater creeks (Hubbs 1954; Edwards et al. 2004).


Mesohabitat: Found over gravel and limestone substrates (Page and Burr 1991; Edwards et al. 2004).



Spawning season: No information at this time.


Spawning habitat: No information at this time.


Spawning Behavior: No information at this time.


Fecundity:  No information at this time.


Age at maturation:  No information at this time.


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure:  No information at this time.


Longevity: No information at this time.


Food habits:  No information at this time.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Similar to the Nueces River shiner (Cyprinella sp.). Matthews (1987) examined C. sp. from the Nueces River and C. lepida from the Frio and Sabinal rivers and noted that male nuptial coloration of the four C. lepida specimens included red on the tip of the snout which was not exhibited by Cyprinella inhabiting the Nueces River (Matthews 1987; Richardson and Gold 1995).


Cyprinella lepida is similar to both the proserpine shiner (C. proserpina) and the red shiner (C. lutrensis):  C. proserpina differs from C. lepida in that tubercles on head of C. proserpina high males are larger on snout than on occiput; C. proserpina with distinct black median stripe from the chin to the isthmus, and the snout length is greater than upper jaw length (Hubbs 1954). The red shiner (C. lutrensis) differs from C. lepida in having a more terminal mouth, sharp and compressed head, snout length plus upper jaw length 17% or less of SL, and the body is usually deeper with a distance between dorsal origin and anal origin 26-36% of SL (higher figures for adult males, lower figures for young females; Hubbs 1954). Differences in nuptial coloration between C. lepida and C. lutrensis are apparent: scales of upper sides on C. lepida distinctly contrasting with those of C. lutrensis in that each scale is yellow gold with a purple-blue posterior border, giving an overall distinctive orange wash against purple throughout upper sides, strongest anteriorly; none of the fins of C. lepida representing the more red coloration of typical C. lutrensis north of Mexico (Matthews 1987).


Natural hybrid with the blacktail shiner (Cyprinella venusta) reported from the upper Guadalupe River (Hubbs et al. 1953; Hubbs 1954).


Host Records

 No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.




Edwards, R.J., G.P. Garrett, and N.L. Allan. 2004. Aquifer-dependent fishes of the Edwards Plateau region. Chapter 13, pp. 253-268 in: Mace, R.E., E.S. Angle, and W.F. Mullican, III (eds.). Aquifers of the Edwards Plateau. Texas Water Development Board. 360 pp.

Girard, C. F. 1857. Researches upon the Cyprinoid fishes inhabiting the fresh waters of the United States of America, west of the Mississippi Valley, from specimens in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (1856) 8(5):165-213.

Hubbs, C. 1954. Corrected distributional records for Texas fresh-water fishes. Texas Journal of Science 1954(3):277-291.

Hubbs, C. 1972. A checklist of Texas freshwater fishes. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Tech. Ser. 11. 11 p.

Hubbs, C. R.A. Kuehne, and J.C. Ball. 1953. Fishes of the upper Guadalupe River, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science 5(2):216-244.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.


Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 2008. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 2nd edition 43(4):1-87.

Jordan, D.S., and B.W. Evermann. 1896. The Fishes of North and Middle America. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. 47(1):1-1240.

Lytle, G.L. 1972. Cyprinid fishes of the subgenus Cyprinella of Notropis from southeast Texas, U.S.A., and Northeast Mexico. M.S. Thesis, Arizona State University. 75 pp.


Matthews, W.J.  1980.  Notropis lutrensis (Baird and Girard), Red shiner. p. 285. In: D. S. Lee, C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister & J. R. Stauffer, Jr. (eds.), Atlas of North American freshwater fishes, North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, 854 pp.

Matthews, W.J. 1987. Geographic variation in Cyprinella lutrensis (Pisces, Cyprinidae) in the United States, with notes on Cyprinella lepida. Copeia (3):616-637.

Mayden, R.L. 1989. Phylogenetic studies of North American minnows, with emphasis on the genus Cyprinella (Teleostei: Cypriniformes). Mis. Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist., Univ. Kansas 80:1-189.


Nature Conservancy, The. 2004. A Biodiversity and Conservation Assessment of the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion. Edwards Plateau Ecoregional Planning Team, The Nature Conservancy, San Antonio, TX, USA.


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


Richardson, L.R., and J.R. Gold. 1995. Evolution of the Cyprinella lutrensis species-complex. II. Systematics and biogeography of the Edwards Plateau shiner, Cyprinella lepida. Copeia 1995(1):28-37.

Scharpf, C. 2005. Annotated checklist of North American freshwater fishes, including subspecies and undescribed forms, Part 1: Petromyzontidae through Cyprinidae. American Currents, Special Publication 31(4):1-44.


Warren, M.L., Jr., B.M. Burr, S.J. Walsh, H.L. Bart, Jr., R.C. Cashner, D.A. Etnier, B.J. Freeman, B.R. Kuhajda, R.L. Mayden, H.W. Robison, S.T. Ross, and W.C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25(10):7-29.