What is it?
The Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) is a small minnow, less than three inches in total length. It is an overall silvery color, with a well defined dark stripe along its side, and a dark wedge-shaped spot at the base of the tail fin. Males develop additional reddish coloration in all other fins during the breeding season.
What is its habitat?
The Topeka shiner occurs primarily in small prairie (or former prairie) streams in pools containing clear, clean water. Most Topeka shiner streams are perennial (flow year-round), but some are small enough to stop flowing during dry summer months. In these circumstances, water levels must be maintained by groundwater seepage for the fish to survive. Topeka shiner streams generally have clean gravel, rock, or sand bottoms.
Where does it occur?
The historical distribution of the Topeka shiner included portions of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota (see attached map). The species is now primarily restricted to a few scattered tributaries to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and the Flint Hills region of Kansas. Many populations have become very reduced in numbers, and are now geographically isolated from the next nearest population, eliminating the possibility for genetic transfer between populations.
Why is it declining?
The Topeka shiner is susceptible to water quality changes within its habitat, and has disappeared from several sites because of increased sedimentation resulting from accelerated soil runoff. Any activity which removes the natural protective vegetation covering within a stream's watershed may contribute to this factor, including agricultural cropping, urban development, and highway construction. Additionally, construction of stock watering ponds and watershed impoundments on streams containing Topeka shiners has been shown to eliminate this species from those stream reaches. This is a widespread practice in some areas of Topeka shiner occurrence.
Why is the Topeka shiner important?
The Topeka shiner is adapted to prairie streams with high water quality, often in association with spring and seep flows. Due to its characteristic dependence on high quality aquatic habitats, this species serves as an indicator of the general health of the aquatic ecosystems within which it occurs, which of course carries implications for the quality of water available for human consumption and use. Additionally, Topeka shiner streams are often associated with high quality recreational experiences, including fishing and swimming; are some of the most aesthetically appealing streams remaining in the Midwest; and they provide habitat for many other aquatic species.
How would a listing affect private citizens?
If the Topeka shiner becomes listed under the Endangered Species Act (Act), the listing would result in little, if any, impact to private citizens. Any action which is funded, authorized, or otherwise permitted by any Federal agency would be subject to review and consultation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under section 7 of the Act, if that action may affect the Topeka shiner. Private actions by individual citizens on their own property would not be subject to this review and consultation unless they involve the above-mentioned Federal funding, permitting, or authorization. However, private actions that result in documented take (which includes to harass, harm, wound, kill, or collect) of Topeka shiners would remain prohibited.