Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University - San Marcos



Opsopoeodus emiliae

pugnose minnow



Type Locality

Horsehunter Creek, near confluence Noxubee County, Macon, Noxubee Co., Mississippi (Hay 1881).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Opsopoeodus, Greek, “teeth for dainty feeding;” emiliae, named for Emily Hay (Pflieger 1997), wife of Dr. Oliver P. Hay. Hay (1881) stated that the name Opsopoeodus “is given in allusion to the throughness with which the food is prepared by the numerous serrated pharyngeal teeth.”



Species transferred from the monotypic genus Opsopoeodus to Notropis by Gilbert and Bailey (1972).  This transfer was disputed by Campos and Hubbs (1973) on the basis of chromosomal count, the authors considered the karyotype of the species distinctive enough to warrant continued recognition of Opsopoeodus as a genus.

Opsopoeodus emilae Hay 1881:507, 1883:72; Cook 1959:101; Medford and Simco 1971:122

Notropis emiliae Pierson and Schultz 1984:3; Hubbard 1987:23; Knight and Cooper 1987:33; Mettee et al. 1987:99, 1989:60.



Maximum size: 55 mm (2.17 in) SL (Edwards 1997).


Life colors: Crosshatch pattern on back and upper half to all of side; two dark areas (front and rear – clear area between) on dorsal fin, most prominent on large male; dusky olive-yellow above; dark stripe along silver side of head and body, sometimes ending in small black spot on caudal fin base; breeding male has bright white lower half of anal and pelvic fins (Page and Burr 1991). Males develop small white knobs on the first three dorsal rays (Page and Johnston 1990).


Pharyngeal teeth count: 0,5-5,0 or 0,5-4,0 (Hubbs et al. 2008).


Counts: 16-18 (15-21) predorsal diagonal scale rows; circumferential body scale rows are 26 (23-27), with 13 above and 11 below the lateral line; 38-39 (36-42) lateral line scales; 7-9 gill rakers (total); 9 dorsal fin soft rays, 8 anal fin soft rays, 14-15 (12-16) pectoral soft fin rays, and 8 pelvic soft fin rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape: Slender, laterally compressed with short head; blunt snout (Ross 2001).


Mouth position: Oblique (Ross 2001), almost vertical (Hubbs et al 1991).


Morphology: Lateral line straight and usually completely pored, sometimes incomplete on the caudal peduncle (Ross 2001). Mouth very small. 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); small crowded scales on front half of nape (Page and Burr 1991). Males develop small white knobs on the first three dorsal rays, which likely function as egg mimics that help to stimulate the female to spawn (Page and Johnston 1990).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Found throughout the Mississippi Valley (Hubbs et al 1991).


Texas distribution: Primarily in streams of the Coastal Plain; a record of this species in the Trinity River near the Dallas area (Hubbs et al 1991).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Brazos River (Winemiller et al. 2004); (Hubbs 1957); Navasota River (Brazos Co.; Schmidt et al. 1998).]


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

Populations in the southern United States are currently secure (Warren 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat:  Usually in slow-moving rivers and streams (Hubbs et al 1991); Quiet, weedy backwater areas of lakes, swamps, oxbows (Gilbert and Bailey 1972; Trautman 1981; Page and Burr 1991). Moriarty and Winemiller (1997) collected individuals mainly in backwater habitats in Village Creek, Texas.


Mesohabitat: More common in clear than turbid waters; strongly associated with emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation (Gilbert and Bailey 1972; Trautman 1981); collected in clear water environments in the Colorado River between Austin, Texas and Bastrop, Texas (Edwards 1997).



Spawning season: In Florida, late winter into late summer (McLane 1955). In Illinois, spawning fish collected in May and June (Gilbert and Bailey 1972). In Texas, minnows collected showing length-frequency distributions consistent with late spring-early summer (May-June) spawning (Moriarty and Winemiller 1997). Based on the presence of small specimens, less than 16 mm SL, from March through July (housed in various research museums) Edwards (1997) suggests a spawning season, in Texas, from late February through at least the summer.


Spawning location: Known to be underneath flat rocks, in cavities (Page and Johnston 1990)


Reproductive strategy: Nest spawner; speleophil (Simon 1999). Territorial in spawning sites; eggs are laid singly or in strings on the underside of rock, then fertilized by male; males courts with lateral displays and leading behavior by swimming back and forth from female to nesting site; several females may contribute to one male's egg mass; females leaves site and male remains to aerate and guard the eggs (Page and Johnston 1990)


Fecundity: A female can lay from 30 to 120 eggs every six or seven days; fertilized, water-hardened eggs 1.1-1.5 mm (0.04-0.59 in) in diameter; eggs incubated in laboratory conditions hatch successfully in 142 hours at 21°C, and in 90 hours at 27°C; newly hatched larvae 5-5.5 mm (0.20-0.22 in) long (Page and Johnston 1990).


Age at maturation: Probably reached in first year (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Migration: No information at this time.


Longevity: Maximum life span is likely two to three years (Becker 1983).


Food habits: Detritivore; particulate feeder; scooper (Simon 1999). Midge larvae, filamentous algae, small crustaceans, water mites, larval fishes, and fish eggs (McClane 1955; Becker 1983). Based on mouth shape feeding likely occurs in midwater or near surface; serrations on pharyngeal teeth apparently adaptation to feeding habits, particularly the consumption of microcrustaceans (Gilbert and Bailey 1972).


Growth: Individuals reach approximately 35 mm (1.38 in) SL after their first year of growth (Edwards 1997). Larval development described by Millard (1981): protolarvae are 5.7-7.8 mm (0.22-0.31 in) TL, mesolarvae are 6.6-8.8 mm (0.26-0.35 in) TL; all principal caudal rays are complete in larvae greater than 8.64 mm (0.34 in) TL, and full complement of median rays are present by 9.23 mm (0.36 in) TL; middorsal stripe begins development by 12.0 mm (0.47 in) TL.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Opsopoeodus emiliae resembles the taillight shiner (N. maculatus), the two occurring in similar habitats, but they are distinguished by the characteristic mouth, 9 dorsal rays, and pharyngeal tooth count (usually 0,5-5,0) of O. emiliae; N. maculatus has a prominent caudal spot which is lacking in O. emiliae (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Host Records

Trematoda : Posthodiplostomum minimum (Hoffman 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

In Mississippi, where the species is locally common, it is used as a bait minnow (Cook 1959).



Becker, G. C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1052 pp.

Boschung, H.T., Jr., and R.L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Books, Washington. 736 pp.

Campos, H.H., and C. Hubbs. 1973. Taxonomic implications of the karyotype of Opsopoeodus emiliae. Copeia 1973(1):161-163.

Cook, F. A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson.

Edwards, R. J. 1997. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 89 pp.

Gilbert, C.R. 1980. Notropis emiliae (Hay), Pugnose minnow. p.262 in D.S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, 854 pp.

Gilbert, C. R., and R. M. Bailey. 1972. Systematics and zoogeography of the American cyprinid fish Notropis (Opsopoeodus) emiliae. Occ. Pap. Mus. Zool. Univ. 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 lower Mississippi valley. Proc. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 2:57-75.

Hoffman, G.L. 1967. Parasites of North American Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press, Berkeley. 486 pp.

Hubbard, W. D. 1987. Distribution and diversity of fishes in the Noxubee River drainage, Mississippi. J. Miss. Acad. Sci. 32:19-30.

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

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, G. P. Garrett.  1991.  An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species.  The 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.

Knight, S. S., and C. M. Cooper. 1987. Fishes of Otoucalofa Creek, Mississippi, prior to major channel modifications. J. Miss. Acad. Sci. 32:31-38.

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

Medford, D. W., and B. A. Simco. 1971. The fishes of the Wolf River, Tennessee and Mississippi. J. Tenn. Acad. Sci. 46(4):121-123.

Mettee, M. F., P. R. O'Neil, R. D. Suttkus, and J. M. Pierson. 1987. Fishes of the lower Tombigbee River system in Alabama and Mississippi. Geol. Surv. Ala. Bull. 107:1-186.

Mettee, M. F., P. R. O'Neil, R. D. Suttkus, and J. M. Pierson. 1989. Fishes of the western Mobile River Basin in Alabama and Mississippi. Atlas 24. Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

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Moriarty, L.J., and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County, Texas. Texas J. Sci., Supplement 49(3):85-110.

Page, L. M., and C. E. Johnston. 1990. The breeding behavior of Opsopoeodus emiliae (Cyprinidae) and its phylogenetic implications. Copeia 1990(4):1176-1180.

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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.