Pictures by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Cyprinella lutrensis

red shiner



Type Locality

Otter Creek, tributary of North Fork Red River, Tillman Co, Arkansas (Baird and Girard 1853). Type locality corrected to Otter Creek, tributary of the North Fork of the Red River, Kiowa or Tillman County, Oklahoma (Matthews 1980; Sublette et al. 1990).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Cyprinella - Latin, a small carp; lutrensis, from lutra - Latin, otter, referring to the type locality of Otter Creek, Arkansas (Scharph 2005).



Leucicus lutrensis Baird and Girard 1853:391.

Notropis lutrensis Cook 1959:11; Knight and Cooper 1978:33; Nailon and Pennington 1987:86.



Maximum size: 75 mm (2.95 in) SL (Matthews 1980; Mayden 1989).


Coloration: Back olivaceous; sides silver; scales of back and sides edged with melanophores; abdomen whitish; melanophores in a narrow wedgeshaped pattern posterior to upper end of opercle and in a medial stripe on gula. Breeding male with red on top of head; sides pinkish; back and sides blue, darkening to purple in a cresent behind the head; dorsal fin dark; caudal, pelvic, and pectoral fins reddish orange (Sublette et al. 1990). Black median stripe on lower jaw does not extend posteriorly through the isthmus; pigments in interradial membranes of dorsal fin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Peritoneum silvery with numerous large, dark chromatophores (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Pharyngeal teeth count: 0,4-4,0 (Mayden 1989; Hubbs et al. 1991; Page and Burr 1991).


Counts: 34-36 lateral line scales; 8 dorsal soft fin rays; 8 pelvic soft fin rays; generally 9 (8-10) anal soft fin rays (Miller and Robison 2004).


Body shape: Deep body and compressed (Mayden 1989). Head sharp and compressed (Hubbs et al. 1991). Tendency for large males to develop a sharply pointed snout that overhangs the mouth (Miller and Robison 2004).


Mouth position: Terminal to slightly subterminal.


Morphology:  Diamond-shaped scales; slightly decurved lateral line. Tuberculation characteristics from Koehne (1965), Collette (1977), and Sublette et al. (1990): In the male, nuptial tubercles are dense and scattered on snout, top of head, chin, edges of body scales, and fin rays; in the female, weak tubercles are present on head and midline of back. Nuptial tubercles of the caudal peduncle are largest on anterior end of scales. As spawning season progresses, tuberculation increases, progressing from a linear pattern to one that is scattered.  Intestine short and s-shaped (Hubbs et al. 1991; Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Ranges throughout the southern Great Plains of the United States into Mexico (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Occurs throughout Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage units for distribution of red shiners in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957); King et al. (1985); Linam et al. (1994); Matthews (1995); Richardson and Gold (1995); Gido et al. (1999); Bonner and Wilde (2002); Durham and Wilde (2006).]


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

Currently stable in the southern United States (Warren et al. 2000). Riggs and Bonn (1959) reported red shiners to be the most abundant minnow in Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas; however Matthews and Marsh-Matthews (2007) reported that the species has since been extirpated from severeal direct tributaries of Lake Texoma. In August 1998 – July 1989 (no collections made in May 1989) collections from Sister Grove Creek (Trinity River basin), Texas, red shiners were one of the five most abundant species (Meador and Matthews 1992). Bonner and Wilde (2000) noted that this species, which occurred infrequently in the Canadian River in 1954-1955, has increased in abundance and was one of the two species that composed 90% of the fish assemblage in 1995-1996; this apparently related to post-impoundment conditions.


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Rivers, streams, creeks in pools and riffles (Hubbs et al. 1953; Cross 1967; Matthews 1980); reservoirs (Riggs and Bonn 1959; Pflieger 1975).


Mesohabitat: Often most abundant minnow in low-gradient habitats, especially backwaters, creek mouths and medium-sized streams with sand and silt substrates; quiet, shallow backwaters; however during breeding season in central Texas larger males and females were found in faster flowing areas at the bases of raceways and riffles (Farringer et al. 1979). Found in pools and slow-flowing riffles throughout the Guadalupe drainage (Hubbs et al. 1953). Red shiners are tolerant of siltation and frequent high turbidity (Cross 1967). In Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, this species is taken along almost all shorelines; common in headwaters and tailwaters (Riggs and Bonn 1959). Red shiners have been found in some clear-water upland streams of the Edwards Plateau, Texas, these having substantial flow (Matthews 1987).  Temperature, current speed,  and water depth were factors that had greatest influence on habitat selection; red shiners avoided highly acidic water in the field, and preferred a pH of 7.1-7.4 in the laboratory (Matthews and Hill 1979). Matthews (1986) found that no significant differences or clinal variation in critical thermal maximum, 35.9-36.3°C (96.6-97.3°F) at acclimation temperature of 21°C (69.8°F), exist among populations representing all major river systems occupied by this species across a 1100 km north-south span of its range. For fish acclimated at 30°C (86°F), Rutledge and Beitinger (1989) reported critical thermal maxima of 35.4-39.6°C (95.7-103.4°F).



Spawning season: Mid-April – September, in Oklahoma and Texas (Farringer et al 1979).


Spawning location: Occurs most frequently on clean gravel riffles, or on submerged objects, such as tree roots and logs, where the eggs are deposited in crevices (Cross 1967; Pflieger 1975; Minckley 1972). Cross (1967) observed spawning over substrates varying from gravel to sand to mud. Pflieger (1975) observed spawning near the surface over beds of submerged aquatic plants, in clear ponds. Gale (1986) reported that spawning females preferred 2-3 mm (0.08-0.12 in) crevice sites. Minckley (1959) described spawning over green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) and orangespotted sunfish (L. humilis) nests. Spawning may also occur in midwater as the male and female swim through the water column (Minckley 1972). In the Brazos River, we observed red shiners spawning on drift nets placed in shallow water during the night.  In the Rio Grande, we found a spawning aggregate of red shiners (20–30 individuals) in a narrow and shallow riffle with gravel and cobble substrate.  Adhesive eggs were found on the underside of cobble stones.


Reproductive strategy: Nonguarders; brood hiders; speleophils (crevice spawners; Simon 1999). Male established territory around crevice and made display passes along the spawning site, his body undulating or vibrating with bright red fins extended; occasionally male swam toward females in an effort to direct them to the crevice; male flicked fins forward every few seconds as he approached and circled females; courtship may be lengthy, lasting hours, with female revisiting spawning site over 200 times prior to egg release; male swam above female during spawning passes over horizontal crevice; female contorted violently while when eggs were expelled; eggs were sprayed into crevices; first expulsion may be followed by another pass and expulsion (Gale 1986). Females produce sound to attract the males (Delco 1960). 


Fecundity: Females released up to 16 batches per day with up to 71 eggs per batch; average clutch size 585 eggs; pair may spawn 5-19 clutches over the reproductive season (Gale 1986). In Iowa, 485-684 eggs per gravid female (Laser and Carlander 1971).


Age at maturation: Between 24-30 mm (0.94-1.18 in) SL (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929; Cross 1950; Laser and Carlander 1971; Farringer et al 1979; Marsh-Matthews et al. 2002).  However, some individuals reach sexual maturity at age 0 (Marsh-Matthews et al. 2002).


Longevity: Up to three years (Carlander 1969; Laser and Carlander 1971; Farringer et al 1979; Pflieger 1975). In the lower Brazos River, Texas, the population consisted of at least four age groups (age 0, 1, 2, and 3; Winemiller et al. 2004).


Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) list first and second trophic classifications for this species as invertivore/herbivore and benthic, respectively; trophic mode: grazer. Main food items include terrestrial and aquatic insects, and algae (Lewis and Gunning 1959, as C. whipplei; Carlander 1969; Laser and Carlander 1971; Harwood 1972; Goldstein and Simon 1999). In Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, fish were omnivorous feeding mostly on insects, but opportunistically seized any item available in the average size range; diet includes aquatic and terrestrial insects as well as sediment (Hale 1963).


Growth and population structure: In Kansas, age groups 0 – III reported to range from 25-30 mm (0.98-1.18 in) SL, 30-40 mm (1.18-1.57 in) SL, 40-50 mm (1.57-2.00 in) SL, and 50-60 mm (2.00-2.36 in) SL, respectively; in Oklahoma, age group 0 reported to range from 12-19 mm (0.47-0.78 in) SL in July (Carlander 1969). In Iowa, Laser and Carlander (1971) reported total length for age group 0 – II fish as 17-35 mm (0.67-1.38 in), 37-65 mm (1.46-2.56 in), and 69-75 mm (2.72-2.95 in), respectively. Growth in new impoundments is more rapid than in streams (Pflieger 1975). In the lower Brazos River, Texas, age-0 fish (year class 2004) were first collected in August 2004 and were <25 mm (0.98 in) in length; except for age-0 fish, representatives of each age group were collected throughout the year (Winemiller et al. 2004).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

One subspecies, Maravillas red shiner (C. l. blairi), was reported form Maravillas Canyon, Big Bend region of the Rio Grande.  C. l. blairi now considered extinct (Miller et al. 1989). Small Cyprinella lutrensis may be difficult to distinguish from C. venusta (blacktail shiner), especially when collected from turbid water; C. lutrensis has lower lateral line scale counts (generally less than 35 vs. 35 or more), and a deeper body; C. venusta has 8 anal soft fin rays and a distinct caudal spot (Ross 2001). C. lutrensis will hybridize with C. venusta in areas of common geographic range; hybrids appear to be intermediate between parent species in shape and color (Hubbs and Strawn 1956; Riggs and Bonn 1959; Smith 1979). C. lutrensis similar to C. lepida (plateau shiner) but C. lepida breeding male has green back, yellow-purple side, purple bar on side of gold-orange head, and yellow-orange fins. C. lutrensis also similar to C. proserpina (proserpine shiner) but C. proserpina has black stripe along side, and black stripe on chin and throat; subterminal mouth; and yellow to orange (on male) fins (Page and Burr 1991).


Host Records:

Myxosporidan: Myoxsoma cyprini sp. N., reported from Oklahoma (Spall 1974). From Nebraska, the invasive Asian fish tapeworm, Bothriocephalus acheilognathi (Choudhury et al. 2006), and Rhabdochona canadensis (Nematoda: Rhabdochonidae; Bargur and Janovy 1994).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Cross (1967) noted that the species is generally most numerous where few other kinds of fish occur. Although widespread, tolerant of harsh conditions, and highly invasive, red shiners have been extipated from or declined sharply in six of seven creeks that are direct tributaries of Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas; this possibly influenced by habitat modification and predation (Matthews and Marsh-Matthews 2007).



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