Etheostoma proeliare

cypress darter



Type Locality

Tributary to Tuscumbia River at Corinth, Alcorm Co., MS (Hay 1881)


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Etheostoma, from the Greek etheo, “to strain,” and stoma, mouth”; proeliare Latin, pertaining to battle, the species being found on the civil war battle field of Corinth in Mississippi (Pflieger 1997).



Views on the subgeneric placement of the Cypress darter are varied. Bailey and Etnier (1988) followed earlier studies (Jordan and Evermann 1896; Burr 1978) in retaining the cypress darter in the subgenus Microperca. Page (1981) relegated the subgenus Microperca and Hololepis to Boleichthys.


Microperca proelaris Hay 1881:496 (type locale: tributary of Tuscumbia River at Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi) Hay 1883:62.

Etheostoma proeiare F.A. Cook 1959:208



Maximum size: 40mm SL (Burr and Page1978).


Coloration: The back is light olive green or brown overlain with six to nine narrow, black saddles. There are 7-12 dark blotches and numerous smaller spots along the ides. The preorbital bar is well developed, and there is a prominent black vertical bar that extends through the eye; the postorbital bar is reduced to a spot. The soft dorsal and caudal fins are banded; the pectoral fin is largely clear, except for large melanophores outlining the rays. The anal and pelvic fins are clear in females, but dusky in males. The spinous dorsal is banded or spotted in females, but has prominent black submarginal band (most developed anteriorly) in males. Breeding males have reddish orange blotches on the first several membranes of the spinous dorsal fin (Burr 1978; Jordan-Mathis 1994; Ross 2001).


Counts: Lateral scales 34-38 (35-36; Page 1983); fewer than 6 pored lateral line scales (Hubbs et al. 1991); scales above lateral line 2-3; scales below lateral line 5-6; transverse scales 8-12 (9-11); scales around caudal peduncle 13-18 (15); dorsal rays 10-13 (10-11); pectoral rays 9-11 (10); anal rays 4-7 (5-6; Page 1983); 8 dorsal fin spines; 2 anal fin spines (Hubbs et al.1991).


Body shape: Slender (Ross 2001); body depth contained in standard length less than seven times (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal to slightly subterminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Lateral line short; belly scaled (a narrow naked may be present on midline); preopercle smooth or weakly serrate; upper jaw not extending as far as to middle of eye (Hubbs et al.1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Southern Mississippi Basin and Gulf Coastal Plain from northwestern Florida to Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Limited to streams in extreme east, including the San Jacinto drainage north to Red River Basin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list this species as inhabiting the following drainage units: Red River unit (from the mouth up to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake unit (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay unit (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), and the Colorado River unit.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO):

Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

(2006). Populations in the southern Unites States are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Lowland lakes, streams, bayous, swamps, and backwaters (Burr 1980).


Mesohabitat: Soft substrate; detritus and aquatic vegetation abundant; prefering quiet, often murky water (Burr 1980). Backwater habitats during the summer; in winter, flooded riffles and back waters (Moriarty and Winemiller 1997).



Spawning season: In east Texas, prolonged spawning from early January to mid-April (Hubbs 1985). Reported to be April and May in Illinois; January - May, in Louisiana (Burr and Page 1978; Jordan-Mathis 1994); in Mississippi, Ross (2001) reported collecting ripe females in early April.


Spawning habitat: Nonguarder-open substrate spawner (Smiley et al. 2005). Attachers; eggs are often deposited on dead leaves (Burr and Page 1978).


Reproductive strategy: Male closely follows female and at times mounts and clasps her with his large pelvic fins while periodically rubbing the top of her head or cheeks with the underside of his jaw. If courtship is successful female chooses spawning site, and male mounts her, curving his body so that milt is deposited near the eggs. Several eggs are laid at single site. Pair will separate for only a few minutes and resume spawning at another site. Spawning may occur with the pair vertical or upside down; when upside down, the male retains his position on the back of the female by the gripping action of his pelvic fins (Burr and Page 1978).


Fecundity: Fertilized eggs demersal and adhesive (Burr and Page 1978). Mature, unfertilized eggs 0.9-1.0 mm diameter. Eggs are nonspherical and deeply indented on one side (versus eggs of the majority of other N.A. freshwater fishes); indentation disappearing during the period from fertilization to early development (Burr and Ellinger 1980). In Bayou Bartholomew system, Louisiana, average clutch size for mature and mature-ripening stages was 46-49 eggs, and ranged from 9-138 ova per clutch; darters possessed an average (mature ripening and ripe) ovum diameter of 0.95 mm (SD ± 0.004; Jordan-Mathis 1994). Eggs are not guarded and hatch in 12.5 days at 15 degrees C, 9.5 days at 20 degrees C, and 5.5 days at 22-23 degrees C (Burr and Page 1978).


Age at maturation: 1 year (Burr and Page 1978).




Growth and population structure: Newly hatched fish are 3.4-3.7 mm TL. Young fish grow rapidly, reaching one-half of first year’s average growth (29-30 mm) in eight weeks (Burr and Ellinger 1980; Ross 2001).Growth rate approximately the same for both sexes. Sex ratio among young-of-year was 1:1 (Burr and Page 1978). Bayou Bartholomew, Louisiana study contained specimens averaging 27.7 mm SL (SD ± 0.227).


Longevity: 18 months, with only 2.7% of males and 11.4% of females reach a second growing season (Burr and Page 1978); Jordan-Mathis (1994) reported that scale data from individuals collected from Bayou Bartholomew, Louisiana concurred with the 18 month life span reported by Burr and Page (1978).


Food habits: Invertivore; benthic. Diet includes primarily midge larvae (Diptera) and microcrustacea, with isopods, amphipods, and mayfly nymphs (Rice 1942; Burr and Page 1978; Goldstein and Simon 1999). Consumes more crustaceans compared to other darters, this being a reflection of its slow water habitat (Page and Burr 1978). Smiley et al. (2005) placed this species in the trophic guild, Insectivore.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

Etheostoma proeliare is most similar to E. gracile, the slough darter and E. fusiforme, the swamp darter. Breeding E. proeliare females differ from females of these species in having a bilobed genital papilla. E. proeliare differs from the slough darter in having an interrupted, rather than complete infraorbital canal. It can be distinguished from the swamp darter by its unscaled breast (Ross 2001). Burr (1978) and Buth et al. (1980) based on electrophoretic evidence, hypothesized that E. proeliare and E. fonticola of Texas are sister species.


Host Records:

Trematode: Neochasmus umbellus; Nematoda: Contracecum spiculigerum, Leptorhynchoides thecatus (Hoffman 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

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



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. Zool. Univ. Mich. 175:1-48).

Burr, B.M. 1978. Systematics of the percid fishes of the subgenus Microperca, genus Etheostoma. Bull. Ala. Mus. Nat. Hist. 4:1-53.

Burr, B.M. 1980. Etheostoma proeliare (Hay), Cypress Darter. pp. 683 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Burr, B.M. and L.M. Page. 1978. The life history of the cypress darter, Etheostoma proeliare, in Max Creek, Illinois. Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv., Biol. Notes 106:1-15.

Burr, B.M. and M.S. Ellinger. 1980. Distinctive egg morphology and its relationship to development in the percid fish Etheostoma proeliare. Copeia 1980(3):556-559.

Buth, D.G., B.M. Burr, and J.R. Schenck. 1980. Electrophoretic evidence for relationships and differentiation among members of the percid subgenus Microperca. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 8:297-304.

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

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.

Hay, O.P. 1881. On a collection of fishes from eastern Mississippi. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 3:488-515.

Hay, O.P. 1883. On a collection of fishes from the lower Mississippi Valley. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 2:57-75.

Hoffman G.L. 1967. Parasites of North American Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA 1-486.

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

Hubbs, C. 1985. Darter Reproductive Seasons. Copeia, 1985(1):56-68.

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

Jordan, D.S. And B.W. Everman. 1896-1900. The fishes of North and Middle America. Bull. U.S. Nat. Museum 47(1-4):1-3313.

Jordan-Mathis, R.J. 1994. The reproductive biology of the Cypress darter, Etheosoma proliare (Hay), from Bayou Bartholomew drainage. Master’s thesis, Northeast Louisiana Univ., Monroe.

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

Ross, S.T. 2001. Inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson. 481-482 pp.

Smiley, P.C., Jr., E.D. Dibble, and S.H. Schoenholtz. 2005. Fishes of first order streams in north-central Mississippi. Southeastern Naturalist 4(2):219-236.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Diversity and Habitat Assessment Programs. County Lists of Texas' Special Species. [30 May 2006]. Available online at:

Warren, L. W., 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.