Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis blennius

river shiner



Type Locality

Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas (Girard 1957).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis – ridged or keeled back; a misnomer, probably due to the shrunken specimen used by Rafinesque when establishing this genus for N. atherinoides; blennius – blenny-like, referring to its convex profile (Scharpf 2005).



Alburnops blennius Girard 1857:194.

Notropis jejunus Jordan and Evermann (1896-1900); Forbes and Richardson (1920).

Hubbs and Lagler (1964) recognized two subspecies: Notropis blennius jejunus (Forbes), and Notropis blennius blennius (Girard) (Becker 1983).



Maximum size: 132 mm (5.2 in) TL (Trautman 1981).


Coloration: Pale-colored; tan above and whitish below with a silvery midlateral stripe (Miller and Robison 2004). Middorsal stripe about 10 chromatophores wide; iris with some white anteriorly and posteriorly; more than 30 chromatophores on line between orbits; sides of body silvery; interradial membranes of dorsal fin without melanophores, except along rays (Hubbs et al. 1991). No bright breeding colors (Becker 1983). Peritoneum silvery (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2,4-4,2 or 1,4-4,1; usually 7 anal fin soft rays; fewer than 17 predorsal scales; fewer than 10 dorsal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); 34-41 (35-36) lateral line scales (Suttkus and Clemmer 1968).


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


Body shape: Moderately deep-bodied, slightly compressed (Miller and Robison 2004). Snout not definitely overhanging mouth; depth at occiput less than width at occiput; origin of dorsal fin opposite insertion of pelvic fin; dorsal origin nearer tip of snout than base of caudal fin; 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).


Morphology:  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 usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch; premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline (Hubbs et al. 1991). Pectoral fins in male longer and broader than in female (Becker 1983).  Intestine short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991); ratio of digestive tract (DT) to total length (TL) is DT 0.6-0.7 TL (Becker 1983; Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Range extends from Hudson Bay south through the Mississippi Basin to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Hubbs et al. 1991). According to Pigg (1987), a record of species from the Cimarron River, northwestern Oklahoma, presumably a result of the specimens being washed into the river from Crooked Creek after flooding.


Texas distribution: Only in the Red River (Hubbs 1957; Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) listed distribution for this species as Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River). Patrikeev et al. (2005) reported capture of a specimen, likely representing a bait-bucket release, from Lake Meredith which is outside the native range. Hubbs (1954) noted that the record of N. blennius from Del Rio by Fowler (1904:244) was incorrect due to misidentification of the specimens collected.


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

Currently stable in the southern United States (Warren et al. 2000). Usually common in preferred habitat (Gilbert 1980). Listed as endangered, Pennsylvania; listed as species of concern, Manitoba, Canada (Scharph 2005); in Kansas, listed as species in need of conservation; proposed status endangered (Haslouer et al. 2005; Scharpf 2005). Rare in Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas; Riggs and Bonn 1959). Collection records indicate that this species is very rare in the North Canadian River Drainage, Oklahoma, and limited to the lower segments (Pigg et al. 1997).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Restricted to largest rivers and lower parts of main tributaries (Gilbert 1980); primarily a mainstream inhabitant

(Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mesohabitat: Found in water of varying clarity (usually turbid) over substrate of silt sand, and gravel (Gilbert 1980). In the lower Mississippi River, species was abundant to common along natural and revetted banks, sand bars and pools (Baker et al. 1991; Ross 2001). Trautman (1981) reported that this species remained in deep water than during the day whenever the water was clear, moving into shallower water only at night or in the daytime only when water was turbid; found over silty bottoms, but occurred in largest numbers over gravel and sand bars. In Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas), species collected over sand bottoms, usually in tributary mouths (Riggs and Bonn 1959). In the Platte River at North Bend, Nebraska, N. blennius was more common in fall (Yu 1996; Yu and Peters 2003). Prevalent inhabitant of the delta at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers in the Lewis and Clark Reservoir during July, August and September collections (Kaemingk et al. 2007). In upper Mississippi River collections, adults were most abundant in man-made wing dike areas which tended to have lower velocities when compared to main channel borders and open side channels (Barko et al. 2004). Suttkus and Clemmer (1968) noted that this species is often observed and collected from mid-depths.



Spawning season: Spawns in late July and August in Iowa (Starrett 1951) and throughout summer to late August in Ohio (Trautman 1981); June to late-August in Wisconsin (Becker 1983); specimens in spawning conditions have been collected from mid-June to mid-July in Kansas (Cross 1950; Cross 1967).


Spawning habitat: Over sand and gravel (Trautman 1981).


Spawning behavior: No specialized spawning behavior (Coburn 1986).


Fecundity: 1,895-3,005 mature eggs in females measuring 71-91 mm (2.80-3.58 in) TL; diameter of mature, unfertilized eggs 0.81-0.94 mm (0.031-0.037 in)  with an average of 0.78 mm (0.031 in); Becker 1983; Coburn 1986). Among specimens from Pool 4 of the upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin and Minnesota, clutch sizes varied from 436-2754 ova in mature females ranging from 48.3-87.9 mm (1.90-3.46 in) SL; average mature oocyte size was 0.89 mm (0.035 in); multiple clutch spawner in the upper Mississippi River (Hatch and Elias 2002).


Age at maturation: In Wisconsin, males after age I and females after age II (Becker 1983).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure: In Ohio, age-0 fish were 20-56 mm (0.79-2.20 in) TL in October, age- I fish were 25-64 mm (0.98-2.52 in), and adults were 51-132 mm (2.01-5.20 in) TL (Trautman 1981). Average calculated TL at annulus for Wisconsin specimens: 34 mm (1.34 in) at age 1, 64.8 mm (2.55 in)  at age 2, 81.4 mm (3.20 in) at age 3, and 93.3 mm (3.67 in) at age 4 (Becker 1983).


Longevity: Age classes 0-IV collected in Wisconsin (Becker 1983).


Food habits: Invertivore, benthic and drift (Goldstein and Simon 1999). Primarily an insect feeder; stomachs of specimens collected in mid-July from the Mississippi River at Wyalusing contained water fleas, water boatmen, caddisflies, mayflies, and midge larvae; specimens taken in the Wisconsin River contained algae, other plant matter, and insects (Becker 1983). In Indiana, species fed heavily on fly and midge larvae in summer; increased ingestion of bottom ooze in fall; in winter and spring N. blennius fed on seeds and water boatmen (Whitaker 1977).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Notropis blennius similar to the chub shiner (N. potteri; (Suttkus and Clemmer 1968); N. blennius has larger eyes located more on sides of head, duskier back and side, and more pointed snout than N. potteri; N. potteri having eyes high on head and directed somewhat upward, and a flat head (above and below) tapering into pronounced snout which appears very wide when viewed from above (Suttkus and Clemmer 1968; Page and Burr 1991); see also Hubbs and Bonham (1951) for further comparison of the aforementioned species. N. blennius differs from the Red River shiner (N. bairdi) in having pharyngeal teeth typically 2,4-4,2 or 1,4-4,1 versus 0,4-4,0 (Hubbs et al. 1991). N. blennius is similar to the Mississippi silvery minnow (Hybognathus nuchalis) and the plains minnow (H. placitus), but the latter two species have much smaller mouth, extending only about one-half distance from tip of snout to eye; long and coiled intestines (and soft belly); dorsal fin origin in front of pectoral fin origin; and 8 anal rays (Page and Burr 1991). N. blennius is also similar to the sand shiner (N. stramineus), but the latter species has thin middorsal stripe along back expanded at dorsal fin origin, not encircling dorsal fin base; punctuate lateral line; smaller mouth (Page and Burr 1991); and 0,4-4,0 pharyngeal teeth count (Hubbs et al. 1991). N. blennius can be separated from the Arkansas River shiner (N. girardi), the mimic shiner (N. volucellus), and the ghost shiner (N. buchanani) by its 7 anal rays versus  the 8 anal rays characteristic of the latter three species (Miller and Robison 2004). N. blennius differs from the emerald shiner (N. atherinoides) in dorsal fin position (over the pelvic fin insertion versus far behind the pelvic fin insertion), and differs from both N. atherinoides and the silverband shiner (N. shumardi) in its lower anal ray count (7 versus 9 or more; Ross 2001). Larval fish with 21-23 (22) preanal myomeres and outlined gut pigment pattern (Fuiman et al. 1983); see Conner et al. (1980) for illustration of 6.1 mm TL specimen.


Host Records

Adult specimens from the Mississippi River were found to host the acanthocephalan parasite Pomphorhynchus bulbocolli in the intestine, where the proboscis and bulblike neck of the parasite extending through the intestinal wall into the body cavity (Becker 1983). Copepod ectoparasite, Lernaea cyprinacea reported from N. blennius in Indiana (Demaree 1967). Unicauda clavicauda (Myxozoa) from Illinois (Kudo 1934).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.



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