Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis girardi

Arkansas River shiner



Type Locality

Cimmaron River, 4.9 km northwest of Kenton, Cimmaron Co., Oklahoma (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929a).


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; girardi – in honor of Charles Girard, physician-naturalist, who described many minnows (Scharpf 2005).



Notropis girardi Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929a:32.



Maximum size: 65 mm (2.65 in) TL (Wilde 2002).


Coloration: Dorsal coloration light tan with scales lightly outlined with melanophores forming a weak middorsal stripe anterior to the dorsal fin; sides are silvery, grading to white on the abdomen. In clear water, a black chevron is present at the base of the caudal fin (Wilde 2002). Upper sides of body without scattered, large melanophores; no pronounced dark markings on dorsal fin membranes (Hubbs 2008). Peritoneum silver (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 0,4-4,0; usually 7 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008); dorsal fin soft rays 8 (7-9); pectoral fin soft rays 13-15; caudal fin soft rays 17-18; lateral line scales 32-37 (Wilde 2002).


Mouth position: Subterminal and horizontal (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


Body shape: Small, robust shiner, with a small dorsally flattened head (Wilde 2002).


Morphology: Eye small, shorter than snout and contained about four times in head length; fins falcate, first anal fin ray more than twice as long as last; lateral line complete; last ray of dorsal fin much less than one-half the 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 a fleshy lobe; 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, 2008). Caudal peduncle depth about one-third greatest body depth (measured over curve); 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, 2008).    Breeding males with 2-4 rows of tubercles on pectoral fins, sexes otherwise indistinguishable (Wilde 2002). Intestine short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Endemic to Arkansas River drainage of Oklahoma, western Arkansas, southern Kansas, northern Texas, and northeastern New Mexico (Gilbert 1980). Record of single specimen from Washita River (Red River drainage), Garvin Co., Oklahoma (Cross 1970). Wilde (2002) reported that this species is restricted to 220 km of the Canadian River bounded upstream by Lake Meredith, Texas, and a 600 km reach of the South Canadian River, Oklahoma and Texas, downstream from Lake Meredith; in Kansas, small populations occurring in the Arkansas and Cimarron rivers; introduced population found in the Pecos River, New Mexico. The introduction of N. girardi into the Pecos River (New Mexico) was probably due to baitbucket release by anglers below Sumner Dam in 1978 (Bestgen et al. 1989).


Texas distribution: Canadian River (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


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

State Threatened, in Texas; federal status Threatened (Hubbs 2008); apparently declining throughout much of its natural range, the Arkansas River drainage (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Imperiled; Endangered status, Kansas; Threatened (US; Arkansas River basin population only); Extirpated, Arkansas (Scharpf 2005). Haslouer et al. (2005) proposed addition of this species to the list of extirpated fishes in Kansas. Propst (1999) reported that the species was only found in the Arkansas River drainage New Mexico and protected by the state. Bestgen et al. (1989) reported that the Pecos River (New Mexico) population was well-established downstream of Sumner Reservoir. Species composed 21.57% of the Canadian River fish assemblage downstream from Lake Meredith, Texas (prior to construction) in 1954-1955; in 1995-1996 species composed only 0.20% of the assemblage in the same area (Bonner and Wilde 2000). Pigg et al. (1999) reported a general annual decrease in total number and relative abundance of N. girardi collected from the South Canadian River, Oklahoma, from 1977-1997. Pigg et al. (1997) reported this species to be rare in the North Canadian River drainage (Oklahoma) and limited to lower segments. Pigg (1991) reported that the South Canadian River population was large and stable; Arkansas River and upper North Canadian River populations were smaller and/or declining; and noted that this species was apparently extirpated from the Cimarron, Deep Fork and Salt Fork of the Arkansas River (Oklahoma). Pigg (1987) stated that N. girardi had declined in both the North Canadian and Cimarron rivers of Oklahoma, based on data from past collections. According to Matthews (1980), Notropis girardi was the second of four species that numerically dominated fish fauna in South Canadian River (central Oklahoma) sampling.


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Found in broad, shallow channels of main streams (Cross 1950; Cross 1953; Gilbert 1980). Occurred primarily in main channel habitat throughout the year; also found in side channel and backwater areas, especially during the summer (Bonner 2000).


Mesohabitat: Typically found in turbid water over mostly silt and shifting sand substrates (Cross 1953; Gilbert 1980). Generally inhabits shallow water; found in slower currents in areas having high conductivity and low turbidity (Bonner 2000). In all seasons, species was proportionally most abundant over sand substrate; also found over silt substrate, especially in fall, spring and summer; collected in areas where water ranged from 0.4-34.7°C (34.7-94.5°F) and dissolved oxygen concentration ranged from 3.4-16.3 mg/l (Bonner 2000). Cross (1967) noted that this species is not common in quiet pools or backwaters, and very rarely enters tributaries having deep water and substrate of mud or stone. Preference for more turbid water (Huber and Rylander 1992). Mean critical thermal maxima (CTM) reported for adult fish is 38.6°C (101.5°F) (Matthews 1979); 35.9°C (96.6°F)(Matthews 1987).  Matthews and Hill (1980) reported that N. girardi in the South Canadian River (central Oklahoma) showed adaptability in habitat use, changing microhabitats as environmental conditions changed. Polivka (1999) described species as wide-ranging and one that does not demonstrate a substantial or consistent level of habitat selection: in the South Canadian River (central Oklahoma), numbers were greatest in bank, island, and sandridge habitats; greater number of individuals occurred in microhabitats defined by depth of up to 500 mm (19.7 in) and current speeds of 0-50 cm/s although faster current speeds were used with high frequency; selection of deeper water was apparent during summer; juveniles found in shallow, slow flowing backwater habitat types more often than adults; habitats adjacent to underwater sand ridges were important to both adults and juveniles, but islands and banks were also used. According to Moore (1944), larvae drift for about three days, after which they are capable of horizontal movement and search for backwater pools and side channels.



Spawning season: April-August (Moore 1944; Gould and Irwin 1962; Gilbert 1980; Bestgen et al. 1989; Bonner 2000; Wilde 2002; Hoagstrom and Brooks 2005; Durham and Wilde 2005).


Spawning habitat: Spawns during high flows in main stream channel, after which eggs travel with current miles downstream (Moore 1944; Cross 1950; Gilbert 1980; Bestgen et al. 1989). N. girardi spawned during relatively high continuous flows, as well as low flows and in pools (Bonner 2000). Polivka (1999) reported that no apparent spawning habitat could be defined, and noted that high variability in spatial and temporal distribution of spawning adults was found in a separate study (Polivka, unpublished data).


Spawning behavior: Multiple spawner (Bestgen et al. 1989; Bonner 2000); in Revuelto Creek and the Pecos River (New Mexico) species exhibited multiple spawning peaks, apparently in response to high flows (Bestgen et al. 1989). Pelagic-broadcast spawner producing nonadhesive, semibuoyant eggs (Moore 1944; Platania and Altenbach 1998).


Fecundity: Estimated total number of well developed ova ranged from 1,012-3,246 in females 38-49 mm SL; egg diameter 0.68-0.70 mm (Cross et al. 1983). Eggs reported to be highly transparent and slightly in excess of 1 mm in diameter exclusive of the gelatinous envelopes; hatching occurs within one day and yolk sac is mostly absorbed by end of third day (Moore 1944; Gilbert 1980). Non-adhesive, semibuoyant eggs, 3.3 mm diameter (Platania and Altenbach 1998).


Age/size at maturation: Age 1 (Bestgen et al. 1989; Bonner 2000; Wilde 2002; Hoagstrom and Brooks 2005). Individuals 24 mm in length with mature ova (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929b).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure: In May – August collections, Age 0-1 fish ranged from 10-29 mm SL, Age 1 fish ranged from 29-49 mm SL, and Age 2+ fish ranged from 53-57 mm SL; in September – December collections, Age 0-1 fish ranged from 11-35 mm SL, Age 1 fish ranged from 35-46 mm SL; in January – April collections, Age 1 fish ranged from 11-45 mm SL, and Age 2+ fish ranged from 45-55 mm SL (Hoagstrom and Brooks 2005). Growth rates apparently greatest in 1st summer of life: Age-0 fish ranged from 11.1-31.6 mm SL; Age-1 fish ranged from 16.8-42.1 mm SL; Age-2 fish ranged from 34.2-45.6 mm SL (Bestgen et al. 1989). In the Pecos River (New Mexico), population was dominated by Age-0 and Age-1 fish; majority of specimens collected prior to spawning (March and May 1986) were Age-1 fish, indicating high spawning and/or overwinter mortality of older age classes; high mortality of post-spawning fish in 1986 was apparent as Age-1 and older fish commonly collected in July and August (Bestgen et al. 1989).  In aquaria, average TL was 5.4 mm at 4 days; 7.7 mm at 7 days; 16 mm at 22 days; 24.5 mm at 40 days; 28 mm at 59 days; 34.5 mm at 6 months, 23 days; and 35.4 mm at 7 months, 15 days; data indicated an average daily length increment of about 0.16 mm (Moore 1944).


Longevity: Up to 3 years; fish living in the wild rarely live past 2nd year (Moore 1944; Bestgen et al. 1989; Wilde 2002).


Food habits: Generalist feeder, with terrestrial and aquatic insects representing 28% (by weight) of diet; detritus represented 26% of the diet, plant materials (6%), and sand-silt (40%); presence of sand-silt in the diet suggests that this species forages along sediments on the river bottom; common occurrence of terrestrial insects (Coleoptera, Hymenoptera) in diet indicative of feeding in the water column on drifting invertebrates (Wilde et al. 2001). Invertivore; feeding on organisms that are exposed by movement of the sand or are washed downstream (Cross 1967; Gilbert 1980; Goldstein and Simon 1999). In the Canadian River (between Ute Reservoir and Lake Meredith) terrestrial, aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates were consumed throughout all seasons; other items ingested were chitinous and amorphous materials, algae, detritus, plant material, sand/silt, and seeds (Jimenez 1999). Prey consumption was found to be significantly affected by turbidity, decreasing 59% between 0 and 4,000 NTU (nephelometric turbidity units; Bonner 2000; Bonner and Wilde 2002).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Subgenus Notropis (Coburn and Cavender 1992; Bielawski and Gold 2001). Notropis girardi is closely related to the Red River shiner (N. bairdi) and the smalleye shiner (N. buccula), which are endemic to more southerly Red and Brazos river drainages, respectively (Gilbert 1980) These three species form a close group whose precise relationships to other Notropis species are not entirely clear (Gilbert 1980).


N. girardi similar to N. bairdi and N. buccula, but has fully scaled breast and nape; usually 8 anal rays, 14 pectoral rays; larger and more falcate fins (Page and Burr 1991).  N. girardi differs from the Sabine shiner (N. sabinae) in the greater crowding of the scales before the dorsal, smaller average size of eye, and the higher number of anal rays (7-9, usually 8, versus only 7) (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929a). See Hubbs and Ortenburger (1929a) for additional information useful in distinguishing N. girardi and N. bairdi. See Cross (1953) for comparison of N. buccula, N. bairdi, N. girardi, and N. sabinae.


The following characters may be used to assist in distinguishing Notropis girardi from the sand shiner (N. stramineus): pectoral fin falcate (as opposed to ovate in the latter species), lacks paired melanophores along the lateral line (characteristic of N. stramineus; Sublette et al. 1990).


Cross (1950) reported collection of one hybrid specimen, a cross between the plains minnow and the Arkansas River shiner (Hybognathus placitus X Notropis girardi), taken in the Stillwater Creek Drainage Basin, Oklahoma.


Larvae described by Moore (1944) and Fuiman et al. (1983).


Host Records

Lernaea cyprinacea reported to parasitize this species in the Canadian River, New Mexico and Texas

(Durham et al. 2002).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

As a producer of semibuoyant eggs, this species may be particularly susceptible to modification of natural flow patterns (Platania and Altenbach 1998). The decline of Notropis girardi in the upper mainstream Arkansas River attributed to anthropogenic reduction of high summer flows apparently needed to stimulate reproduction (Cross et al. 1983; Platania and Altenbach 1998). Sublette et al. (1990) noted that the diminishing population of N. girardi in the Canadian drainage (New Mexico) was threatened by reduced water flow and altered water quality. Reduced frequency of large floods and their importance for reproduction by N. girardi probably explains absence of this species in the Canadian River downstream from Lake Meredith, Texas (Bonner and Wilde 2000). Pigg et al. (1997) attributed the decline of N. girardi in the North Canadian River drainage (Oklahoma) to the lack of elevated flows during periods of reproduction.


Introduction of the Red River shiner (Notropis bairdi) is a potential threat to this species (Sublette et al. 1990; Wilde 2002); N. bairdi has replaced N. girardi in the Cimarron River (Cross et al. 1983). Felley and Cothran (1981) noted similarities among these two species both morphologically and, apparently, in their ecological preferences and suggested, at that time, that N. bairdi was displacing N. girardi in the Cimarron River of Oklahoma.


Gould and Irwin (1962) reported that Notropis girardi was found to be an excellent test animal for oil refinery effluents, noting that the species did not outgrow a useable size, sustained transport without undue mortality and adapted well to holding conditions, ate dry food almost immediately, and did not respire at a sufficient rate to require oxygenation of test solutions.


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2005) prepared an Environmental Assessment to analyze potential effects of re-designation of critical habitat for the Arkansas River shiner.


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: CRMWA (2005); Durham and Wilde (2006); Wilde and Durham (2008).]



Bestgen, K.R., S.P. Platania, J.E. Brooks, and D.L. Propst. 1989. Dispersal and life history traits of Notropis girardi (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae), introduced into the Pecos River, New Mexico. American Midland Naturalist 122(2):228-235.

Bielawski, J.P. and J.R. Gold. 2001. Phylogenetic Relationships of Cyprinid Fishes in Subgenus Notropis Inferred from Nucleotide Sequences of the Mitochondrially Encoded Cytochrome b Gene. Copeia 2001(3):656-667.


Bonner, T. H. 2000. Life history and reproductive ecology of the Arkansas River shiner and peppered chub in the Canadian River, Texas and New Mexico. Doctoral dissertation. Texas Tech University, Lubbock. 147 pp.


Bonner, T.H. and G.R. Wilde. 2000. Changes in the Canadian River fish assemblage associated with reservoir construction. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 15(2):189-198.


Bonner, T.H., and G.R. Wilde. 2002. Effects of turbidity on prey consumption by prairie stream fishes. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 131:1203-1208.


Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. 2005. Arkansas River Shiner (Notropis girardi) Management Plan for the Canadian River from U. S. Highway 54 at Logan, New Mexico to Lake Meredith, Texas. 70 pp.


Coburn, M.M., and T.M. Cavender. 1992. Interrelationships of North American fishes, p. 328-373. In: Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes. R.L. Mayden (ed.). Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA. 969 pp.

Cross, F.B. 1950. Effects of sewage and of headwaters impoundment on the fishes of Stillwater Creek in Payne County, Oklahoma. American Midland Naturalist 43(1):128-145.

Cross, F.B. 1953. A new minnow, Notropis bairdi buccula, from the Brazos River, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science 1953(2):252-259.

Cross, F.B. 1967. Handbook of Fishes of Kansas. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Lawrence.  Misc. Publ. No. 45:357 pp.


Cross, F.B. 1970. Occurrence of the Arkansas River shiner, Notropis girardi Hubbs and Ortenburger, in the Red River System. The Southwestern Naturalist 14(3):370.

Cross, F.B., O.T. Gorman, and S.G. Haslouer. 1983. The red river shiner, Notropis bairdi, in Kansas with notes on depletion of its Arkansas River cognate, Notropis girardi. Trans. Kansas. Acad. Sci. 86(2/3):93-98.

Durham, B.W., and G.R. Wilde. 2005. Relationship between hatch date and first-summer growth of five species of prairie-stream cyprinids. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72:45-54.

Durham, B.W., and G.R. Wilde. 2006. Influence of stream discharge on reproductive success of a prairie stream fish assemblage. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 135(6):1644-1653.

Durham, B.W., T.H. Bonner, and G.R. Wilde. 2002. Occurrence of Lernaea cyprinacea on Arkansas River Shiners and Peppered Chubs in the Canadian River, New Mexico and Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 47(1):95-98.

Felley, J.D., and E.G. Cothran. 1981. Notropis bairdi (Cyprinidae) in the Cimarron River, Oklahoma. The Southwestern Naturalist 25(4):564.

Fuiman, L.A., J.V. Conner, B.F. Lathrop, G.L. Buynak, D.E. Snyder, and J.J. Loos. 1983. State of the art of identification for cyprinid fish larvae from eastern North America. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 112(2):319-332.


Gilbert, C.R.  1980.  Notropis girardi (Hubbs and Ortenburger), Arkansas River shiner.  p. 268.  In: D. S. Lee, C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister & J. R. Stauffer, Jr. (eds.), Atlas of North American freshwater fishes, North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, 854 pp.

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. 671 pp.

Gould, W.R, III, and W.H. Irwin. 1962. The suitabilities and relative resistances of twelve species of fish as bioassay animals for oil-refinery effluents. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 16:333-348.

Haslouer, S.G., M.E. Eberle, D.R. Edds, K.B. Gido, C.S. Mammoliti, J.R. Triplett, J.T. Collins, D.A. Distler, D.G. Huggins, and W.J. Stark. 2005. Current status of native fish species in Kansas. Trans. of the Kansas Academy of Science 108(1/2):32-46.

Hoagstrom, C.W., and J.E. Brooks. 2005. Distribution and status of Arkansas River shiner Notropis girardi and Rio Grande shiner Notropis jemezanus, Pecos River, New Mexico. Texas Journal of Science 57(1):35-58.

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


Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 2008. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 2nd edition 43(4):1-87.

Hubbs, C.L., and A.I. Ortenburger. 1929a. Further notes on the fishes of Oklahoma, with descriptions of new species of cyprinidae. Publ. Univ. Okla. Biol. Surv. 1(2):17-43.

Hubbs, C.L., and A.I. Ortenburger. 1929b. Fishes collected in Oklahoma and Arkansas in 1927. Publ. Univ. Okla. Biol. Surv. 1(3):45-112.


Huber, R., and M.K. Rylander. 1992. Brain morphology and turbidity preference in Notropis and related genera (Cyprinidae, Teleostei). Environmental Biology of Fishes 33:153-165.


Jimenez, R., Jr. 1999. The food habits of the Arkansas River shiner and the speckled chub. Unpublished M.S. Thesis, Texas Tech University. Lubbock, Texas. 95 pp.


Matthews, W. J. 1987. Physicochemical tolerance and selectivity of stream fishes as related to their geographic ranges and local distributions. Pages 111–120 in W. J. Matthews and D. C. Heins, editors. Community and evolutionary ecology of North American stream fishes. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 310 pp.


Matthews, W.J., and L.G. Hill. 1980. Habitat partitioning in the fish community of a southwestern river. The Southwestern Naturalist 25(1):51-66.


Matthews, W.J., and J.D. Maness. 1979. Critical thermal maxima, oxygen tolerances and success of cyprinid fishes in a southwestern stream. American Midland Naturalist 102(2):374-377.

Moore, G.A. 1944. Notes on the early life history of Notropis girardi. Copeia 1944(4):209-214.


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


Pigg, J. 1987. Survey of fishes in the Oklahoma Panhandle and Harper County, northwestern Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 67:45-59.


Pigg, J. 1991. Decreasing distribution and current status of the Arkansas River shiner, Notropis girardi, in the rivers of Oklahoma and Kansas. Oklahoma Acad. Sci. Proc. 71:5–15.


Pigg, J., M. Coleman, and R. Gibbs. 1997. Temporal and spatial distribution of cyprinid fishes between 1921 and 1995 in the North Canadian River drainage, Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 77:43-92.


Pigg, J., R. Gibbs, and K.K. Cunningham. 1999. Decreasing abundance of the Arkansas River shiner in the South Canadian River, Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 79:7-12.

Platania, S.P., and C.S. Altenbach. 1998. Reproductive strategies and egg types of seven Rio Grande Basin cyprinids. Copeia 1998(3):559-569.

Polivka, K.M. 1999. The microhabitat distribution of the Arkansas River shiner, Notropis girardi: a habitat-mosaic approach. Environmental Biology of Fishes 55:265-278.

Propst, D.L. 1999. Threatened and endangered fishes of New Mexico. Tech. Report No.1. New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish., Sante Fe, NM. 84 pp.

Scharpf, C. 2005. Annotated checklist of North American freshwater fishes, including subspecies and undescribed forms, Part 1: Petromyzontidae through Cyprinidae. American Currents, Special Publication 31(4):1-44.

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

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Draft environmental assessment for designation of critical habitat for Arkansas River shiner. U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2. 68 pp.

Wilde, G.R. 2002. Threatened fishes of the world: Notropis girardi Hubbs and Ortenburger, 1929 (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 65:98.

Wilde, G.R., and B.W. Durham. 2008. Daily survival rates for juveniles of six Great Plains cyprinid species. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 137:830-833.


Wilde, G. R., T. H. Bonner, and P. J. Zwank. 2001. Diets of the Arkansas River shiner and peppered chub in the Canadian River, New Mexico and Texas. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 16:403–410.