Leopard Darter

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View the USFWS Oklahoma Field Office fact sheet on Leopard darters here.

Read the Leopard Darter Recovery Plan.

For more information on Critical Habitat, click here

Leopard Darter (Percina pantherina)
Status: Threatened with Designated Critical Habitat
Listed: January 27, 1978

For questions regarding the Leopard Darter in Arkansas, please contact Tommy Inebnit at thomas_inebnit@fws.gov or 501-513-4483.

Species Facts:
Leopard darters can grow up to approximately 3 inches, and typically live less than two years, although they can live up to 3-4 years. Darters feed mainly on microcrustaceans as juveniles and on immature aquatic insects such as mayfly nymphs, blackfly larvae, and midge larvae as adults. They have keen vision and are likely to feed during the day.

Most leopard darters will only spawn once in their lifespans. These fish spawn on riffles between mid-March and mid-April. Fertilized eggs are buried in gravel; after hatching, larvae drift downstream into pools.

Habitat Summary:
The leopard darter is found in the Little River drainage in southwestern Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. Between May and February (non-spawning period), it inhabits pools that have water depths of 10-40 inches, a substrate composed primarily of rubble and boulders, and no detectable current velocity. They will move to deeper, cooler water if their habitat exceeds 29 °C (78.8 °F).

Why is it Threatened?
Impounded streams in the Little River basin have eliminated crucial spawning and rearing habitat and significantly reduced the distribution of this fish. Reservoir construction and improper construction of low water crossings fragment darter habitat and create formidable barriers to dispersal. Intensive commercial harvest (clear-cutting) of forest products, road construction, and removal of streamside vegetation increase turbidity, sediment, and storm flow into the streams. Environmental contaminants (e.g. pesticides, fertilizers, acid rain, and untreated wastes) pose a significant threat, particularly as water levels decrease during summer months, concentrating these pollutants. Nutrient-laden runoff from improper disposal techniques of poultry and swine farming are also considered a potential threat to the darter.

Recovery of the leopard darter primarily involves managing and protecting its habitat and individual populations from known threats. A revised draft recovery plan for the species is available, which outlines specific tasks necessary to recover the species. The recovery plan is available here.

Critical Habitat:
Critical habitat is designated when there are geographic areas containing features we believe are essential to the conservation of a species. Designation of Critical Habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not affect activities on the land unless they are funded by federal dollars. Learn more about critical habitat here.

Range in Arkansas

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: December 30, 2015

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