Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Dionda diaboli

Devils River minnow



Type Locality

Baker’s Crossing on the Devils River, Val Verde County, Texas (Hubbs and Brown 1956).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Dionda – from the Greek Dione, the mother of Venus (Edwards 1999); diaboli – of the devil, referring to Devils River (Scharpf 2005).



No information at this time.



Maximum size: 64 mm (2.52 in) TL (Page and Burr 1991).


Coloration: Double dashes present along lateral line canal; caudal spot wedge-shaped; black band through eye to snout; prominent markings on dorsal scale pockets (Hubbs et al. 1991); middorsal stripe connects dorsal scale pocket markings; middorsal stripe darkest along base of dorsal fin; peritoneum black (Hubbs and Brown 1956). Breeding males develop yellow coloration on fins and blue-green sheen on body, especially on the dorsal and anterior portions of the head (Gibson and Fries 2005). Olive back and upper sides; silver-white below, often with dark green belly (Page and Burr 1991).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 0,4-4,0; 8 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); dorsal fin soft rays 8 (rarely 9); caudal fin soft  rays 19 (rarely 18); pelvic fin soft  rays 8 (rarely 6 or 7); pectoral fin soft rays 14 or 15 (rarely 13 or 16); lateral line scales 33-35 (rarely 32 or 36; Hubbs and Brown 1956).


Mouth position: Subterminal (Hubbs and Brown 1956).


Body shape: Slender, terete.


Morphology: First obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched 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); fins short and rounded. Breeding males with tubercles evenly distributed over top of head and on pectoral fin rays (Hubbs and Brown 1956; Gibson and Fries 2005).  Intestinal canal long, more than twice the length of the body (Hubbs et al. 1991). See Hulbert et al. (2007) for description and illustrations of larval and juvenile D. diaboli.


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

Mexico distribution: Rio San Carlos and upper Rio Salado basin (Cohuila; Scharpf 2005).


Texas distribution: Devils River and San Felipe, Sycamore creeks in Val Verde County; and Las Moras (extirpated; Hubbs et al. 1991) and Pinto creeks in Kinney County (Garrett et al. 2004; Lopez-Fernandez and Winemiller 2005; Scharpf



[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957); Hubbs and Hettler (1958); Robinson (1959); Gold et al. (1992); Cantu and Winemiller (1997); Edwards (2001); Hulbert (2005); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2005).]


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

Critically imperiled; threatened (US); endangered (Mexico; Williams et al. 1989; TOES 1995; CONABIO 1997; Edwards 1999; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1999; Contreras-Balderas et al. 2003; Garrett et al. 2004; Scharpf 2005). Spotty distribution within range (Garrett et al. 2002); species varies from relatively abundant (Hubbs and Brown 1956; Harrell 1978) to exceedingly rare (Garrett et al. 1992). Status of D. diaboli in the rios Salda and San Carlos presently unknown as no collections have been made since the early 1970s, but thought to be rare or extirpated from these locations (Miller 1977; Garrett et al. 2002; Garrett et al. 2004). Hubbs et al. (1991) listed this species as endangered and noted a significant decline in its abundance in the last decade. D. diaboli has possibly been extirpated from Sycamore Creek; a result of reduced water quantity and quality (Edwards et al. 2004); current status of species in this creek is not known (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2005).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Flowing spring-fed waters (Garrett et al. 2002); Pinto Creek population confined to the upper segment of creek (Garrett et al. 2004). Species seems to be restricted to the area where spring runs enter the river (Hubbs and Garrett 1990; Edwards 1999; Garrett et al. 2002). However, individuals have been found in the mainstem Devils River, outside of spring influences (Kollaus, unpublished data). Restricted to creek habitats of spring-fed San Felipe Creek; not present in the outflow channels (Lopez-Fernandez and Winemiller 2005).


Mesohabitat: Found over gravel-cobble substrate, usually associated with aquatic macrophytes (Edwards 1999; Garrett et al. 2004). Channel inhabitant under normal flow regimes, and shallow riffle inhabitant after flooding (Harrell 1978; Harrell 1980).



Spawning season: Likely in the spring (Edwards 1999; Garrett 2002). During a December 2001 survey of the uppermost portion of Pinto Creek (Texas) many males were in full breeding color and spawning activity was noted (Edwards 2003).


Spawning habitat: In experimental streams, gravel substrate preferred (Gibson et al. 2004; Gibson and Fries 2005).


Spawning behavior: Spawning of D. diaboli in captivity was observed: The female of an observed breeding pair began to swim right above the gravel substrate with the male following, usually just above her. Subsequent spawning behavior lasted less than 1 second. Male aligned his body parallel to the female when she stopped moving, after which the pair would tilt laterally in the same direction with the male leaning towards and over the female. Male pressed the posterior end of the female’s body laterally against the gravel using the lateral side of the posterior end of his body near vent, after which both swam rapidly upward.  Eggs and milt were probably released at this moment. This pair had 11 spawning events within a 10 minute period, at 0900 hours. Similar spawning behavior was observed in a second breeding pair; this pair had 11 spawning events spanning a 41 minute period. Group reproduction was observed but difficult to analyze due to intense activity and the large number of fish: Several males hovered over different areas, displaying aggressive, possibly territorial behavior such as ramming their heads into other males and chasing them away. Groups of 5-10 fish were observed to swim downward in unison; they may have been feeding on flaked food or eggs that had accumulated. Spawning may have occurred when females swam directly over the gravel while many males were crowded around them; no eggs and milt could be seen in the dense group of agitated fish (Gibson and Fries 2005). Spawning traits likely similar to those reported for the Nueces roundnose minnow (D. serena; Hubbs 1951; Edwards 1999; Garrett et al. 2002); this species was observed to be a group spawner, displaying agitated behavior, some found buried in gravel, and females producing nonadhesive eggs (Hubbs 1951; Gibson and Fries 2005). Johnston (1999) suggested that all Dionda species are broadcast spawners; territoriality is not typical of this reproductive mode (Gibson and Fries 2005). D. diaboli likely broadcast spawner, displaying territorial behavior uncharacteristic of that reproductive mode; neither nest construction nor egg clustering observed in experimental streams (Gibson et al. 2004; Gibson and Fries 2005); Gibson and Fries (2005) suggested that reproductive behavior of D. diaboli may be more complicated than simple broadcast spawning.


Fecundity: Gibson et al. (2004) reported eggs that were transparent with a faint yellow hue, slightly adhesive, measuring 1.40-1.78 mm (0.06-0.07 in), diameter mean = 1.59 mm, (0.06 in).


Age at maturation: Thought to reach sexual maturity at about 25 mm (0.98 in) SL (Harrell 1980; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1999; Gibson and Fries 2005).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure: Average TL of larvae (about 3 days posthatch) was 7 mm (0.28 in); these fish grew to an average of 35 mm (1.38 in) TL in 192 days (Gibson and Fries 2005).


Longevity: No information at this time.


Food habits: In captivity, most fish at 5-7 days posthatch (yolk greatly diminished) occasionally swam up into the water column to feed; by 10-14 days, most fry schooled at middepth in the water and were observed to readily eat live brine shrimp or flaked or fry food (Gison et al. 2004).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

The Manantial roundnose minnow (Dionda argentosa) is sympatric with D. diaboli in the Devils River, Sycamore Creek and San Felipe Creek; the former species differs from D. diaboli in that adults are much longer and stouter, individuals have 36-41 lateral line scales, and lack cross-hatched scales and double dashes along the lateral line (Edwards 1999); this sympatric species pair apparently evolved allopatrically and their current sympatric relationship is due to the complex paleohydrology of the region (Hubbs and Miller 1977; Mayden et al. 1992; Edwards 1999). D. diaboli is similar to the Nueces roundnose minnow (D. serena) which occurs in the headwaters of the Nueces River system and on which double dashes along the lateral line are present, as well as cross-hatched scale markings (these cross-hatched markings are not as distinct as those in D. diaboli); D. serena also differs in having 7 dorsal fin rays and 34-40 lateral line scales (Edwards 1999). Dionda diaboli similar in appearance to the roundnose minnow (Dionda episcopa), but the latter species has round spot on caudal fin base, smaller eye, no conspicuous dark-edged scales on back and upper sides (Page and Burr 1991). D. diaboli is slimmer than D. episcopa (Hubbs and Brown 1956). Edwards (1999) notes that D. episcopa lacks double dashes along the lateral line and is restricted to streams in which D. diaboli is not found.


See Hulbert et al. (2007) for description and illustrations of larval and juvenile D. diaboli.


Host Records

 No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Future of the Pinto Creek, Texas population may be threatened by reduced spring-flows resulting from excessive pumping from the associated aquifer (Edwards 2003; Garrett et al. 2004). Lopez-Fernandez and Winemiller (2005) presented evidence suggesting that the presence of exotic species (especially  South American armored catfish Hypostomus) in San Felipe Creek, Texas, may have a negative effect on D. diaboli. According to Edwards (1999), remaining populations are potentially threatened by loss of habitat through reduction in spring flows; reduction in water quality; and predation and competition with nonnative species.


Species successfully used in experimental stream units and known to have produced larvae in the streams (Matthews et al. 2006).




Cantu, N.E., and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Structure and habitat associations of Devils River fish assemblages. Southwestern Naturalist 42(3):265-278.



Y USO DE LA BIODIVERSIDAD). 1997. Oficio No. DOO.750, - 1415/97), la revisio´n de la NOMECOL-059-1994, Norma Oficial Mexicana NOMECOL-059-1994, que determina las especies y subspecies del flora y fauna silvestres terrestres y acua´ticas en peligro de extincio´n, amenazadas raras y las sujetas a proteccio´n especial y que establece especificacio´nes para su proteccio´n, Publicada en el D.O.F. de fecha 16 de mayo de 1994.


Contreras-Balderas, S., P. Almada-Villela, M.D. Lozano-Vilano, and M.E. Garcia-Ramirez. 2003. Freshwater fish at risk or extinct in Mexico. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 12:241-251.


Edwards, R.J. 1999. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes II. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 69 pp.


Edwards, R.J. 2001. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes III. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 59 pp.


Edwards, R.J. 2003. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes IV. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 19 pp.


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, II (editors) Aquifers of the Edwards Plateau. Texas Water Development Board. 360 pp.

Garrett, G.P., C. Hubbs, and R.J. Edwards. 2002. Threatened fishes of the world: Dionda diaboli Hubbs and Brown, 1956 (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 65:478.

Garrett, G.P., R.J. Edwards, and A.H. Price. 1992. Distribution and status of the Devils River minnow, Dionda diaboli. The Southwestern Naturalist 37(3):259-267.

Garrett, G.P., R.J. Edwards, and C. Hubbs. 2004. Discovery of a new population of Devils River minnow (Dionda diaboli), with implications for conservation of the species. The Southwestern Naturalist 49(4):435-441.

Gibson, J.R., and J.N. Fries. 2005. Culture studies of the Devils River minnow. North American Journal of Aquaculture 67:294-303.

Gibson, J.R., J.N. Fries, and G.P. Garrett. 2004. Habitat and substrate use in reproduction of captive Devils River minnows. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:42-47.

Gold, J.R., Y. Li, M.C. Birkner, and J.D. Jenkin. 1992. Chromosomal NOR karyotypes and genome size in Dionda (Osteichthyes: Cyprinidae) from Texas and New Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 37(3):217-222.

Harrell, H.L. 1978. Response of the Devils River (Texas) fish community to flooding. Copeia 1978(1):60-68.


Harrell, H.L. 1980.  Dionda diaboli (Hubbs and Brown), Devils River minnow.  p. 153.  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.

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. 1957. Distributional patterns of Texas fresh-water fishes. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(2/3):89-104.


Hubbs, C. & G.P. Garrett. 1990. Reestablishment of Cyprinodon eximius (Cyprinodontidae) and status of Dionda diaboli (Cyprinidae) in the vicinity of Dolan Creek,Val Verde Co., Texas. Southwest. Nat. 35: 446–478.

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., and R.R. Miller. 1977. Six distinctive cyprinid fish species referred to Dionda inhabiting segments of the Tampico Embayment drainage of Mexico. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 18:267–335.


Hubbs, C. and W.F. Hettler. 1958. Fluctuations of some central Texas fish populations. The Southwestern Naturalist 3(1/4):13-16.

Hubbs, C., and W.H. Brown. 1956. Dionda diaboli (Cyprinidae), a new minnow from Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 1(2):69-77.

Hulbert, J. 2005. Morphology, meristic counts, and melanophore description for Dionda diaboli (Cyprinidae) during development. M.S. Thesis, Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas. 30 pp.

Hulbert, J., T.H. Bonner, J.N. Fries, G.P. Garrett, and D.R. Pendergrass. 2007. Early development of the Devils River minnow, Dionda diaboli (Cyprinidae). The Southwestern Naturalist 52(3):378-385.

Johnston, C.E. 1999. The relationship of spawning mode to conservation of North American minnows (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 55(1-2):21-30.

Lopez-Fernandez, H., and K.O. Winemiller. 2005. Status of Dionda diaboli and report of established poulations of exotic fish species in lower San Felipe Creek, Val Verde County, Texas. Southwestern Naturalist 50(2):246-251.

Matthews, W.J., K.B. Gido, G.P. Garrett, F.P. Gelwick, J.G. Stewart, and J. Schaefer. 2006. Modular experimental riffle-pool stream system. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 135(6):1559-1566.


Mayden, R.L., R..M. Matson and D. M. Hillis. 1992. Speciation in the North American genus Dionda (Teleostei: Cypriniformes). Pp. 710-746 in: Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes (R.L. Mayden, ed.). Stanford Univ. Press, Palo Alto, California. 969 pp.


Miller, R.R. 1977. Composition and derivation of the native fish fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert region. In: Wauer, R. H., and D. H. Riskind, editors. Transactions of the Symposium on the Biological Resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Region United States and Mexico. National Park Service Transactions and Proceedings Series, Number 3:365–381.


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


Robinson, D.T. 1959. The ichthyofauna of the lower Rio Grande, Texas and Mexico. Copeia 1959(3):253-256.


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.


TOES (Texas Organization for Endangered Species). 1995. Endangered, threatened, and watch list of Texas vertebrates. Publ. 10.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. Final rule to list the Devils River minnow as Threatened. Federal Register 64: 56596–56609.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Devils River Minnow (Dionda diaboli) Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Williams, J.E., J.E. Johnson, D.A. Hendrickson, S. Contreras-Balderas, J.D. Williams, M. Navarro-Mendoza, D.E. McAllister, and J.E. Deacon. 1989. Fishes of North America endangered, threatened, or of special concern: 1989. Fisheries 14(6):2-20.