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Okaloosa Darter in stream
  Darters in container
Credit: FWS
Credit: Paul Lang



Okaloosa Darter



The Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) is a small, elongate, slightly compressed darter, with adults ranging in size from 27-49 millimeters standard length. Its preferred habitat is in the margins of clear flowing streams among the vegetation and woody debris. The darter’s diet consists mostly of immature aquatic insect larvae, primarily midges, mayflies and caddisflies. It is only found in six stream systems located in the lower portions of Okaloosa and Walton counties in northwest Florida. Its entire range totals only 242.8 stream miles.

The Okaloosa darter was added to the endangered species list in 1973 due to its small range and the suspected severe impacts to the population as a result of historical land use practices which caused a decline to as little as 1,500 individuals. Threats to the population such as artificial impoundments and habitat degradation caused by erosion and siltation are among the most important reasons for its endangered status. More than 98.7% of the habitat occupied by the darter is located on Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin) in northwest Florida. Eglin Air Force Base environmental managers along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been at work to reduce land use impacts and rehab the impaired streams for more than 15 years. The remaining darter habitat is in the surrounding developed areas of Niceville and Valparaiso where management, habitat preservation and habitat improvement has historically been more difficult.

Through the habitat improvement efforts and population monitoring of the darter by Eglin’s natural resource managers along with the Service and its partners at Loyola University and the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, FL, the population of darters on Eglin has improved dramatically in the recent past. The Service has made great strides in achieving recovery actions detailed in the recovery plan (1981) which led to the recommendation for downlisting the darter from endangered to threatened status in 2010. There are still recovery actions that have to be met in order to remove the species from the endangered species list, however, this is a great achievement for the managers working to protect the Okaloosa darter.

Quick darter facts:

• Listed as ENDANGERED in 1973 (population 1,500)
• Only exists in six creeks in Northwest Florida (see map)
• Lives along margins of clear-flowing streams in vegetation and woody debris
• Two to four year lifespan
• Spawns in vegetation (Mar. - Oct.)
• Size: three inches long
• 98.7 percent of darter habitat is found on Eglin Air Force Base
• Stream restoration projects have significantly improved darter habitat within Eglin’s boundaries
• Downlisted to THREATENED with an estimated population of more than 600,000 in 2010

Additional Information





Last updated: April 17, 2018