Etheostoma parvipinne

goldstripe darter


Type Locality

Small spring branch, tributary of Black Warrior River at Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Gilbert and Swain in Gilbert 1887).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Etheostoma: from the Greek, etheo, “to strain,” and stoma, “mouth;” parvipinne: small fin, perhaps in reference to the somewhat low dorsal fin (Ross 2001).



Etheostoma parvipinne Gilbert and Swain in Gilbert 1887:59; Cook 1959.

Poecilichthys parvipinnis Moore and Cross 1950.



Maximum size:  75 mm TL (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Coloration: Species named for the gilded lateral line, varies from nearly uniform gray or brown to light brown with contrasting dark brown mottling (Page 1983). In turbid waters or in areas with uniformly sandy substrates specimens are uniformly gray, but in clearer waters 7-8 dorsal saddles and 12 or more midlateral blotches and other body mottlings are present. Males have dusky anal fins and dark blotch at base of the anterior 2 membranes of the spinous dorsal fin (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Species in Texas, with pale longitudinal streak along lateral line; sides without large black rectangular blotches (Hubbs et al. 1991). During spawning and aggressive interactions with other males, the male's coloration darkens to a series of black vertical bars on the side and a black teardrop under the eye (which turns an intense red). Pelvic and anal fins become uniformly black, as well as the dorsal fin, including dorsal spot (Johnston 1994).


Counts: Hubbs et al. (1991) lists the following counts for Etheostoma parvipinne in Texas: 2 anal fin spines; more than 6 pored lateral line scales; less than 77 scales in lateral line. Page (1983) lists the following counts for this species throughout range: lateral scales 40-62 (42-59), 38-60 (41-52) pored; scales above lateral line 6-7; scales below lateral line 8-10 (8-9); transverse scales 12-17 (13-16); scales around caudal peduncle 20-27 (23-25); dorsal spines 8-12 (10-11); dorsal rays 7-13 (9-11); pectoral rays 13-17 (15-16); ; anal rays 7-10 (8-9); vertebrae 36-38.


Body shape:  Small, moderately slender (Robison and Buchanan 1988). Body in cross section nearly round; body depth contained in standard length less than five times head profile rounded, profile in front of eye less than 45 degrees; snout less conical, not extending beyond upper lip; upper jaw not extending as far as to below middle of eye (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Lateral line straight; pectoral fin shorter than head, not reaching anus; scales on belly normal; belly scaled (a narrow naked band may be present on midline); preopercle smooth or weakly serrate (Hubbs et al. 1991). Males develop breeding tubercles on the rays of the anal fin (Page 1983). Breeding female has long tubular genital papilla, broad at the base and tapering to a point distally (Richards 1963).


Internal morphology: Prevomerine and palantine teeth (Page 1983).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Inhabits Gulf Coastal Plain and lower Mississippi drainages westward as far as the Navasota River (Brazos River Basin), Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991). All localities are below the Fall Line (Richards 1963).


Texas distribution: Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of Etheostoma parvipinne 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.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000). Seemingly less common and more spotty in distribution in eastern part of range (Rohde 1980).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: In Texas, occupies small first-order creeks (Hubbs et al 1991). Species prefers small streams and feeder streams of low to moderate gradient (Rohde 1980).


Mesohabitat: With in the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, Texas, Herbert and Gelwick (2003) found species to be associated with shallow water and higher conductivities; within the West Fork, species associated with narrow wet widths and smaller drainage areas; species abundance was greater within headwater streams of the West Fork than the East Fork. Rohde (1980) noted that this species is taken over sand in areas of detrital buildup and over gravel riffles, and is occasionally associated with vegetation. According to Smiley et al. (2006) species association with aquatic vegetation may only occur within certain habitat types such as springs and larger streams having reduced canopy cover. In Alabama (Smith-Vaniz 1968), and in Oklahoma (Moore and Cross 1950) species reported to inhabit heavily vegetated springs and spring creeks. Robison (1977) and Smiley et al. (2006) report common occurrence of species in small streams having sand substrates, shallow water depths, and slow water velocities; in Arkansas, species occurred most often in areas where twig or leaf detritus had accumulated in shallow pools (Robison 1977). Smiley et al. (2006) sampled 14 first-order streams in north-central Mississippi (streams did not contain aquatic vegetation), and found that species abundance was positively correlated with increasing percentage canopy cover, increasing water temperature and decreasing dissolved oxygen levels, increasing percentage sand and decreasing percentage clay substrate. In Oklahoma, species collected from riffles in creeks, at two lowland sites, each having substrata of mud/silt, gravel, and cobble; substrata of one creek included clay and sand (Lemmons and Pigg 1999). A population was documented by Abdul (1987) in a small cattle pond in east Texas that was characterized by low pH (mean 3.7, range 2.9-4.0) and no buffering capacity (0 alkalinity); Etheostoma parvipinne was the only fish species present in the stream pond, and Robbins et al. (2003) reported that a reproducing population was still present as of August 2000. Based on results of studies by Robison (1977), Lemmons and Pigg (1999), and Smiley et al. (2006) species is apparently frequently associated with creek chubs (Semotilus atromaculatus), madtoms (Noturus spp.), and cypress darters (Etheostoma proeliare) in small streams.



Spawning season: Spring (mid-April), in northern Mississippi (Johnston 1994). Based on tubercle development and appearance of young specimens averaging about 20 mm long from mid-April – May, the peak breeding season in Tennessee and Mississippi is in March and April; spawning may extend into May, as gravid females were taken that late, and is likely rather extended, since 20-mm juveniles (believed to be about 2 months old) appeared in some of the May collections (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Spawning location: The small eggs are deposited and fertilized individually on plant stems, roots, or on top of gravel near the base of plants (Johnston 1994).


Reproductive strategy: Johnston (1994) reported collection of specimens in April, from margin of spring where eelgrass was present; specimens were then transferred to aquaria where spawning was observed: Males not territorial, although they will show aggressive interactions with other males during the breeding season. Lack well-defined courtship behaviors; the male follows a female around until she comes to a site suitable for spawning. Male wraps caudle peduncle around and to side of caudal peduncle of female, both fish vibrate as egg is fertilized and released. Both males and females spawned with more than one partner. No parental care was observed (Johnston 1994). This species similar to other egg-attaching species of darters (Johnston 1994), in that their eggs are small and adhesive relative to other darters, and the female has long, tubular genital papilla similar to that of other attaching species (Page 1983).


Fecundity: Based on presence of multiple oocyte stages in the mature ovaries, more than one clutch is probably produced each year; annual fecundity is estimated at 66 eggs; eggs strongly adhesive and usually attached singly to spawning substrate; fertilized, water-hardened eggs are small, average 1 mm in diameter; eggs hatch in 8 days at 20 degrees C (Johnston 1994).


Age at maturation:






Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) list first and second trophic level classifications for this species as invertivore, and benthic, respectively; main food items include midge larvae, dipteran pupae, caddisfly larvae, dytiscid beetle larvae, and small crayfish (Etnier and Starnes 1993; Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Growth: Johnston (1994) suggested that males and females are similarly sized (mean SL males = 53 mm, n +5; mean SL females = 50 mm, n = 5). Etnier and Starnes (1993) report at least two adult groups present in early spring collections, averaging 45-50 and 55-65 mm TL, as well as young-of-the-year 20-mm TL specimens, indicating three age groups.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Only member of subgenus Fuscatelum (Page 1981; Bailey and Etnier 1988), which is characterized by an absence of bright colors (no red, blue, green, or yellow), tubercles on the anal fin of the breeding male, an interrupted supratemporal canal, an incomplete and straight lateral line, and the presence of a premaxillary frenum (Page 1983). Etheostoma parvipinne superficially similar to darters of the subgenus Oligocephalus, from which it differs in having gill membranes moderately connected across the isthmus and in lacking any red or blue in the dorsal fin of breeding males (Ross 2001).


Host Records

Urocleidus ammocryptus sp. n., from Etheostoma parvipinne, in southern Mississippi (Harrises and Vickery 1970).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Etheostoma parvipinne is intolerant to changes in water quality and habitat (Jester et al. 1992). Winston (2002) observed that the species was absent from collections in small streams below the Fall Line in southeastern Missouri that were impacted by gravel mining, impoundments, household effluent and drainage culverts. Ross (2001) noted that the occurrence of this species in small, clear, stained streams makes it susceptible to increased sedimentation from logging, channelization, or from agricultural runoff. According to Smiley et al. (2006), management plans designed to maintain and develop forested riparian zones adjacent to first-order streams would assist with conservation of E. parvipinne.


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957).]



Abdul, M.N. 1987. The goldstripe darter Etheostoma parvipinne Gilbert and Swain: its habitat, morphology, and feeding habits. Master’s Thesis, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. 102 pp.

Bailey, R.M., and D.A. Etnier. 1988. Comments on subgenera of darters (Percidae) with descriptions of two new species of Etheostoma (Ulocentra) from the southeastern United States. Misc. Publ. Mus. of Zoology of the Univ. Michigan 175:1-48.

Cook, F.A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson. 239 pp.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville. 681 pp.

Gilbert, C.H. 1887. Descriptions of new and little known etheostomoids. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 10(607):47-64.

Goldstein, R.M., and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. pp. 123-202 in T.P. Simon, editor. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. 671 pp.

Harrises, A.E., and R.L. Vickery. 1970. Additional species of Ancyrocephalinae (Trematoda: Monogenea) from darters of southern Mississippi. American Midland Naturalist 84(2):437-443.

Herbert, M.E., and F.P. Gelwick. 2003. Spatial variation of headwater fish assemblages explained by hydrologic variability and upstream effects of impoundment. Copeia 2003(2):273-284.

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

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.

Jester, D.B., A.A. Echelle, W.J. Matthews, J. Pigg, C.M. Scott, K.D. Collins. 1992. The fishes of Oklahoma, their gross habitats, and their tolerance of degradation in water quality and habitat. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 72:7-19.

Johnston, C.E. 1994. Spawning behavior of the goldstripe darter (Etheostoma parvipinne Gilbert and Swain) (Percidae). Copeia 1994(3):823-825.

Lemmons, R.P., and J. Pigg. 1999. Historical and new records of the goldstripe darter, Etheostoma parvipinne, in Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 79:87-89.

Moore, G.A., and F.B. Cross. 1950. Additional Oklahoma fishes with validation of Poecilichthys parvipinnis (Gilbert and Swain). Copeia 1950(2):139-148.

Page, L.M. 1981. The genera and subgenera of darters (Percidae, Etheostomatini). Occas. Pap. Mus. Nat. Hist. Univ. Kansas 90:1-69.

Page, L.M. 1983. Handbook of Darters. TFH Publications, Inc. Ltd., Neptune City, New Jersey. 271 pp.

Richards, W.J. 1963. Systematics studies of darters from southeastern United States (Pisces, Percidae). Ph.D. Diss., Cornell University. 203 pp.

Robbins, M., C. Rein, and M. Volkin. 2003. The goldstripe darter (Etheostoma parvipinne) and its tolerance to low pH in an east Texas stream pond. Texas J. Sci. 55:87-89.

Robison, H.W. 1977. Distribution, habitat, variation, and status of the goldstripe darter, Etheostoma parvipinne Gilbert and Swain, in Arkansas. Southwestern Naturalist. 22(4):435-442.

Robison, H.W., and T.N. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 536 pp.

Rohde, F.C. 1980.  Etheostoma parvipinne (Gilbert and Swain), Goldstripe darter.  pp.680 in D. S. Lee et al., Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Ross, S.T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson. 624 pp.

Smiley, P.C., Jr. E.D. Dibble, and S.H. Schoenholtz. 2006. Spatial and temporal variation of goldstripe darter abundance in first-order streams on north-central Mississippi. Amer. Midl. Nat. 156:23-36.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1968. Freshwater Fishes of Alabama. Auburn University Agri. Exper. Sta. 211 pp.

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.

Winston, M.R. 2002. Distribution and abundance of the goldstripe darter (Etheostoma parvipinne) in Missouri. Southwestern Naturalist 47:187-194.