Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis buchanani

ghost shiner



Type Locality

Small creek near Poteau, Le Flore Co., OK (Meek 1895). Gilbert (1980) notes that a question of type locality exists, as there is a possibility that it is actually the Red River at Arthur, TX, rather than the OK site recorded by Meek (1896).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis, Greek, “back keel”, buchanani, named for Dr. J. L. Buchanan, then president of Arkansas Industrial University (Pflieger 1975)



Hubbs and Greene (1928) N. buchanani reclassified as subspecies of N. volucellus; reevaluated by Bailey (1951) and given full specific status.



Maximum size: 64 mm (2.52 in) TL (Gilbert 1980). In Texas, largest individual found in research museum collections is 38 mm (1.50 in) SL indicative that species does not reach relatively large sizes (Edwards 1997).


Coloration: Body light, predorsal spot most prominent color mark (Hubbs et al. 1991); pigmentation of scale edges faint and often absent just above lateral line (Miller and Robison 1973); black specks may be present on snout, along lateral line, and along underside of caudal peduncle (Page and Burr 1991).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 0,4-4,0; 8 anal fin soft rays; fewer than 10 dorsal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); 30-35 lateral line scales (Page and Burr 1991).


Body shape: Body compressed, arched at front, deep at dorsal fin origin, tapering to thin caudal peduncle (Page and Burr 1991).


Mouth position: Subterminal and horizontal (Hubbs et al. 1991).


External morphology: Dorsal fin height contained 2.0 or more times in predorsal length. Lateral line complete; lateral line scales markedly elevated anteriorly (higher than wide), height two to five times width. Lateral line usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch. Last ray of dorsal fin much less than one-half the length of the longest; interradial membranes of dorsal fin without melanophores (except along edge of rays or forming a dash on the anterior two membranes). First obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched ray, especially at tip. Lower lip thin, without a fleshy lobe. Premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline. Cartilaginous ridge of lower jaw hardly evident and not separated by a definite groove from the lower lip. Distance from origin of anal fin to end of caudle 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 males have microscopic tubercles on dorsal surface of head; dorsal surface of the anterior pectoral rays slightly enlarged and roughened (Trautman 1981).  Intestine short, forming an S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: lower Rio Grande drainage in Texas and Mexico (upstream to lower Pecos River), north into upper Mississippi River in MN and WS, and east in Ohio River basin to OH and WV; absent from Missouri River basin north of MO; common in most suitable habitats west of Mississippi River, much more sporadic and localized east; closely restricted to large rivers in northern and eastern parts of range (Gilbert 1980).


Texas distribution: lower Rio Grande River (Hubbs, Edwards, and Garrett 1991); Warren (2000) listed species in the following drainage units: Red 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), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay unit (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River. Red River and Washita River arms of Lake Texoma (Gido et al 2002).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Allens Creek and the Brazos River (Austin Co.; Linam et al. 1994); Brazos River (Robertson Co.; Amemiya and Gold 1990)]


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

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


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Low-gradient sections of large creeks and rivers with moderate flow and clear to turbid water; larger pools and protected backwaters without noticeable current (Gilbert 1980).


Mesohabitat: Large silt-laden streams (Hubbs, Edwards, Garrett 1991); warm, sluggish streams (Edwards 1997). Common throughout the Little River, a large tributary of the Brazos River, central Texas, in larger streams with permanent flow (Rose and Echelle 1981).



Spawning season: In Texas, likely protracted, beginning in early February and continuing through September-October based on the presence of small individuals in the various research museum collections (Edwards 1997).


Spawning habitat: Over sluggish riffles composed of sand or fine gravel (Pflieger 1975).


Spawning behavior: Open substrate; pelagophil.


Fecundity:  No information at this time.


Age at maturation: Most spawning adults are in their second summer (Pflieger 1975; Becker 1983); few are in their third summer (Pflieger 1975).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure: In Texas, Winemiller et al. (2004) noted population consisting of at least three age groups (age 0, 1, and 2); age-0 fish (year class 2004) possibly were collected as early as July 2004; age-1 fish (year class 2003) were collected throughout the year; age-2 fish were not collected past May 2004. Density decreases may be attributed to mortality of older fish or to the movement of age-1 fish into areas of low flow (e.g. tributaries; Pflieger 1975) to seek refuge during high flows in the Brazos River main stem (Winemiller et al. 2004). In Ohio, young of year in October, range from 20-38 mm (0.78-1.50 in) long; around 1 year, range 28-58 mm (1.10-2.28 in), and adults range 33-58 mm (1.30-2.28 in); largest specimen 64 mm (2.52 in) (Trautman 1981). Females attain a larger size than males (Pflieger 1975).


Longevity: Up to two years (Edwards 1997; Pflieger 1975); few reach their third summer (Pflieger 1975).


Food habits: Invertivore. Diet has not been studied, but probably consists mostly of insects and small invertebrates (Pflieger 1975). Individuals have been observed resting behind large stones littering the bedrock, then darting out for food drifting in the water column (Cross 1967).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Most similar to the mimic shiner (N. volucellus) (Trautman 1981), differs in having a deeper body than N. volucellus, in lacking an infraorbital lateral-line canal, and in having very little pigment on the dorsal scales (Miller and Robison 1973; Hrabik 1996); pelvic fins of N. volucellus do not reach anal fins (Hrabik 1996; Page and Burr 1991); in Illinois, N. volucellus occupies niche in clear main channels in contrast to more sluggish water habitat of N. buchanani (Moore and Paden 1950).


Host Records

No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.



Amemiya, C.T., and J.R. Gold. 1990. Chromosomal NOR phenotypes of seven species of North American Cyprinidae, with comments on cytosystematic relationships of the Notropis volucellus species-group, Opsopoeodus emiliae, and the genus Pteronotropis. Copeia 1990(1):68-78.

Bailey, R.M. 1951. A checklist of the fishes of Iowa, with keys for identification, pp. 187-283. In: Iowa Fish and Fishing. J.R. Harlan and E.B. Speaker (eds.). State. Conserv. Comm. Of Iowa, Des Moines.

Cross, F.B. 1967. Handbook of Fishes of Kansas. Univ. Kans. Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ. 45. 357 pp.

Edwards, R. J. 1997. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes. Report to the Texas Water Development Board.

Gido, K. B., C. W. Hargrave, W. J. Matthews, G. D. Schnell, D. W. Pogue, G. W. Sewell. 2002. Structure of littoral-zone fish communities in relation to habitat, physical, and chemical gradients in a southern reservoir. Environmental Biology of Fishes 63:253-263.

Gilbert, C. R. 1980. Notropis buchanani (Meek), Ghost shiner. pp. 243 in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r + 854 pp.

Gilbert, C. R. 1978. Type catalog of the North American cyprinid fish genus Notropis. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum. Biological Sciences. 23(1):1-104.

Hrabik, R. A. 1996. Taxonomic and Distributional Status of Notropis volucellus and Notropis wickliffi in the Mississippi River Drainage: A Literature Review. Report to National Biological Service Environmental Management Technical Center.

Hubbs, C. L. and C. W. Greene. 1928. Further notes on the fishes of the Great Lakes and tributary waters. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters. 1927(8):371-392.

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

Linam, G.W., J.C. Henson, and M.A. Webb. 1994. A fisheries inventory and assessment of Allens Creek and the Brazos River, Austin County, Texas. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin. 13 pp.

Meek, S. E. 1895. A list of fishes and mollusks collected in Arkansas and Indian territory in 1894. Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 15: 341-349.

Miller, R. J. and H. W. Robison. 1973. The Fishes of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University Press. Stillwater, Oklahoma. 246 pp.

Moore, G. A. and J. M. Paden. 1950. The fishes of the Illinois River in Oklahoma and Arkansas. American Midland Naturalist. 44(1):76-95.

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson field guide series, vol. 42. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432pp.

Pflieger, W. L. 1975. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation. 343 pp.

Rose, D.R., and A.A. Echelle. 1981. Factor analysis of associations of fishes in Little River, central Texas, with interdrainage comparison. American Midland Naturalist 106(2):379-391.

Trautman, M. B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press. 782 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.

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.