Natural History of the Redfin Darter: The Continuing Importance of Collecting Biological Data for Conservation Purposes

Thursday, September 12, 2013: 3:20 PM
Miller (Statehouse Convention Center)
Loren W. Stearman , Department of Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
S. Reid Adams , Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
Ginny Adams , Department of Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
Little is currently known about aspects of life history and ecology of Redfin Darter, Etheostoma whipplei. Nearly the entire range of this species is potentially subject to nontraditional natural gas extraction, practices related to disturbances such as stream water withdrawal and increased siltation. Due to these potential range-wide threats we find it imperative to improve our knowledge base of this species. We conducted a reproductive life history survey of a population in Cypress Creek, Arkansas from June 2010 to May 2011. Data from gonad staging indicated a potential reproductive season from January to May. Multiple metrics of peak reproduction occurred between March and April. Snorkeling surveys found redfin darters to reproduce under cobble in deeper runs, unlike many of its relatives. Peak spawning occurs primarily before and during strong spring rains. Examinations of population structure at multiple sites throughout the Fayetteville Shale region indicate that as the intensity of natural gas extraction activities increases within a stream’s catchment, the proportion of young redfin darters in that stream decreases. Increased siltation from run-off from natural gas related construction activities at this time has the potential to result in embedded spawning substrate, impaired spawning success and/or low survival and recruitment of juveniles.