Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis amabilis

Texas shiner



Type Locality

Rio Leona (tributary to Rio Nueces) in Uvalde, Texas (Girard 1856).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis, Greek, “back keel;” amabilis, Latin, “lovely.”



Alburnus amabilis (Girard 1857).

Cyprinella macrostoma (Girard 1857).

Notropis (Cyprinella) Macrostomus (Cockerell 1908).



Maximum size: 70 mm (2.76 in) TL (Littrell 2006).


Coloration: Black lips. Clear stripe above dark stripe along side (darkest at rear) and onto caudal fin; dark mid-dorsal stripe along back darkest in front of dorsal fin; darkly outlined scales above clear stripe (Page and Burr 1991). No chromatophores on lateral line scales other than on lateral stripe; mid-dorsal stripe behind dorsal fin usually one to two chromatophores wide (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2,4-4,2 or 1,4-4,1 (Hubbs et al. 1991); 32-36 lateral line scales (Page and Burr 1991); usually 6-8 anal fin soft rays; fewer than 10 dorsal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Body shape: Deep, compressed body; moderately pointed snout (Page and Burr 1991). 


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


Morphology: Usually complete lateral line (Page and Burr 1991). Eye large, contained about two and one-half to three times in body depth (measured over curve); dorsal fin more triangular, last fin ray less than one-half length of the longest; interradial membranes of dorsal fin without melanophores (except along rays); 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; lateral line usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch;  distance from origin of anal fin to caudal peduncle contained two and one-half or fewer times in distance from tip of snout to origin of anal fin. Intestine short, forming a simple, S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Extirpated in New Mexico. Specimens of this species from New Mexico, apparently collected by Cockerell, are in the University of Colorado Museum and the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan.  Sublette et al. (1990) speculate that this species is cold sensitive and, in historical times, was eliminated from upstream stretches of the Pecos River during severe winters. It would then reinvade upper reaches from the downstream portion of the Pecos in Texas, where it occurs today. Dams on the Pecos River now prevent such movements, and the species became extirpated in New Mexico.


Texas distribution: Found from the Rio Grande to Colorado River drainages (Gilbert 1980). Ranges primarily within Edwards Plateau streams including portions of the San Gabriel River on the northeast and to the Pecos River in the west. Also found in Rio Grande tributaries in Mexico, including the Rio Salado and Rio San Juan (Hubbs et al. 1991). Colorado River unit, San Antonio Bay unit including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River, Nueces River unit (Warren et al. 2000).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Independence Creek (Rio Grande drainage; Bonner et al. 2005).]


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

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


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Typically in springs and headwater tributaries, where may be very common; sometimes limited number occurring in larger streams (Gilbert 1980).


Mesohabitat: Collections from the Blanco River (Texas) and its tributaries found N. amabilis generally associated with flowing pools, deep runs, avoiding shallow high-velocity riffles and lentic backwater areas; abundant in deep pools and silt substrates, in fall; deeper pools and runs in fall and winter (Littrell 2006).Clear waters with substrate usually sand, gravel and rubble (Gilbert 1980). Often found in moderately large schools in streams with moderately fast currents; can be found in the upstream ends of pools below riffle areas, in the swiftly moving waters along gravel bars and in moderately flowing pools; commonly found in areas below lower water dams and road crossings where turbulent water flows. Where sympatric with Cyprinella lutrensis and C. venusta, N. amabilis usually selects areas having a greater current velocity than the other two species and also tends to maintain school integrity to a greater extent than do the other two species. N. amabilis is rarely found in upstream portions of tributary creeks and is common in streams with significant spring flow components (Edwards 1997).  N. amabilis is dependent upon currents; most often abundant in swift water areas, often swimming near the surface in eddies created by upstream obstructions and in dense schools in swift moving water (Edwards 1999). In the Devils River, Texas, taken pre-flood in habitats intermediate between channels and pools, shifting into riffles and riffle-like habitats after the flood; study indicated species adaptation to a flood-prone existence presumably typical of a desert stream (Harrell 1978).



Spawning season: In Texas, February through September (Littrell 2006). Collection of specimens, in Texas, less than 20 mm (0.79 in) SL from mid-April to mid-December, suggests spawning begins in approximately late March and continues through approximately mid-November (Edwards 1997). In Mexico, N. amabilis evidently spawns over a protracted period from early spring into summer (Miller et al 2005).


Spawning habitat: No information at this time.


Spawning behavior: No information available on this species. However, most members of the genus Notropis are classified as broadcast spawners, scattering eggs over the substrate.


Fecundity: Oocyte diameters exhibited a trimodal distribution suggesting development of multiple cohorts throughout the spawning season. In October mature ovaries present in three of fourteen females collected; all ovaries classified as mature or resting in individuals collected in November and December. As early as January, 24% of females collected contained developing ovaries; mature ovaries first appeared in February in 17% of females; in April, 75% of females contained mature ovaries; May-July, mature ovaries found in 25-31% of females; reproduction peaked again in August and September when 86% and 71% of females, respectively, contained mature ovaries. Clutch size ranged from 102 to 286 with a mean (±SD) of 174.5 (62.2; Littrell 2006).


Age at maturation: Breeding individuals consisted primarily of age-1 fish (Littrell 2006).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure: Maximum mean total length (±1 SD) was 44.4 mm (1.75 in) for age-0 and 60.5 mm (2.38 mm) for age-1 (Littrell 2006).


Longevity: It is likely that fish only live two years (Littrell 2006; Edwards 1997). Exhibit fast initial growth (Littrell 2006).


Food habits: Gut contents suggest species is an invertivore drift predator (Goldstein and Simon 1999) feeding primarily in the water column on aquatic insects. Common food items were aquatic insects (71%) and algae (61%); among aquatic insects, mayflies were most abundant (31% of insects), caddisflies (26%), flies/midges (22%), beatles (12%), and moths/butterflies (4%); terrestrial insects found in 6% of guts, comprising 5% of all insect taxa identified; sediment and detritus found in 13% of Notropis amabilis examined (Littrell 2006). In Devil’s River, Texas, observed feeding near the surface (Harrell 1978). The few specimens collected contained terrestrial insects during the summer; no other information about the food habits is known (Edwards 1997).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Snelson (1968) indicated that this species is most likely related to members of subgenus Notropis. Similar to the Rio Grande shiner (Notropis jemezanus); N. amabilis differs in having the eye distinctly longer than the snout and in having along the sides a dark streak that is separated from the dorsal pigmentation by a clear area (Koster 1957).


Host Records

Trematode: Plagioporus sinitsini Mueller (Digenea: Opecoelidae; Mathis 1993).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.



Bonner, T.H., C. Thomas, C.S. Williams, and J.P. Karges. 2005. Temporal assessment of a west Texas stream fish assemblage. The Southwestern Naturalist 50(1):74-78.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1908. The Fishes of the Rocky Mountain Region. Univ. Colo. Stud., Ser. Biol. 5:159-178.

Edwards, R. J. 1997. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes I. Texas Water Development Board. March 31, 1997. TWBD 95-483-107. pp. 1-89.

Edwards, R. J. 1999. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes II. Texas Water Development Board. 1-69.

Gilbert, C.R. 1980 Notropis amabilis (Girard) Texas Shiner. pp 223 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854.

Girard, C. (1856) 1857. Researches upon the cyprinoid fishes inhabiting the fresh waters of the United States west of the Mississippi Valley, from specimens in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 8:165-213.

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.

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

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

Koster, W.J. 1957. Guide to the Fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 116 pp.

Littrell, B.M. 2006. Can Invasiveness of Native Cyprinids Be Predicted From Life History Traits? A Comparison Between a Native Invader and a Regionally Endemic Cyprinid and Status of an Introgresses Guadalupe Bass Population in a Central Texas Stream. Master of Science Thesis, Texas State University-San Marcos.61 pp.

Mathis, S.D. 1993. A morphometric study of Plagioporus sinitsini Mueller (Digenea: Opecoelidae) from the gallbladder of three Cyprinid hosts from the Blanco, San Marcos, and Comal Rivers in central Texas. Master of Science Thesis, Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos. 44 pp.

Miller, R. R., W. L. Minckley and S. M. Norris. 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Mexico. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL. pp 131-32.

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin and Co., Boston, Mass. 432 pp.

Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1968. Systematics of the Cyprinid fish Notropis amoenus, with comments on the subgenus Notropis. Copeia 1968(4):776-802.

Sublette, J. E., M. D. Hatch, M. Sublette. 1990. The Fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 393 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.