Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Lythrurus umbratilis

redfin shiner



Type Locality

Sugar Loaf Creek, Sebastian County, Arkansas (Girard 1857).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Lythrurus, Greek, meaning red tail; umbratilis, from Latin word umbra, meaning “shade” (Pflieger 1997).



 Alburnus umbratilis Girard 1857:193.

Minnilus punctulatus Hay 1881:508; Hay1883:74.

Notropis umbratilis punctulatus Yeager 1933:39.

[part] Notropic umbratilis Cook 1959:122.

Notropis umbratilis Medford and Simco 1971:122; Knight and Cooper 1987:33 (Ross 2001, co-authored with W.M. Brenneman).



Maximum size: 88mm (3.46 in) TL (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Coloration: Dorsal fin with prominent black spot at base of anterior rays (Hubbs et al. 1991). Back and upper sides bluish-gray or olive, grading to silvery white to white along the lower sides and venter. Belly and lower surfaces generally immaculate except for melanophores surrounding the anal fin base and scattered pigment posterior to the anal fin base.  Edges of the anterior dorsolateral scales are outlined with pigment, producing a dusky cross-hatching; this pattern usually obscured in nuptial males due to a general darkening of the fins and body. Most pores on anterior lateral line scales below the mid-lateral region are bordered on top and bottom by a single melanophore. Top of the head and snout evenly pigmented, as is anterior half of lower jaw. Diffuse lateral band evident mostly along sides of the caudal peduncle, and weakly pigmented (dusky) stripe found anterior to the dorsal fin. All dorsal fin rays outlined with melanophores. Darkly pigmented spot of variable intensity (depending on population and developmental stage) present on the anterior base of the dorsal fin. In some specimens, basi-dorsal spot appears more evident at the origin of the dorsal fin rather than on the fin itself. All rays of caudal and anal fins outlined with melanophores; those of the latter only sparingly. Leading rays of pectoral and pelvic fins faintly outlined with pigment. Breeding males develop red pigment in all fins, especially the caudal, and dark, “chevron-shaped” markings on the humeral areas (Ross 2001).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2, 4-4, 2 or 1,4-4,1; 41-45 lateral line scales; 25 or more predorsal scales; usually 9-12 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al.1991); 13-15 pectoral soft fin rays; 8 pelvic soft fin rays (Snelson and Pflieger 1975).


Body shape: Moderate to deep bodied, laterally compressed. Deep-bodied appearance is further emphasized in breeding males with the elevation of the predorsal region. Body depth of adult males goes into SL 3.2-4.1 times. Snout is pointed and may appear even more so in nuptial males, on which the mouth opening may actually become superior due to the extension of the tip of the lower jaw beyond the upper jaw (Ross 2001).


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


Morphology: Origin of dorsal fin behind insertion of pelvic fin. Scales small. Dorsal fin more triangular, last fin ray less then one half length of the longest. Predorsal scales crowded. First obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched ray. Lower lip thin, without fleshy lobes. 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). Lateral line complete, strongly decurved anteriorly, and interrupted at various locations on the head. Moderately large, erect tubercles are best developed in males and are scattered dorsally from the leading rays of the dorsal fin anteriorly to the tip of the snout. Tubercles are also found on both rami of the lower jaw and on preorbital and suborbital regions. Mature females have an enlarged urogenital papilla that is quite evident during the breeding season (Ross 2001).  Intestine short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys into the Great Lakes region, this species reaches the southwestern edge of its range in Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991). Occurring across Gulf Coast from San Jacinto drainage in Texas to Lake Pontchartrain basin in Louisiana, up the Mississippi River valley, and as far north as southern Ontario, Canada (Snelson and Pflieger 1975).


Texas distribution: It has been found in Red, Sabine, Neches, and Trinity basins (Hubbs et al., 1991). Red River unit (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River; Warren et al. 2000).


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

Populations in southern drainages are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).  Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2006).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: This species occupies a variety of habitats throughout its range (Snelson and Pflieger 1975; Pflieger 1997; Ross 2001). In Mississippi, reaches greatest abundance in middle to upper reaches of small to medium sized streams (Ross 2001); in Ohio, abundant in streams of all sizes (Trautman 1981).


Mesohabitat: Associated with flowing waters, but avoids strong currents; prefers deep, quiet pools where it occurs in schools at or near surface. In streams with low gradient or low base flow, species occurs in pools of the stream channel; in high gradient streams, with strong base flow, species more often found in protected inlets and overflow pools away from the main channel (Snelson and Pflieger 1975). Although reported to prefer turbid streams (Hubbs and Lagler 1958), streams inhabited by this species vary greatly in turbidity and those supporting the largest populations are moderately clear (Snelson and Pflieger 1975).



Spawning season: In Mississippi, protracted spawning period extending from late April or early May to late August (Matthews and Heins 1984). In Missouri, mid-May to early August (Pflieger 1997).


Spawning habitat: Listed as a representative of the phyto-lithophilous guild of non-guarding fishes (Balon 1975). Open substratum spawners; broadcast spawners; lithophils, rock and gravel spawners (Simon 1999). In Ohio, spawning observed over sand and gravel in rather sluggish riffles and pools having currents, apparently utilizing swifter riffles only when the slower ones and the pools had silt-covered bottoms (Trautman 1981).


Reproductive strategy: May spawn over sunfish nests (Snelson and Pflieger 1975), particularly nests of green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), the green sunfish (Hunter and Wisby 1961; Hunter and Hasler 1965). Sunfish nests provides a clean, silt-free substrate for egg development, and presence of the male sunfish prevents other fish entering nest and eating the eggs (Pflieger 1997).


Fecundity: In Mississippi, clutch size of females 34-52 mm (1.34-2.05 in) SL are 219-887 mature ova; ovaries comprise 16-39% of female’s body weight during breeding season; mature ova are 0.72-0.87 mm (0.02-0.03 in) diameter (Matthews and Heins 1984).


Age at maturation: In Mississippi, within 1 year; females began to mature sexually at a length of 28 mm (1.10 in) SL; all females 32 mm (1.26 in) SL or larger were sexually mature (Matthews and Heins 1984). Pflieger (1997) reports most sexually mature adults as being in their second or third summer.


Migration: No information at this time.


Longevity: In Mississippi, maximum age no more than 2 years; most redfin shiners living 1.5 years or less (Matthews and Heins 1984). Pflieger (1997) states the life span of this species seldom exceeds three summers.


Food habits: Primarily surface feeder (Stegman and Minckley 1959); zooplankton, small invertebrates, and even plant matter as general components of diet (Forbes and Richardson 1920). In Calcasieu River drainage, southern Louisiana, diet changes seasonally; during “wet” season, 57% of diet obtained from surface prey, with another 40% from benthic animal prey; diet varied more during “dry” season (food perhaps more limiting), with 59% of diet composed of surface animal prey, 14% from midwater prey, 14% from benthic prey, 13% from organic detritus (Felley and Felley 1987).


Growth: Males significantly larger than females (Snelson and Pflieger 1975). Young-of-the-year in Ohio reported to reach lengths of 18-51 mm (0.71-2.01 in) by October; around one year, 33-56 mm (1.38-2.17 in); adults usually 46-74 mm (1.81-2.91 in) (Trautman 1981). In central Missouri, the species attains a length of about 28 mm (1.10 in) by the end of its first summer of life and averages about 43 mm (1.69 in) by the end of its second summer (Pflieger 1997).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Juveniles often mistaken for ribbon shiners (L. fumeus); L. umbratilis have a much deeper body; darker, anterior basidorsal spot (albeit faint at times); red breeding colors; and fairly large, scattered breeding tubercles relative to ribbon shiners (Ross 2001). Page and Burr (1991) list the red shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis) as a similar species to Lythrurus umbratilis; C. lutrensis differs from L. umbratilis in that it lacks dark blotch at dorsal fin origin, small scales on nape, herringbone lines on upper sides, and has diamond shaped scales. Like L. umbratilis, C. lutrensis also spawns over sunfish nests, and hybrids between the red shiner and the redfin shiner sometimes occur (Pflieger 1997). Creek chubs (Semotilus atromaculatus) also have a dark blotch at the anterior dorsal fin base, but is a cylindrical rather than slab-sided species and has only 8 anal fin rays (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Host Records

 No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

In Mississippi, redfin shiners are used as bait fishes when collected along with other minnows (Cook 1959).



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