Pictures by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Cyprinella sp.

Nueces River shiner



Type Locality

 No information at this time.


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Cyprinella – small carp (Scharpf 2005).



Notropis lutrensis Hubbs 1951:491.

Notropis lepidus Hubbs 1954:283.

Cyprinella lepida Matthews (1987); Mayden 1989:58-60; Hubbs et al. 1991:17.

Cyprinella cf. lepida Warren et al. 2000:15; Scharpf 2005:13.

Cyprinella sp. Richardson and Gold (1995); Warren et al. (2000); The Nature Conservancy (2004).


Cyprinella lepida populations in the Frio and Sabinal rivers are genetically distinct from those in the Nueces River (Richardson and Gold 1995; Edwards et al. 2004). Girard (1857) described C. lepida from the Frio River; consequently, populations in the Frio and Sabinal rivers will retain C. lepida moniker.  Nueces River population currently is referred to as “Cyprinella sp.” with the common name of Nueces River shiner (Richardson and Gold 1995).  Formal acceptance of this name change is pending (American Fisheries Society Committee on Names of Fishes).  Morphological information reported for Cyprinella lepida by Matthews (1987) primarily contains information for Cyprinella sp. Nueces River shiner (N = 13 individuals examined), but also includes C. lepida (N = 4 individuals examined).  Morphological information reported for C. lepida by Mayden (1989) applies to Cyprinella sp. Nueces River shiner.



Maximum size: Maximum size of about 60 mm (2.36 in) SL (Mayden 1989).


Coloration: Mayden (1989) described coloration of individuals from the Nueces River: peritoneum brownish and/or silvery with speckled melanophores. Breeding males brilliantly colored with greenish dorsum, lighter overhead. Dorsolateral scales above dark lateral stripe yellowish-purple or yellowish-blue from yellowish-scales with purple margins; body much lighter below lateral stripe. Pigment arranged in distinct diamond-shaped pattern on lateral body scales. Side of head with golden-orange wash and purple vertical bar at anterior margin of preopercle; black gular stripe present, but short, extending to posterior margin of mandible. All fins yellow to yellowish-orange; dorsal fin heavily pigmented, yellow primarily restricted to distal edge. Color of females and nonbreeding males is bright, but considerably less so than that of breeding males: fins are generally clear to slight yellow with melanophores on rays and membranes only. Lateral stripe present but more diffuse anteriorly.


Matthews (1987) gave a composite description of peak nuptial coloration based on individuals from both the Nueces (this population since recognized as Cyprinella. sp.; Richardson and Gold 1995) and Frio (C. lepida; 4 specimens) river populations; difference in coloration between the two species is noted: Dorsum of head green; eye orange; narrow bluish or purplish vertical bar at front of peropercle; 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 as is typical of Cyprinella, dark in appearance upper and becoming little pigmented below the decurved lateral line; scales of upper sides are yellow gold with a purple-blue posterior border, giving an overall distinctive orange wash against purple throughout upper sides, strongest anteriorly; dorsal fin with yellow on distal portions of membranes in some; pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins entirely bright yellow, almost canary; anal fin yellow, yellow-orange, or red-orange; sides often with a dark but diffuse lateral band wide or wider than eye, fading anteriorly in some; Matthews (1987) indicated that only Frio River specimens (C. lepida) had red nuptial coloration at tip of snout.


Counts: Individuals from the Nueces River: pharyngeal teeth 0,4-4,0; lateral line scales 32-34 (33-34); dorsal fin soft  rays 7-8; anal fin soft rays 9-10 (9); pelvic fin soft rays 8; pectoral fin soft rays 12-14 (13-14)(Mayden 1989).


Mouth position: Slightly subinferior (Hubbs et al. 1991). Mayden (1989) noted inferior mouth position for Nueces River specimens.


Body shape:  Mayden (1989) described individuals from the Nueces River: Terete, and only slightly compressed; dorsum slightly convex; head large, subconical, and convex above, while horizontal below; mouth small, posterior margin of maxilla to or slightly before orbit margin; snout blunt and protruding; caudal peduncle short and moderately deep; dorsal fin origin over to slightly posterior to pelvic fin insertion.


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 fleshy lobes; 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). Dorsal fin of breeding males from the Nueces River is straight posteriorly and is not expanded (Mayden 1989).  Intestine simple S-shaped loop (Mayden 1989).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Found only in Texas (Richardson and Gold 1995; Warren et al. 2000; Edwards et al. 2004; Scharpf 2005).


Texas distribution: Upper reaches of the Nueces River of Texas (Richardson and Gold 1995; Warren et al. 2000; Edwards et al. 2004; Scharpf 2005).


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

Cyprinella sp. listed as imperiled/critically imperiled (Nueces River, TX; Scharpf 2005); critically imperiled/imperiled (The Nature Conservancy 2004); vulnerable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Inhabits clear, cool, spring-fed headwater creeks (Hubbs 1954; Mayden 1989).


Mesohabitat: No information at this time.



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

Cyprinella sp. is similar to the plateau shiner (Cyprinella lepida; Richardson and Gold 1995); C. lepida inhabits the Frio, Sabinal, and upper Guadalupe Rivers, while Cyprinella sp. is apparently limited to the Nueces River. Matthews (1987) examined Cyprinella sp. from the Nueces River, and C. lepida from the Frio River and noted that male nuptial coloration in C. lepida specimens included red on the tip of the snout, while that of Cyprinella sp. did not (Matthews 1987; Richardson and Gold 1995).


Cyprinella sp. is also similar to the proserpine shiner (C. proserpina), and the red shiner (C. lutrensis): Cyprinella sp. has a slightly subinferior mouth; the head is blunt and rounded; snout length plus upper jaw length 17% or more of standard length; body is slender, with distance between dorsal and anal origins 24-29% of SL (higher figures for adult males, lower figures for young females); tubercles on head of high males larger on occiput than on snout; the black median stripe on chin extends no farther posteriorly than below eye; and upper jaw length is greater than snout length (Hubbs 1954). C. proserpina differs from Cyprinella sp. 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 Cyprinella sp. 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 Cyprinella sp. and C. lutrensis are apparent: scales of upper sides on Cyprinella sp. 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 Cyprinella sp. 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 Nueces River (Hubbs 1951; 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. 1951. Observations on the breeding of Dionda episcopa serena in the Nueces River, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 3:490-492.

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

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.

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.


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.