Percina apristis

Guadalupe darter



Type Locality

San Marcos River, one half mile southeast of Prairie Lea, Caldwell County, Texas (Hubbs and Hubbs 1954)


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Percina – Latin diminutive of perca, meaning “perch”.



Hadropterus scierus serrula Jordan and Gilbert 1886:23-24 (San Marcos and New Braunfels records); Jordan and Evermann 1896:359 (same records).

Etheostoma scierum serrula Evermann and Kendall 1894:113-114 (San Marcos and New Braunfels records).

Serraria serrula Jordan et al. 1930:284 (in part.).

Hadropterus scierus Baughman 1950:247 (in part.); Hubbs et al. 1953:237; Hubbs and Black (1954).

Hadropterus sciurus (misspelling) Fowler 1945:375 (San Marcos specimens).

Hadropterus scierus apristis Hubbs and Hubbs in: Hubbs (1954).

Percina sciera apristis Hubbs et al. 1991:45; Richards and Knapp (1964); Warren et al. 2000:26.

Percina sciera Labay (1992); Labay et al. (2004).

Percina apristis Robins and Page (2007).


According to Hubbs (1954), the Guadalupe Basin stocks of Percina sciera differ morphologically from other populations and were designated as the Guadalupe dusky darter, P. s. apristis; this publication stated that apristis may be specifically distinct from sciera.


Robins and Page (2007) presented data demonstrating that the Guadalupe population of Percina sciera, currently recognized as the subspecies P. s. apristis, is genetically isolated and diagnosable as Percina apristis (Hubbs and Hubbs), the Guadalupe darter. Formal acceptance of this name change is pending (American Fisheries Society Committee on Names of Fishes).



Maximum size:


Coloration: Described by Hubbs (1954): ground color olive, with 7 distinct rectangular black blocks along the midline (an additional indistinct block above the pectoral base and at the caudal base). These blocks are connected to 8 indistinct gray saddles and are separated by an equal distance of ground color in females but are almost connected in males. 3 dark spots found on caudal base: the upper almost meets opposite number across the procurrent rays; the middle spot located at the end of the lateral line; lower spot found about midway between the middle spot and the ventral surface. Middle and lower spots often connected to the last body block, forming its dark posterior border. An anterior continuation of the block series on the head forms an irregular line through the eye. Proximal half of the spinous dorsal is black in males and gray in females; distal part is yellow to orange in males and clear to yellow in females, depending on the season. Other median fins with gray marks on the rays that in combination form irregular bars. Paired fins vary from gray (during breeding season) to clear (during other seasons).


Counts: 0-6 preopercular serrae; usually 68 or more pored lateral-line scales, 24 or more modified midbelly scales on the male; 23 or more transverse scales; 26 or more caudal-peduncle scales; 10 anal rays; 13-14 pectoral rays (Robins and Page 2007). Hubbs (1954) provided the following counts: preopercular serrae 0-1 (rarely 2-6); dorsal fin rays X to XIV (usually XI to XIII), 11-13 (rarely with one spine in front of soft dorsal rays; anal fin rays II (rarely I), 7-10 (usually 8-9); caudal fin rays 15-17; pectoral fin rays 13-15 (rarely 12); pelvic fin rays I, 5; lateral line scales 63-78 (usually 66-72); scale rows from dorsal to lateral line 8-10; branchiostegals 6; gill rakers 1+9. Hubbs and Black (1954) listed lateral line scale counts as 67 (63-72) for individuals in the San Marcos River, Texas, and 68 (65-71) for individuals in the Guadalupe River, Texas.


Body shape: Frenum broad and without a groove. Upper jaw extends to point below the most anterior part of the eye. Moderate eye, which is approximately equal to the snout and upper jaw lengths, barely reaches dorsal profile. Distance from insertion of pelvic fin to union of the gill-membranes contained 0.7-1.1 times in the distance from the union of the gill-membranes to the tip of the mandible (larger figures for smaller specimens). Eye length contained 1.8-2.2 times in distance from union of gill-membranes to tip of mandible (larger figures for larger specimens). Profile rising gently from rounded snout to first dorsal spine, except for slight hump at nape. Profile remains more or less straight along spinous dorsal and starts to decline to the level caudal peduncle either at the beginning or middle of the soft dorsal (Hubbs 1954).


Mouth position: Inferior and oblique (Hubbs 1954).


External morphology: All dorsal spines approximately same length, except for the shorter last one or two. Dorsal soft-rays longer than spines and all, except the shorter ones at each end, are approximately the same length. Two dorsal fins distinctly to barely separated. Caudal fin bluntly emarginated. First anal spine much thicker than second; second anal spine similar to dorsal spines. All anal soft-rays approximately twice as long as the spines. Bluntly pointed pelvic fins extend two-thirds of the distance to the anus; rounded pectoral fins three-fifths of the distance to anus. Body scaled except for the anterior part of the belly and most of the pectoral base (embedded scales present on ventral part of the pectoral base). In males, the row of enlarged, strongly ctenoid scales along midline of the belly, separated from normal scales by series of intermediate scales, is most pronounced during breeding season; these scales less modified in females and immature males. Dorsal, anal, pelvic and pectoral fins and distal two-thirds of the caudal fin naked. Scales present on parts of head: imbricate scales cover opercle; on side of head above opercle, scattered embedded scales present; imbricate scales on cheek above a line between lower edge of the pupil and the upper pectoral ray; embedded scales on lower cheek (Hubbs 1954).


Internal morphology: Jaws with an outer row of enlarged teeth and an inner band of smaller teeth (Hubbs 1954).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution:


Texas distribution: Endemic to the Guadalupe River Basin (Hubbs 1954). Warren et al. (2000) listed Percina apristis as inhabiting the San Antonio Bay unit (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River). Edwards (1997) stated that P. apristis is restricted to the Guadalupe River and its tributaries, the San Marcos and Blanco Rivers; apparently absent from the headwaters of the Blanco and the entirety of the San Antonio River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in southern drainages are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Occurs in gravelly runs in the San Marcos, Comal and Guadalupe Rivers of the San Antonio Bay drainage (Hubbs 1954; Robins and Page 2007). Species apparently does not inhabit streams which are not permanent (Hubbs 1954).


Mesohabitat: Found in riffles; most common under or around 25-30 cm boulders in the main current; seems to prefer moderately turbid water (Hubbs et al. 1953; Hubbs 1954). In the San Marcos River, spring-influenced water moderates cold winter water temperatures and individuals can be found in rather swift flowing riffles throughout the year (Edwards 1997). Species absent in collections from the clearest waters tributary to the Guadalupe, namely spring heads and the main river west of Kerrville, Texas (Hubbs et al. 1953; Hubbs 1954). In the upper Guadalupe River, Texas, species was frequently collected with young flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris; Hubbs et al. 1953).



Spawning season: In the San Marcos River, Texas, there is a protracted spawning season, from mid-January to mid-June (Brown 1955; Hubbs 1985).


Spawning location: In laboratory, gravel (fine) spawning trays were used successfully (Labay et al. 2004b).


Spawning Behavior: According to Robins and Page (2007), Percina apristis from the San Marcos River, observed in the wild and kept in captivity, courted and spawned in the same manner as observed for Percina sciera from the Wabash River drainage of Illinois.


Fecundity: Size of adhesive, mature eggs from San Marcos River, Texas specimens was 1.78 mm (Hubbs and Johnson 1961). A 73 mm TL female from the San Marcos River, Texas contained 443 heavy, adhesive eggs, which were firm, large and uniform in size (approximately 1.5 mm diameter); a second specimen measuring 76 mm TL contained 656 eggs ranging in size from approximately 0.5-1.5 mm diameter; two other females were found to contain eggs in a developmental stage similar to the latter specimen (Brown 1955).


Age at maturation: Age-1 (Labay et al. 2004b).




Growth and Population structure:




Food habits: Laboratory-reared larval fish consumed zooplankton (Labay et al. 2004a, 2004b).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

P. apristis is a species of Percina (Hadropterus). The dusky darter (P. sciera) is the closest relative of this species, differing from P. apristis in having usually 7 or more preopercular serrae (versus 0-6); 14-15 (versus 13-14) pectoral rays; fewer modified midbelly (versus 24 or more); fewer transverse scales (versus 23 or more); fewer caudal-peduncle scales (versus 26 or more); fewer anal rays (versus 10); and breeding male with dusky to black coloration and midlateral blotches nearly obliterated (Robins and Page 2007). Hubbs (1954) compared P. apristis to P. sciera stating that the number of preopercular serrae (left side only counted) was the most significant and consistent difference between the two species; on average, the median fin rays of P. apristis are shorter than those of P. sciera, but the rays of the paired fins are usually longer; the dark rectangular blocks on the side of P. apristis are longer and narrower than those of P. sciera; and the narrow bars connecting the dark blocks in typical P. sciera are reduced or absent in P. apristis. The blackside darter (P. maculata) has a longer upper jaw [9% of the standard length as compared to 8% or less in P. apristis (= P. sciera apristis)], usually no scales on the nape, and a distinct roundish median black spot at the base of the caudal (Hubbs 1954). The river darter (P. shumardi) has fewer lateral line scales (about 50) than P. apristis (= P. sciera spristis; 63 or more (Hubbs 1954).


Natural hybridization has been documented with the orangethroat darter (Etheostoma spectabile; Hubbs and Laritz 1961). Hubbs (1967) performed laboratory hybridization crosses between P. apristis and P. sciera (Colorado River stock) and noted that low overall heterosis may indicate an associated isolation mechanism between the two species.


Host Records



Commercial or Environmental Importance




Baughman, J.L. 1950. Random notes on Texas fishes. Part II. Texas Journal of Science 2:242-263.

Brown, W.H. 1955. Egg production of the fish Hadropterus scierus apristis in San Marcos River, Texas. Copeia 1955(2):149-150.

Edwards, R. J. 1997. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes I. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. March 31, 1997. TWBD 95-483-107. 89 pp.

Evermann, B.W., and W.C. Kendall. 1894. The fishes of Texas and the Rio Grande Basin, considered chiefly with reference to their geographic distribution. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 12:57-126.

Fowler, H.W. 1945. A study of the fishes of the southern Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Monogr. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. 7:1-408.

Hubbs, C. 1954. A new Texas subspecies, apristis, of the darter Hadropterus scierus, with a discussion of variation within the species. American Midland Naturalist, 52:211-220.


Hubbs, C. 1967. Geographic variations in survival of hybrids between Etheostomatine fishes. Bulletin of the Texas Memorial Museum 13:1-72.


Hubbs, C.L., and Hubbs, C. 1954. Hadropterus scierus apristis. In Hubbs, C., A new Texas subspecies, apristis, of the darter Hadropterus scierus, with a discussion of variation within the species. The American Midland Naturalist 52:211-220.

Hubbs, C., and M. Laritz. 1961. Occurrence of a natural intergeneric etheostomine fish hybrid. Copeia 1961(2):231-232.

Hubbs, C., and M.V. Johnson. 1961. Differences in the egg complement of Hadropterus scierus from Austin and San Marcos. The Southwestern Naturalist 6(1):9-12.

Hubbs, C., R.A. Kuehne, and J.C. Ball. 1953. The fishes of the upper Guadalupe River, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 5(2):216-244.

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. The Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hubbs, C. L. 1985. Darter reproductive seasons. Copeia 1985(1):56-68.

Hubbs, C.L., and J.D. Black. 1954. Status and synonymy of the American percid fish Hadropterus scierus. American Midland Naturalist 52(1):201-210.

Jordan, D.S., and B.W. Evermann. 1896. A checklist of the fishes and fish-like vertebrates of North and Middle America. Rept. U.S. Comm. Fish 21:207-584.

Jordan, D.S., and C.H. Gilbert. 1886. List of fishes collected in Arkansas, Indian Territory, and Texas, in September 1884, with notes and descriptions. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 9:1-25.

Jordan, D.S., B.W. Evermann, and H.W. Clark. 1930. Check list of the fishes and fishlike vertebrates of North and Middle America north of the northern boundary of Venezuela and Colombia. Rept. U.S. Comm. Fish. 1928(2):670.


Labay, A. A. 1992. Laboratory spawning and rearing of the dusky darter (Percina sciera) and the longnose darter (P. nasuta). Master’s thesis. Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos.


Labay, A. A., K. Collins, R. W. Standage, and T. M. Brandt. 2004a. Gut content of first-feeding wild darters and captive-reared dusky darters. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:153–157.


Labay, A.A., R.W. Standage, and T.M. Brandt. 2004b. Selected methods for dusky darter captive propagation. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:146-152.

Richards, W.J., and L. W. Knapp. 1964. Percina lenticula, a new percid fish, with a rediscription of the subgenus Hadropterus. Copeia 1964(4):690-701.

Robins, R. H. and L. M. Page. 2007. Taxonomic status of the Guadalupe darter, Percina apristis (Teleostei: Percidae). Zootaxa 1618:51-60.

Warren, M.L. 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.