Notropis sabinae

Sabine shiner



Type Locality

Sabine River, 8 km (4.97 mi) s of Longview, Gregg Co., TX (Jordan and Gilbert 1886).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis, Greek, meaning “back keel” (Pflieger 1997); sabinae, in reference to type locale, the Sabine River (Ross 2001).



Notropis sabinae Jordan and Gilbert 1886:15; Suttkus 1991:6.



Maximum size: 52mm (2.05 in) (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Coloration: The back and upper sides are pale greenish yellow with lover sides and venter silvery or silvery white. The suborbital area may be darkly pigmented (Page and Burr 1991). Unlike other members of the species complex, the Sabine shiner does not exhibit bright breeding colors, although Hiens (1981) mentioned faint yellow color developed in the dorsal and caudal fins of males. Preserved fish are generally pale and lightly pigmented above lateral line, while below lateral line there is little if any pigmentation. Generally there is not a lateral stripe on the caudal peduncle; if present it is very poorly developed and the pigment areas are confined to below the lateral line. Anterior lateral line pores may be outlined dorsally and ventrally by dark pigment, but most individuals have darkly pigmented cleithral bar. There are no dark pigments blotches at the caudal base. Dorsally, there is a faint cross hatching presented by marginally pigmented scales. The middorsal stripe is often faint and fins are plain. A thin, but faintly pigmented post anal strip is present (Ross 2001).


Pharyngeal teeth count: 0,4-4,0 (Hubbs et al. 1991) or 1,4-4,1 (Page and Burr 1991).


Counts: Usually 7 anal fin rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); 33-34 (32-36) lateral line scales; 8 dorsal rays; 7 anal fin soft rays; 14-15 (13-16) pectoral fin soft rays; 8 pelvic soft fin rays (Ross 2001; Suttkus 1991; Suttkus and Boschung 1990).


Body shape: Elongate, anteriorly robust body with long, blunt snout. Body depth goes into SL 3.6-4.9 times, and snout length goes into head length 2.4-3.9 times.


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


Morphology: Small eyes placed high on the head (Ross 2001); eye small, shorter than snout and contained about four times in head length. Caudal peduncle depth about one-half greatest body depth (measured over curve); lateral line complete, 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; 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). Head tuberculation in males characterized by compact clusters of large tubercles on end of snout and preorbital and lachrymal areas (Heins 1981; Suttkus and Boschung 1990). Males may develop tubercles on pectoral rays and scattered, small tubercles on dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins. Females may develop small to moderate breeding tubercles along sides of the snout and head. Reproductive females also have enlarged genital papillae (Heins 1981).  Intestinal canal short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Along Gulf coast from San Jacinto River Drainage, Texas east to the Calcasieu River and a small section of the Red River drainage in Louisiana. Semi-disjunct population in White and Black river systems of Northeastern Arakansas and southeastern Missouri and St. Francis River of extreme northeastern Arkansas (Gilbert 1980).


Texas distribution: Inhabits small Austroriparian streams of eastern Texas from San Jacinto Drainage northward along the Gulf Coast to the Sabine River Basin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Banita Creek and LaNana Bayou (Tributaries of the Angelina River), Nacogdoches County, Texas that historically (Dickens 1950) and presently supports a large population (Williams and Bonner 2006).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957).]


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

Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2006).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Small creeks and rivers having slight to moderate current (Gilbert 1980).


Mesohabitat: Closely restricted to substrate of fine, silt free sand (Gilbert 1980). Habitat generalist with affinities for shallow, moving water and rarely found in pools and backwater areas. Age-0 fish were more abundant over shallow, silt laden bedrock whereas adults were collected and observed over deeper sandy areas within the same geomorphic unit (Williams and Bonner 2006). Moriarty and Winemiller (1997) documented similar segregation patterns between adults and juveniles of N. sabinae in Village Creek, Texas, with adults associated with deeper sand bars and juveniles found in shallower areas. However, N. sabinae were not exclusively associated with sandy areas as previously reported by Gilbert (1980) and Moriarty and Winemiller (1997).



Spawning season: May to December with a few individuals continuing reproduction into October (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Spawning habitat:  No information at this time.


Reproductive strategy: Probably spawn midstream and let the current carry eggs(Carlander 1969). Downstream drift of eggs or larvae was suggested by the first appearance of age-0 fish at downstream site and absence of upstream sites until early fall. This pattern of downstream displacement is suggested by Heins (1981) as well for the upper reaches of Big Cow Creek where large numbers of adults were found year round but age-0 fish were noticeably absent until early fall. Thus, N. sabinae may employ downstream drift as a dispersal mechanism with in the streams it inhabits (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Fecundity: Counts of mature ova range from 113 to 423 for females 35-48mm (1.38-1.89 in) SL. The diameter of mature ova ranges from 0.63 to 0.81mm (0.02-0.03 in) and increases somewhat in larger females (Hiens 1981).


Age at maturation: Based on size inferences all females are mature by end of their second summer (Age-1). In addition, the presence of developing and mature ovaries of smaller individuals during early fall supports Hiens (1981) suggestion that some individuals may reach reproductive maturity during their first summer (age-0).


Migration:  No information at this time.


Growth and population structure: Exhibit rapid growth rate and reach maximum total length 52 mm (2.05 in) during their first summer. The Banita Creek population is composed largely of age 1 fish from January until late summer but this age class steadily declines throughout its second year, resulting in very few age 2 fish the following year. These trends in size structure mirror those found by Heins (1981) for Bayou Anacoco, Louisiana but differ from his findings of Big Cow Creek, Texas. The Big Cow Creek population mostly consisted of age-2 fish with a small parentage of age-1 fish (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Longevity: Maximum life span of approximately 2.5 years (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Food habits: Diptera was the most abundant aquatic insect consumed (78% by weight of aquatic insects) followed by Ephemeroptera (9.0%), Odonata (7.6%), Plecoptera (4.3%) and Trichoptera (1.6%). Terrestrial insects ranged in percent weight from 0 to 4.6% with adult dipterans being the most abundant terrestrial insect consumed (66%), followed by Coleoptera (34%) and Hemiptera (,0.1%). Collembola, Crustacea (Amphipoda and Ostracoda) and Hydracarina were rare (,2%). Although not a food item, percent weights of Cestoda ranged from 0 (December 2001 and January 2002) to 43% (September 2002). Amount of cestodes in the digestive tract typically were greater from June through September and less from October through May. Generalist feeder detritus was abundant from October through February, whereas aquatic insects were abundant from March through September (Williams and Bonner 2006).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Notropis sabinae is sometimes placed within the genus Hybopsis (Mayden 1989; Wiley and Titus 1992). Resembles somewhat the sand shiner (N. stramineus) in coloration and general body shape, but differs from that species in having undersurface of head distinctly flattened, upper jaw extending behind front of eye (versus upper jaw not extending past front of eye), and front of dorsal fin base mush closer to tip of snout than to base of caudal fin (versus front of dorsal fin base about equidistant between tip of snout and base of caudal fin). N. sabinae differs from pallid shiner (N. amnis), ghost shiner (N. buchanani), and mimic shiner (N. volucellus) in having 7 anal rays (versus 8; Robison and Buchanan 1988).


Host Records

No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Although Warren et al. (2000) consider this species to be currently stable, N. sabinae was designated a species of conservation concern in Texas and Louisiana by U.S. Forest Service Region 8 and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 2, and as a species of special concern in Mississippi

(Ross 2001).



Dickens, F.A. 1950. A distributional study of fishes in the Nacogdoches area. Masters Thesis, Stephen F. Austin State College, Nacogdoches Texas. 83pp.

Gilbert C.R.1980. Notropis sabinae (Jordan and Gilbert), Sabine Shiner. pp. 304 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Heins, D.C. 1981. Life History pattern of Notropis sabinae (Pisces: Cyprinidae) in Lower Sabine River Drainage of Louisiana and Texas. Tulane Studies Zool. Bot., 22:67-84.

Hubbs, C. 1957. Distributional patterns of Texas fresh-water fishes. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(2/3):89-104.

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.

Jordan, D.S. and C.R. Gilbert. 1886. List of fishes collected in Arkansas Indian territory, and Texas, in September, 1884, with notes and descriptions. Proc. US. Nat. Mus. 9(15):1-25.

Mayden, R.L. 1989. Phylogenetic studies of North American Minnows, with emphasis on the genus Cyprinella (Teleostei: Cypriniformes). Misc. Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. Univ. Kans. 80:1-189.

Moriarty, L. J. and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County Texas. Texas Journal of Science 49: 85-110.

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. 490pp.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. The University of Arkanasas Press, Fayetteville. 536 pp.

Ross, S.T. 2001. Inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson. 624 p.

Suttkus, R.D. 1991. Notropis rafinesque, a new cyprinid fish from the Yazoo River system in Mississippi. Bull. Ala. Mus. Nat. Hist. 10:1-9.

Suttkus, R.D., and H.T. Boschung. 1990. Notropis ammophilus, a new cyprinid fish from southeastern United States. Tulane Stud. Zool. Bot. 27(2):49-63.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Diversity and Habitat Assessment Programs. County Lists of Texas' Special Species. [30 May 2006].

Warren, M. L., Jr., B.M. Burr, S.J. Walsh, H.L. Bart, Jr., R.C. Cashnier, D.A. Etnier, B.J. Freeman, B.R. Kuhadja, R.L. Mayden, H.W. Robison, S.T. Ross and W.C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, distribution, and conservation status of native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25:7-31.

Wiley, E.O. and T.A. Titus. 1992. Phylogenetic relationships among members of the Hybopsis dorsalis species group (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Occ. Pap. Mus. Nat. Hist. Univ. Kans. 152:1-18.

Williams, C.S. and T.H. Bonner. 2006. Habitat Associations, Life History and Diet of the Sabine Shiner Notropis sabinae in an East Texas Drainage. American Midland Naturalist 155(1):84-102.