Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis stramineus

sand shiner



Type Locality

Detroit River, Grosse Isle, Michigan (Cope 1864)


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis = keeled back; stramineus = of straw, no doubt referring to the pale amber body color

(Etnier and Starnes 1993).



Mayden and Gilbert (1989) showed that N. ludibundus Girard, 1856 is a senior synonym of N. stramineus. However, the specific name N. stramineus is conserved and N. ludibundus is suppressed (ICZN 2002).


Hybognathus stramineus (Cope 1864).

Hybopsis missuriensis (Cope 1872); type locality to Missouri River, St. Joseph, Missouri.

Notropis deliciosus (Girard); (Jordan 1885; Fowler 1910; Koster 1957); this name was incorrectly used for N. stramineus for many years, cf. (Gilbert 1978).

Notropis deliciosus stramineus (Cope); (Hubbs and Lagler 1941; Knapp 1953).

Notropis stramineus missuriensis (Cope); (Bailey and Allum 1962; Tanyolac 1973; Gilbert 1978).

Notropis stramineus (Cope); (Hubbs and Echelle 1972; Miller 1978; Sublette and Sublette 1980; Gilbert 1980; Smith and Miller 1986).

Notropis stramineus stramineus (Cope); (Gilbert 1978)



Maximum size:  82 mm (3.23 in) TL (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Coloration: Head silvery; with a dark middorsal stripe extending to the dorsal fin where it is interrupted forming at the dorsal fin base two distinct black dashes separated by a clear space when viewed from above; back olivaceous, scales outlined with melanophores; sides silvery; each lateral line pore accented with paired melanophores that may create the appearance of a thin midlateral stripe; indistinct basicaudal spot present; abdomen whitish. Colors intensified in male during spawning (Sublette et al. 1991).  No pronounced dark markings on dorsal fin membranes (Hubbs et al. 1991). Peritoneum silvery, lightly speckled (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Pharyngeal teeth count:  0,4-4,0 (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: Usually seven anal fin soft rays; fewer than 10 dorsal fin soft rays; fewer than 45 lateral line scales

(Hubbs et al. 1991).


Body shape:  Slender, fairly compressed body (Page and Burr 1991); eye larger, equal to or longer than snout and contained three and one-half or fewer times in head length (Hubbs et al. 1991).


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


Morphology:  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). Male has very fine nuptial tubercles from snout to occiput, from snout to edge of preopercles, on pectoral fins; sparsely on the operculum. Top of head of female finely tuberculate. Height of dorsal fin consistently greater in males than females (Sublette et al. 1990).  Ratio of digestive tract to total length: DT 0.7-0.9 TL; gut single S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991; Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Found throughout the Great Plains and the upper Mississippi and Missouri river basins, eastward through the Great Lakes region (Hubbs et al 1991).


Texas distribution: Found sporadically on the Edwards Plateau, in the Big Bend region of the Rio Grande, and along the Red River (Hubbs et al 1991). Garrett et al. (2004) found species, although rarely, in a previously inaccessible location in the headwaters of Pinto Creek, Kinney County, Texas. Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage units for distribution of Notropis stramineus in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


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

Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Shallow, sandy streams of diverse sizes, from springs discharging only a few cubic feet per second to large rivers; rarely found in upland areas (Tanyolac 1973).


Mesohabitat: Avoids habitats with acid or highly alkaline conditions (i.e., lower than pH 7.0 or higher than pH 9.6); however in the Southwest, pH values of around 8.0 commonly occur in streams which this species occupies (Sublette et al. 1990). Bottom of pools in small creeks (Mendelson 1975). Starett (1950a) states that, in Iowa, during the August spawning season the sand shiner forms large schools in shallow water where there is a slight current and sand bottom.  In the fall, large concentrations were found in deep pools.  In late summer and fall, sand shiners moved into shallow water over rubble bottom at dusk.



Spawning season: Early August, in Iowa (Starrett 1950a). May or June through August (Tanyolac 1973). Summerfelt and Minckley (1969) defined spawning temperature between 21-37°C (65-99°F), in the Smokey Hill River, Kansas; noted that peak spawning in July and August coincided with maximal temperatures and conditions of minimal rain and runoff (being the hot-dry portion of the summer); hypothesized that summer spawning at high temperatures may be an adaptation to enhance survival of sand shiner fry in Great Plains rivers because spring season is characterized by drastic water level fluctuation and flood-type conditions.


Spawning location: Lowland-upland habitat (Coburn 1986).


Reproductive strategy: Broadcast spawner, laying demersal-adhesive eggs (Platania and Altenbach 1998).


Fecundity: Fecundity varies from 150-1,000 eggs per female per year (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Increase in fecundity with standard length (or age) of the fish (Tanyolac 1973). Coburn (1986) lists egg diameter range of 0.75 mm-0.95 mm (0.03-0.04 in).


Age at maturation:  Spawning fish are age I or II, the former more numerous (Summerfelt and Minckley 1969).


Migration: No information at this time.


Longevity: 3 summers (Tanyolac 1973; Summerfelt and Minckley 1969).


Food habits:  Invertivore/detritivore; main food items include terrestrial and aquatic insects, along with bottom ooze diatoms (Goldstein and Simon 1999).  Omnivorous; in Des Moines River, Iowa, its summer diet was bottom ooze (68% of volume), aquatic nymphs and larvae, Ephemeroptera nymphs, Tricoptera larvae, adult terrestrial insects, adult and emerging Ephemeroptera, dipterans, corixids, and a small amount of plant material (Starrett 1950b; Becker 1983). In late summer, more surface-oriented feeding behavior (adult aquatic and terrestrial insects) noted by Gillen and Hart (1980).


Growth: In Kansas, achieves most of its growth during the first year of life. Length of 10.5 mm reported for the size of the sand shiner at time of scale formation. Young-of-year 20-24 mm (0.79-0.95) TL appeared in Kansas collections in May and June, probably representing the progeny of very early spawners; larger numbers of young-of-year, 25-34 mm, first appeared in the September and December collections (Summerfelt and Minckley 1969). Becker (1983) notes a sample from a breeding population collected from Cedar Creek (Ozaukee County) on 1 August 1963, consisted of 5 males and five females in age-group III, from 66-72 mm TL, having the following calculated lengths at the annuli: 1 – 38.7 mm (1.52 in); 2 – 56.0 mm (2.20 in); and 3 – 68.7 mm (2.71 in).  The third annulus was in the process of being placed.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Closely resembles Arkansas River shiner (N. girardi) and can be distinguished from that species by the ovate pectoral fin (falcate in N. girardi); each lateral line pore accented with paired melanophores that may create the appearance of a thin midlateral stripe (present as a few sparse melanophores anteriorly or more commonly absent in N. girardi); and usually 7 anal fin rays present (usually 8 in N. girardi) (Sublette et al. 1990). Similar to the mimic shiner (Notropis volucellus), ghost shiner (N. buchanani), and river shiner (N. blennius); differing from the first two species by having 7 anal rays versus 8, lack of elevated lateral line scales, a discrete mid-dorsal dark stripe that ends in a wedge-shaped blotch in front of the dorsal fin and a pointed rather than rounded snout; differing from N. blennius in that this species has a 2,4-4,2 pharyngeal teeth count, while N. stramineus has 1,4-4,1 (Robison and Buchanan 1988). Two distinct subspecies recognized by Bailey and Allum (1962). A western form , N. s. missuriensis, and an eastern form, N. s. stramineus. Variation in N. stramineus was studied by Tanyolac (1973) and validity of these subspecies was confirmed.


Host Records

Trematoda (8), Crustacea (1) (Hoffman 1967). Species is a host for the mussel, Lampsilis radiate luteola (O’Dee and Watters 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Good bioassay animals as they are easy to transport, withstand low oxygen conditions, and will take dry food readily (Gould and Irwin 1962). In Kansas, the life history of the sand shiner has been studied in an effort to aid in monitoring the effects of pesticides on the ichthyofauna of the Smokey River Basin (Summerfelt and Minckley 1969).



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