Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Lythrurus fumeus

ribbon shiner



Type Locality

Hunter Creek, near Houston, Texas. Evermann 1892.


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Lythrurus, Greek, meaning “red tail;” fumeus, Latin, meaning “smoky” (Pflieger 1997; Ross 2001).



Notropis fumeus; type series was collected 20 November 1891, by B. W. Evermann, J. T. Scovell and R. R. Gurley from Hunter Creek, about 9 miles W of Houston (Harris County), Texas (San Jacinto drainage) (Evermann 1892; Medford and Simco 1971; Boschung 1989)

 [part] Notropis umbratilis (Cook 1959)



Maximum size: 55 mm (2.16 in) SL (Snelson 1973).


Coloration: Dorsal fin without prominent black spot (Hubbs et al 1991). Scales on nape outlined in black; pale olive above, dusky stripe along back; silver-black stripe along side (darkest at rear but often weak) and around snout; dusky lips and chin (Page and Burr 1991). General breeding color in both sexes is yellow; however, may be quite subdued in specimens taken from turbid water (Snelson 1973).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2, 4-4, 2 or 1,4-4,1; 41-45 scales in lateral line; 25 or more predorsal scales; usually 9-12 anal fin soft rays; fewer than 10 dorsal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al 1991).


Body shape: Moderately deep and rather strongly compressed; snout is usually bluntly rounded (Snelson 1973).


Mouth position: Terminal and oblique (Hubbs et al 1991).


Morphology: Origin of dorsal fin midway between base of caudal fin and pupil; scales small; predorsal scales crowded; dorsal fin more triangular, last fin ray less than one-half length of the longest; first obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched ray; lower lip thin, without fleshy lobes; lateral line decurved; premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline; distance from origin of anal fin to end of caudal peduncle contained two and one-half or fewer times in distance from tip of snout to origin of anal fin (Hubbs et al 1991).  Breeding females have elongate, swollen, urogenital papilla extending back to the anal fin origin; the male papilla is not enlarged; this difference maintained to some degree in both pre- and postspawning specimens, facilitating external sexing in all except winter months (Snelson 1973). Nuptial tubercle pattern desribed by Snelson (1973): Small tubercles on dorsal surface of head most prominent from interorbital area back to occiput. Lower jaw with lateral row of tubercles projecting to the side, often with additional tubercles scattered over the ventral surface; these tubercles smaller than largest ones on top of head. Pectoral fins with dense area of tiny tubercles on dorsal surface of rays 1-8 or 9, most developed on rays 2-5, where 20+ tubercles occur per fin ray segment proximal to major branching of rays. These most numerous on posterior branch of ray, absent from distal fourth of rays. Other fins lack tubercles. Nape and anteriolateral body scales with marginal row of 5-8 tubercles epr scale, largest on nape. Breast and belly scales with somewhat larger and more blunt tubercles, approximately 2-3 per scale.  Intestinal canal short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Widely distributed in low-lying areas from the Gulf slope of Texas N through the Mississippi River system to southern Illinois and Indiana (Snelson 1973).


Texas distribution: Found essentially east of the Balcones Escarpment and in the Coastal Plain of eastern and northeastern Texas, from the Lavaca drainage northward to the Red River (Hubbs et al 1991).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: lower Brazos River (Li 2003); Brazos River (Winemiller et al. 2004); South Sulphur River (northeast TX; Gelwick and Burgess 2002).]


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

Populations in southern drainages are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Small to moderate sized Coastal Plain streams (Snelson 1973). Macrohabitat generalist (Herbert and Gelwick 2003).


Mesohabitat: Streams characterized by low (Winston 1995) to moderate gradient; water ranging from clear, colorless or dark-stained, to turbid; bottom materials ranging from sand, firm mud, clay, silt or detritus; vegetation may be present or absent. Quiet pools or backwaters with weak flow preferred. Extremely tolerant of turbidity and other ecological factors characteristic of creeks and ditches flowing through agricultural areas (Snelson 1973). Most Lythrurus fumeus collected from Village Creek, a blackwater tributary of the Neches River (Hardin Co., TX) in a summer sample were from sandbank habitats. During the fall, most L. fumeus were captured from backwater habitats; leading Moriarty and Winemiller (1997) to hypothesize that this species did not occupy its preferred habitat during summer, because reduced backwater habitats resulted in greater per-unit-area densities of competitors and predators there. Collected from Allens Creek and the Brazos River, Texas (Austin County), September 1993 in habitat consisting of turbid, shallow pools and riffles over sand and clay substrate (Linam et al. 1994). In the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto River, Texas, this species was associated with streams having higher and temporally less variable baseflow, but greater spatial variability of depth (Herbert and Gelwick 2003).



Spawning season: Late spring or summer; In Arkansas, males in yellow breeding colors have been collected in late May (Robison and Buchanan 1988); females with eggs were taken in Missouri in mid-July (Pflieger 1997). Spawning period implied from occurrence of tuberculate males extends from May through early August (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Spawning location: No information at this time.


Spawning behavior: Mayden et al. (2002) predict L. fumeus is a broadcast spawner and may also be a nest associate with sunfish.


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 sexual dimorphism in body size (Snelson 1973).


Longevity: No information at this time.


Food habits: Invertivore (Burgess 2003). Primarily a mid or surface water schooling species. In the Calcasieu River drainage of southern Louisiana, during the “wet” season, 64% of prey volume taken from the surface, with an additional 34% from benthic animal prey; during the “dry” season when food was more limiting, only 37% of the diet included surface prey. Midwater and benthic animal prey made up 8% and 21% of the diet; the greatest change being the increased consumption of organic detritus, accounting for 33% of the diet (Felley and Felley 1987).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Although widely distributed, little geographic variation has been found and no subspecies are currently recognized (Snelson 1973; Ross 2001).


Sympatric and syntopic with the redfin shiner (L. umbratilis) (Rivas 1964). L. umbratilis is almost always present in collections of L. fumeus; the two species are superficially similar and often confused. Those primary characters distinguishing the two species were summarized by Snelson (1973) as differences in body circumference scale count, caudal peduncle scales, anal fin soft rays, anterior basi-dorsal fin spot, breeding pigmentation, pigmentation of anterior dorsolateral part of body, and tubercles on pectoral fin soft rays. Roberson and Buchanan (1988) refer to these differences, noting L. fumeus may be distinguished from L. unbratilis by the absence of a prominent spot at dorsal fin origin, tuberculation of breeding males, higher anal ray count (usually 11-12 versus 10), absence of dark dorsolateral chevrons in larger specimens, and yellow breeding colors versus red.


The emerald shiner (N. atherinoides) is similar to and occasionally confused with L. fumeus; these species are sympatric and occasionally syntopic. N. atherinoides is more slender and elongate, and has larger scales than L. fumeus; N. atherinoides usually has 10 or 11 anal rays, rather than the usual 11-12 of L. fumeus. Lateral stripe of L. fumeus is two to three scale rows wide, fairly uniform throughout, and anteriorly extends almost or fully down the lateral line while N. atherinoides has a faint and narrow lateral stripe on the caudle peduncle fading abruptly on the trunk; the remnant passing anteriorly toward the head is narrow and weak, represented most often by only a string of isolated melanophores. On the anterior third of the body, N. atherinoides has a broad unpigmented area between the lateral line and lower margin of the lateral stripe (Snelson 1973).


Host Records

No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.



Boschung, H. T. 1989. Atlas of fishes of the upper Tombigbee River drainage, Alabama-Mississippi. Proc. S.E. Fishes Council 19:1-104.

Burgess, C.C. 2003. Summer Fish Assemblages in Channelized and Unchannelized Reaches of the South Sulpher River, Texas. Master of Science Thesis. Texas A&M University. 94 pp.

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

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

Evermann, B. W. 1892. A report upon investigations made in Texas in 1891. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 11:61-90.

Felley, J. D., and S. M. Felley. 1987. Relationships between habitat selection by individuals of a species and patterns of habitat segregation among species: fishes of the Calcasieu drainage, pp. 61-68. In: Evolutionary and community ecology of North American stream fishes. W. J. Matthews and D. C. Heins, eds. Univ. Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Gelwick, F.P., and C.C. Burgess. 2002. Aquatic studies at the proposed George Parkhouse I reservoir site on the South Sulphur River in northeast Texas. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and Texas A&M University. 114 pp.

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., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist to the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. The Texas Journal of Science, Supplement. 43(4):1-56.

Li, R.Y. 2003. The Influence of Environmental Factors on Spatial and Temporal Variation of Fish Assemblages in the Lower Brazos River, Texas. Master of Science Thesis. Texas A&M University. 80 pp.

Linam, G. W., J. C. Henson, and M. A. Webb. A Fisheries Inventory and Assessment of Allens Creek and the Brazos River, Austin County, Texas. River Studies Report 12:1-13. Resource Protection Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Austin, Texas.

Mayden, R. L., and A. M. Simons. 2002. Crevice spawning behavior in Dionda dichroma, with comments on the evolution of spawning modes in North American shiners (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 12:327-337.

Medford, D. W., and B. A. Simco. 1971. The fishes of the Wolf Fiver, Tennessee and Mississippi. J. Tenn. Acad. Sci. 46(4):121-123.

Moriarty, L.J., and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 49(3):85-110.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America, north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.

Pflieger, W. L. 1997. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, 372 pp.

Robison, H. W. and T. M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. Univ. Arkansas Press, Fayetteville.

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

Rivas, L. R. 1964. A reinterpretation of the concepts “sympatric” and “allopatric” with proposal of the additional terms “syntopic” and “allotropic”. Syst. Zool. 13:42-43.

Snelson, F. F., Jr. 1973. Systematics and distribution of the ribbon shiner, Notropis fumeus (Cyprinidae), from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist. 89(1):166-191.

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.

Winemiller, K.O., F.P. Gelwick, T. Bonner, S. Zueg, C. Williams. 2004. Response of oxbow lake biota to hydrologic exchanges with the Brazos River channel. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. Texas Agriculture Experiment Station and Texas State University, 59 pp.

Winston, M. R. 1995. Co-occurrence of morphologically similar species of stream fishes. The American Naturalist 145(4):527-545.