Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University - San Marcos



Notropis maculatus

taillight shiner



Type Locality

Chickasawhay River (and tributaries), near Enterprise, Clarke Co., Mississippi (Hay 1881).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis, Greek, meaning “back keel;” maculatus, Latin, meaning “spotted” (Pflieger 1997). Hay (1883) referred to the species as the “spot-tailed Hemitreme.”



Hemitremia maculate Hay 1881:505; Hay 1883:70.

Notropis maculates Cook 1959:107.



Maximum size: May reach 76 mm (3.0 in) TL (Boschung et al. 1983; Page and Burr 1991).


Coloration: The back is straw colored or light olive with a thin middorsal stripe running from the head to tail. The tip of the lower jaw is densely covered with melanophores. The narrow but prominent mid-lateral band (1.0-1.5 scales wide) that starts on the snout just above the corner of the mouth extends posteriorly to the caudal fin base, fading slightly before approaching a distinct basicaudal spot about the size of the pupil. Above and below the basicaudal spot are wedge-shaped spots. Bases of the dorsal rays are darkened with melanophores. The undersides of the body are silvery white, with melanophores concentrated around the vent and bases of the anal fin rays. There is also a thin postanal stripe.  The leading rays of the pectoral, pelvic, dorsal and anal fins are heavily lined with melanophores. Only in the pectoral fins are the remaining parts of the fin clear. The pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins have a black band along their distal margins. The dorsal fin also has a black band through rays 1-3. The basal and medial portions of the fins are clear. The caudal ray margins are lined with melanophores that are more prominent along the medial rays and the distal margin.  Breeding males are brilliantly colored. The body has a general overlay of pink to red and the snout and head are bright red as are the distal tips and edges of all the fins except the pectorals. The white venter contrasts with red dorsum. Females generally lack the red coloration but occasionally gravid females have red snouts. They also have similar, but subdued, fin pigmentation. In nonreproductive fish, the red coloration is usually restricted to the base of the caudal fin between the basicaudal spot and the adjacent wedge-shaped spots, resembling small taillights (Ross 2001). Nonreproductive males larger than 30 mm TL may be distinguished from females by elongate black blotches along the anterior edge of the dorsal fin, as described by McLane (1955) and Cowell and Barnett (1974).


Pharyngeal teeth count: 0,4-4,0 or1,4-4,1 or 2,4-4,2 (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: 15 pored lateral-line scales, 35-37 (34-39) scales in lateral series, 15-17 predorsal scale rows; 8 (7-8) anal fin soft rays; 13-15 pectoral fin soft rays; 8 pelvic fin soft rays (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Body shape: Elongate, slender minnow with a rounded snout (Ross 2001).


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


Morphology: Lateral line incomplete; interradial membranes of dorsal fin without melanophores (except along rays forming a dash on anterior 2-3 fin membranes); 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).  Intestinal canal short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Restricted to lower Mississippi Valley, Gulf Slope, and southern Atlantic slope, below Fall Line. (Gilbert 1980)


Texas distribution: Restricted to the Sulphur and Cypress drainages in extreme northeast (Hubbs et al., 1991). Warren et al. (2000) lists species as inhabiting the Red River and Atchafalaya Basin-Calcasieu River (including major and minor coastal drainages west to Sabine Lake) drainage units.


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

Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2006). Listed as special concern species, in Texas (Klym and Garrett 2002). Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Large, sluggish mud-bottomed creeks and lakes (Gilbert 1980).


Mesohabitat: Quiet, usually vegetated oxbow lakes, ponds, or backwaters (Burr and Page 1975; Ross 2001).  In Arkansas, inhabits waters that are typically acidic with a pH of 6.1-6.9 (Robison 1978).



Spawning season: In Florida, has protracted spawning season, March to September-October, at water temperatures of 23-32° C (73-90°F) (Beach 1974; Cowell and Barnett 1974). In Kentucky, breeds March to May (Burr and Page 1975).


Spawning habitat: Cowell and Barnett (1974) believe spawning occurred along the shoreline as large schools of gravid females and ripe males congregated in the shallow areas during periods of major reproductive activity. Eggs may be deposited over nests of other fishes such as largemouth bass (Chew 1974).


Reproductive strategy:  No information at this time.


Fecundity: Fecundity (based on counts of fully yolked ova) of gravid females ranged from 72-408 ova per female in fish 42-59 mm TL, averaging 163 ova; fertilized eggs, held at 23°C in lab aquaria, were demersal, adhesive, and hatched within 60-72 hours; newly hatched prolarvae ranged from 4.0-4.2 mm (0.16-0.17 in) TL; the yolk sac was absorbed in approximately 48 hrs.; larval taillight shiners were pelagic; larval fish reached a mean size of 6.0 mm 10 days after hatching (Cowell and Barnett 1974). In Kentucky, the number of mature ova, those over 0.8 mm (0.03 in) in diameter, ranged from 25 to 431 (Burr and Page 1975).


Age at maturation: In Florida, fish spawned in May reached sexual maturity by August of the same year; fish spawned in August overwintered and matured by the following April; maturity was reached in 6 to 9 months depending on water temperature (Cowell and Barnett 1974).


Migration: Cowell and Barnett (1974) found taillight shiners migrated from daily into vegetated shoreline areas to feed.


Growth and population structure: Growth is rapid but varied depending upon time of hatching (growth slowed by colder water temperatures during the winter months); the spring  (May) group young-of-the-year averaged 16.7 mm (0.65 in) TL in May, 32.6 mm (1.28 in) in June, 35.9 mm (1.41 in) in July, and reached 40.2 mm (1.50 in) in total length by August of the same year; the early summer (August) group was approximately 39 mm (1.53 in) by late October; the late summer group grew throughout the winter but did not reach 40 mm (1.57 in) until the following April (Cowell and Barnett 1974). Mature females consistently larger than mature males (Beach 1974; Burr and Page 1975).


Longevity: In Florida, about 1 year (Cowell and Barnett 1974). A life span of less than 2 years was also reported in Kentucky (Burr and Page 1975).


Food habits: Planktivore; microcrustaceans, rotifers, unicellular algae, and small dipteran larvae; studies on food selection indicate that ostracods and cladocerans (Alonella globulosa) may be preferred food categories (Beach 1974; Cowell and Barnett 1974).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

Gilbert and Bailey (1972) and Mayden (1989) believed it to be closely allied to the pugnose minnow, Opsopoedus emiliae, and Mayden placed it within the N. volucellus species group as part of a clade that included O. emiliae. Coburn and Cavender (1992), on the basis of osteology, and Amemiya et al. (1992), on the basis of chromosomes, argued against a close relationship with Opsopoeodus.


Host Records

Dactylogyrus caudoluminis (Mizelle and McDougal 1970)


Commercial or Environmental Importance

No information at this time.



Amemiya, C.T., P.T. Powers, and J.R. Gold. 1992. Chromosomal evolution in North American cyprinids, pp. 515-533. in: Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes. R.L. Mayden, ed. Standford Univ. Press, Stanford Calif.

Beach, M.L. 1974. Food Habits and reproduction of the taillight shiner, Notropis maculates (Hay), in central Florida. Fla. Sci. 37(1):5-16.

Boschung, H.T., J.D. Williams, D.W. Gotshall, D.K. Caldwell, and M.C. Caldwell. 1983. Field Guide to North American fishes, whales, and dolphins. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Burr, B.M. and L.M. Page. 1975. Distribution and life history notes on the taillight shiner Notropic maculatus in Kentucky. Trans. Ky. Acad. Sci. 36(3-4):71-74.

Chew, R.L. 1974. Early life history of Florida largemouth bass. Fish. Bull. Fla. Game and Freshwater Fish Comm. 7:1-76.

Coburn, M.M. and T.M. Cavender. 1992. Interrelationships of North American cyprinid fishes, pp. 328-373. in: Systematics, historical ecology, and North American freshwater fishes. R.L. Mayden, ed. Standford Univ. Press, Stanford Calif.

Cook, F.A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commision, Jackson. 239 pp.

Cowell, B.C., and B.S. Barnett. 1974. Life History of the taillight shiner, Notropis maculatus, in Central Florida. Amer. Midl. Nat. 91(2):282-293.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville. 681 pp.

Gilbert, C.R. 1980. Notropis maculatus (Hay), Tailight shiner. pp. 286 I n 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. and R.M. Bailey. 1972. Systematics and zoogeography of the American Cyprinid fish Notropis (Opsopoedus) emiliae. Occ. Pap. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. 664:1-35.

Hay, O.P. 1881. On a collection of fishes from eastern Mississippi. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 3:488-515.

Hay, O.P. 1883. On a collection of fishes from the lower Mississippi Valley. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 2:57-75.

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

Klym, M., and G.P. Garrett. 2002. Texas Non-Game Freshwater Fishes. Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Austin. 19 pp.

McLane, W.M. 1955. The fishes of the St. Johns River system. Ph.D. diss. Univ. Florida, Gainsville.

Mizelle, J.D. and H.D. McDougal. 1970 Studies on Monogenetic Trematodes. XLV. The genus Dactylogyrus in North America. Key to Species, Host Parasite and Parasite host lists, Localities, emendations, and description of D. Kritskyi sp.n. Amer. Midl. Nat. 84(2):444-462.

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.

Robison, H. W. 1978. Distribution and habitat of the taillight shiner, Notropis maculatus (Hay), in Arkansas. Pro. Ark. Acad. Sci. 32:68-70.

Ross, S.T. 2001. Inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Diversity and Habitat Assessment Programs. County Lists of Texas' Special Species. [30 May 2006]. http://gis.tpwd.state.tx.us/TpwEndangeredSpecies/DesktopModules/AcountyCodeKeyForWebESDatabases.pdf

Warren, L. W., 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.