Percina smithvanizi, Williams & Walsh , James D. Williams, David A. Neely, Stephen J. Walsh & Noel M. Burkhead, 2007

James D. Williams, David A. Neely, Stephen J. Walsh & Noel M. Burkhead, 2007, Three new percid fishes (Percidae: Percina) from the Mobile Basin drainage of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee., Zootaxa 1549, pp. 1-28: 15-20

publication ID


publication LSID

persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Percina smithvanizi, Williams & Walsh

new species

Percina smithvanizi, Williams & Walsh  , new species

Muscadine Darter

(Fig. 2c)

Holotype. UF 165735, 47 mm SL, Turkey Creek at unnumbered county road, about 2.9 km W of Burwell , Carroll County, Georgia (33°35’45”N; 85°13’36”W), 19 January 2003.GoogleMaps 

Paratypes. Tallapoosa River drainage

Alabama: Chambers County: AUM 23918 (7; 38-51 mm) Tallapoosa River, 2.4 km SSE of Wadley (33°06'07"N; 85°33'25"W), 1 November 1982GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8525.07 (4; 35-51 mm) same locality, 14 May 1986GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8526.09 (6; 43-53 mm) same locality, 14 May 1986GoogleMaps  . Clay County: TU 157782 (3; 44-48 mm) Enitachopco[Enitochope] Creek at Alabama Hwy 9, 4.5 km SSW of Ashland (33°14'24"N; 85°51'34"W), 12 April 1990GoogleMaps  . UMMZ 185373 (5; 45-54 mm) same locality, 21 September 1963GoogleMaps  . Cleburne County: UF 98484 (5; 38-47 mm) Snake Creek at County Route 13, about 5.6 km SW of the center of Heflin (33°35'49"N; 85°37'21"W), 16 July 1992GoogleMaps  . Elmore County: TU 157794 (6; 29-50 mm) Gold Branch, 2.9 km E of Alabama Hwy 63 (32°41'35"N; 86°00'26"W), 12 April 1990GoogleMaps  . Randolph County: AUM 23824 (19; 32-49 mm) Crooked Creek, 7.4 km NW of Malone (33°14'36"N; 85°38'36"W), 27 September 1982GoogleMaps  . NCSM 44986 (6; 45- 55 mm) Tallapoosa River, 6.4 km NNW of Wadley (33°10'27"N; 85°35'04"W), 26 March 1991GoogleMaps  . NCSM 44987 (7; 36-54 mm) same locality, 4 September 1996GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8508.14 (2; 38-53 mm) same locality, 4 September 1996GoogleMaps  . UAIC 10830.20 (5; 40-44 mm) same locality, 26 March 1991GoogleMaps  . USNM 218508 (6; 34-54 mm) Jones Creek at US Hwy 431, approximately 0.6 km N of Roanoke (33°10'32"N; 85°23'21"W), 17 April 1978GoogleMaps  . USNM 322736 (5; 43-53 mm) Cornhouse Creek at Alabama Hwy 431 (33°14'20"N; 85°26'31"W), 23 March 1970GoogleMaps  . UT 91.2143 (16; 30-50 mm) Little Tallapoosa River at US Hwy 431 about 6.4 km N of Wedowee (33°22'03"N; 85°28'36"W), 16 May 1981GoogleMaps  . Tallapoosa County: INHS 57809 (5; 40-51 mm) Josie Leg Creek at Alabama Hwy 22, 6.1 km SW of Perryville (33°00'07"N; 85°49'58"W), 12 March 1989GoogleMaps  . NCSM 44985 (4; 39-43 mm) Hillabee Creek, at Alabama Hwy 22, about 9.7 km NE of Alexander City (32°59'07"N; 85°51'41"W), 22 March 1995GoogleMaps  . UF 91625 (14; 35-53 mm) same locality, 6 April 1992GoogleMaps  . TU 168037 (4; 44-52 mm) Emuckfaw Creek, 4.8 km W of Daviston (33°03'18"N; 85°41'41"W), 10 July 1993GoogleMaps  . TU 168051 (1; 51 mm) same locality, 10 July 1993GoogleMaps  . UAIC 6787.14 (3; 38-54 mm) Emuckfaw Creek 5.3 km SSE of New Site (32°59'43"N; 85°44'58"W), 3 June 1985GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8518.09 (5; 40-51 mm) same locality, 11 March 1985GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8476.20 (16; 37-51 mm) Tallapoosa River, 10.8 km SSW of Daviston (32°57'52"N; 85°41'52"W), 22 October 1986GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8510.10 (3; 35-51 mm) Tallapoosa River, 5.6 km SSE of New Site (32°59'06"N; 85°45'09"W), 11 March 1985GoogleMaps  . UF 165730 (3; 44-49 mm) Wind Creek at second bridge on Alabama Hwy 50 upstream of mouth (32°40’42”N 85°52’34”W), 18 January 2003GoogleMaps  . UF 165733 (5; 35-40 mm) Emuckfaw Creek at Alabama Hwy 49, just upstream of Horseshoe Bend NHP (32°59’40”N 85°44’59”W), 18 January 2003GoogleMaps  . USNM 199818 (14; 35-48 mm) Unnamed tributary of Sougahatchee Creek at Alabama Hwy 49, 19 km N of Tallassee (32°38'04"N; 85°47'48"W), 10 April 1965GoogleMaps  .

Georgia: Carroll County: UF 165736 (6; 43-48 mm) Turkey Creek at unnumbered county road, about 2.9 km W of Burwell (33°35’45”N 85°13’36”W), 19 January 2003GoogleMaps  . Haralson County: GMNH 1548 (3; 45- 57 mm) Tallapoosa River at County Road 130 , 23 May 1981  . UF 15856 (5; 35-53 mm) North Fork of Walkers Creek at Georgia Hwy 120, 6.1 km SW of Buchanan , 23 April 1968  . UF 165731 (8; 43-51 mm) Beech Creek at Georgia Hwy 120, 5.2 km SW of Buchanan (33°45’46”N 85°13’22”W), 19 January 2003GoogleMaps  . Paulding County: UF 165732 (3; 51-58 mm) McClendon Creek at Georgia Hwy 101, 5 km SSE of Beulah (33°51’45”N 84°59’35”W), 19 January 2003GoogleMaps  . USNM 218470 (10; 38-50 mm) same locality, 17 April 1978GoogleMaps  .

Additional material (nontype).

Tallapoosa River drainage

Alabama: Chambers County: AUM 22087 (4) Tallapoosa River, 2.7 km SSE of Wadley (33°06'05"N; 85°33'23"W), 8 December 1981GoogleMaps  . Clay County: AUM 15034 (7) White Oak Creek, 1.9 km S of Cragford (33°14'05"N; 85°40'20"W), 26 July 1977GoogleMaps  . UAIC 2153 (7) Ketchepedrakee Creek, 0.5 km S of Dempsey (33°26'29"N; 85°46'15"W), 6 July 1966GoogleMaps  . UF 15444 (5) Little Hillabee Creek, 17.7 km NE of Goodwater , 12 September 1963  . UF 93917 (1) Creek formed by confluence of Horse Creek and Cave Creek, 2 km SE of Union (33°26'01"N; 85°47'12"W), 16 July 1992GoogleMaps  . Cleburne County: UAIC 6625.08 (3) Cahulga Creek at Alabama Hwy 9 (33°36'19"N; 85°36'09"W), 11 April 1982GoogleMaps  . Lee County: AUM 8677 (2) Sougahatchee Creek, about 3.4 km NW of Loachapoka (32°37'10"N; 85°38'01"W), 17 October 1950GoogleMaps  . Randolph County: AUM 23298 (6) Cornhouse Creek, 4.2 km NE of Malone (33°13'26"N; 85°32'54"W), 8 June 1982GoogleMaps  . UAIC 6793.22 (9) same locality, 21 July 1983GoogleMaps  . AUM 23794 (22) Crooked Creek, 7.4 km NW of Malone (33°14'36"N; 85°38'36"W), 18 August 1982GoogleMaps  . AUM 23962 (29) same locality, 8 November 1982GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8483.10 (12) same locality, 20 February 1985GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8487.15 (20) same locality, 7 November 1985GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8496.12 (5) same locality, 3 April 1986GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8512.12 (20) same locality, 21 January 1986GoogleMaps  . UF 99383 (2) Hurricane Creek at County Route 26, about 9.6 km NNW of Wadley (33°10'31"N; 85°35'54"W), 25 May 1995GoogleMaps  . UF 104096 (1) same locality, 2 March 1996GoogleMaps  . Tallapoosa County: JDW 95-15 (4) Hillabee Creek at Alabama Hwy 22, 10 km NE of Alexander City (32°59'07"N; 85°51'41"W), 22 March 1995GoogleMaps  . UAIC 6418.11 (5) same locality, 16 November 1980GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8494.09 (4) Tallapoosa River, 6 km SSE of New Site (32°59'06"N; 85°45"09"W), 11 March 1985GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8522.12 (6) same locality, 8 May 1986GoogleMaps  . UAIC 8495.21 (3) Emuckfaw Creek, 5.3 km SSE of New Site (32°59'43"N; 85°44'58"W), 20 February 1986GoogleMaps  .

Georgia: Paulding County: UF 165650 (1) Thomasson Creek at Georgia Route 136, 3 km WSW of Yorkville (33°55'01"N; 85°01'44"W), 1 May 1990.GoogleMaps 

Materials used in molecular analysis.

Tallapoosa River drainage

Alabama: Tallapoosa County: STL 731.02 (1) Wind Creek at second bridge on Alabama Hwy 50 upstream of mouth, below old mill dam (32°40'42"N; 85°52'34"W), 18 January 2003, EF613213.GoogleMaps  STL 732.01 (1) Emuckfaw Creek at Alabama Hwy 19 just NW of Horseshoe Bend (32°59'40"N; 85°44'59"W), 18 January 2003, EF613214.GoogleMaps 

Georgia: Carroll County: STL 1383.01 (1) Turkey Creek at unnumbered county road 3 km NW of Burwell (33°35'45"N; 85°13'36"W), 19 January 2003, EF613211.GoogleMaps  Haralson County: STL 1384.01 (1) Beech Creek at Georgia Hwy 120, 5.2 km SW of Buchanan (33°45'46"N; 85°13'22"W), 19 January 2003, EF613215.GoogleMaps  Paulding County: STL 1385.01 (1) McClendon Creek at Georgia Hwy 101, 5 km SSE of Beulah (33°51'45"N; 84°59'35"W), 19 January 2003, EF613212.GoogleMaps 

Diagnosis. Percina smithvanizi  is distinguished from all other described species of Percina  by a combination of the following characteristics: absence of bright colors on body and fins of adults; no orange band in spinous dorsal fin; no broad vertical bands on body extending dorsally across the back joining those of the other side; 7-11 lateral blotches connected to form a continuous dark brown to black lateral stripe with undulating margins; lateral stripe continuous with large, somewhat quadrate basicaudal blotch, which extends onto base of caudal fin rays; a small dark blotch on upper and lower portion of caudal fin base, dorsal blotch typically darker; suborbital bar absent or very poorly developed; lateral line complete, typically no pored scales on base of caudal fin; males with row of modified scales on midline of belly and one or two modified scale between base of pelvic fins; modified breast scale absent; nuptial tubercles absent; anal fin of breeding males not excessively elongate; males without caudal keel as a ventral extension of the caudal peduncle; snout does not extend beyond anterior margin of upper jaw; broad premaxillary frenum present; serrae on margin of preopercle absent; branchiostegal membranes very narrowly joined to overlapping.

Percina smithvanizi  is distinguished from the other two species described herein by a combination of the following characters: dorsal saddles usually present, typically consist of quadrate blotches on the posterior portion of nape, under posterior end of spinous dorsal fin, and anterior portion of soft dorsal fin; dorsum with dusky brown reticulations above lateral stripe; scales present on nape, cheeks, opercles and breast. Body depth variable among all three species, but average body depth relative to SL is deeper in P. smithvanizi  than congeners described herein (see Morphometric comparisons).

Description. A moderately small species of Percina  , the largest specimen examined is a male 63 mm SL. Frequency distribution of scale, fin ray and vertebral counts given in Tables 1-8. Lateral line usually complete, but often has an unpored scale before the posterior edge of the hypural plate. Less frequently, a single pored lateral line scale present on the caudal fin base. Anteriormost portion of belly often naked, but midventral row of belly scales usually present and composed of modified ctenoid scales in both sexes, but usually more enlarged in males. Prepectoral region invested with exposed scales, as are the opercles and upper threefourths of the cheeks. Nape fully covered with scales, usually embedded anteriorly, but often exposed (Table 9). Posterior portion of breast with embedded or exposed scales, but naked anteriorly. Enlarged ctenoid scales present between pelvic fin bases, but usually absent on breast on the anterior margin of the pelvic bones. Total lateral line scales 57-71, usually 60-68; transverse scale rows 12-18, usually 14-16; caudal peduncle scales 17-23, usually 19-21; dorsal spines 11-14, usually 12 or 13; dorsal soft rays 9-11, usually 9 or10; anal soft rays 7-9, usually 8; pectoral rays 11-14, usually 13; vertebrae 40-42, usually 41.

The most prominent feature of pigmentation in adults is the blue-black, undulating lateral stripe, formed by the coalescence of 8-11 elongate-oval lateral blotches, and contrasting sharply with the light areas above and below. The lateral blotches are usually brownish and more separated in juveniles. A large, well-defined quadrate basicaudal spot is present as a continuation or slightly interrupted continuation of the lateral band, and extends onto the base of the central caudal fin rays. Smaller, usually less obvious, blotches are present at the bases of the upper and lower principal caudal rays, although the lowermost blotch is frequently absent or obsolescent. The dorsum above the lateral stripe is tan to yellowish, and is variously marked with alternating brownish saddles and intermediate blotches, which are rarely continuous across both sides of the dorsum.

There is usually a dark brown saddle present on the nape. Males possess dusky marginal and basal bands in the spinous dorsal fin but the pigment in the basal band is darker and more concentrated posteriorly. The caudal fin is vaguely marked with three or four light bars. Other fins in the male are dusky, without pronounced banding. The breast and belly are dusky. A cluster of melanophores is usually present on the anterior base of the pectoral fin. Preorbital and postorbital bars are well-developed, and appear continuous with the lateral stripe. The suborbital bar is usually absent, or is very faintly developed in males as a scattering of melanophores and extending directly downward and slightly forward from the ventral margin of the orbit. The upper lip is pigmented above to about half its length posteriorly. The lower surface of the head is usually white to cream color.

Females are similar in color to males, but lack the dusky ground color on the body and fins and dark bands in the spinous dorsal. The cheek, breast, and belly are white to cream colored, often with a scattering of darkedged scales present around the anal fin. The dorsal fin rays are irregularly marked with faint blotches. The pelvic, pectoral, and anal fins are clear to dusky.

Spawning coloration of males and females collected in early June was yellowish above the lateral stripe, which was blue-black in males but slightly less intense in females, and some yellowish color was present immediately below the lateral stripe. A very pale greenish sheen was present on the lower sides in females. The rays of the dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins were pale yellowish, the pelvic and anal rays colorless. The top of the snout and head were variously mottled or sprinkled with dusky, brown, orange, or yellow color. A brassy patch was present on the anterior portion of the opercles in adults, diminished in size in juveniles, and all specimens possessed some light blue iridescent pigment on the lower jaw and ventral surface of the head.

Nuptial tubercles were absent, but males in spawning condition had ridged, white epidermal thickenings on the anal rays, which may function as reproductive contact structures.

Distribution. Percina smithvanizi  is restricted to streams draining the region above the Fall Line in the Tallapoosa River system (Fig. 3). It is widely distributed above the Fall Line except it is absent in upper reaches of the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia (see Conservation status).

Ecology. Percina smithvanizi  is common in the Tallapoosa drainage in the Tallapoosa River proper (width 75-125 m, depth 0.5-1 m) as well as tributaries (width 4-5 m, depth 0.2-1 m and larger). Individuals occur in clear water flowing over sand, gravel, rubble, and bedrock, in pools below riffles as well as riffles with moderate current, occasionally from margins of large rocks in the areas of fast flowing water. Areas of swift current yielded the larger specimens, while the smaller individuals were found in habitats with more moderate flow. Species most frequently captured with P. smithvanizi  were Cottus sp. Tallapoosa Sculpin  (Neely et al. in press), Etheostoma tallapoosae  ZBK  , Hypentelium etowanum  , and P. palmaris  . Other species commonly captured with P. smithvanizi  included Campostoma oligolepis  ZBK  , Phenacobius catostomus  , Cyprinella gibbsi  , Noturus funebris  ZBK  , and N. leptacanthus  ZBK  . A detailed account of the ecology and biology of P. smithvanizi  was reported by Wieland & Ramsey (1987).

Conservation status. Percina smithvanizi  is a relatively common darter in undisturbed streams above the Fall Line in the Tallapoosa River. However, it has disappeared in disturbed streams and impoundments associated with mainstream dams on the Tallapoosa River. It has also disappeared from most of the headwaters of the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia. The species was regarded as vulnerable by Freeman et al. (2005).

The upper two-thirds of the Tallapoosa River drainage was historically isolated from the lower one-third by a series of falls located at the Fall Line, near the present day town of Tallassee, Alabama. In the early 1900’s three dams were constructed on the Tallapoosa River in the vicinity of the Fall Line further isolating the upper and lower portions of the river system. The falls appear to have represented a barrier to upstream dispersal for many fishes, including Percina nigrofasciata  . In a survey of fishes in the Tallapoosa River system(Williams 1965) P. nigrofasciata  was absent from most of the upper Tallapoosa River with the exception of the upper reaches of the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia. Based on comparison of meristic and pigmentation characters with data from Crawford (1965), it appears that this population of P. nigrofasciata  was introduced from the adjacent Chattahoochee River system where the species is common (Williams 1965). Crawford (1965) reported a collection of P. nigrofasciata  in the upper Tallapoosa River drainage, near the junction of the Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa rivers, but this record is based on specimens of P. smithvanizi  . In the upper reaches of the Little Tallapoosa River system, the absence of P. smithvanizi  in the presence of an introduced population of P. nigrofasciata  suggests possible competitive displacement. If competitive displacement is occurring in the Little Tallapoosa River, the population of P. smithvanizi  above the backwaters of R.L. Harris Reservoir may be at risk. Additional populations of P. nigrofasciata  have been reported from tributaries of Lake Martin (Boschung & Mayden 2004). These populations should be monitored to evaluate their movement and possible impact on P. smithvanizi  and other darters.

Etymology. We take great pleasure in naming this species for our good friend and colleague, Dr. William F. Smith-Vaniz, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to ichthyology in general and specifically for his authorship of the first book on the Freshwater Fishes of Alabama (Smith-Vaniz 1968).

The common name, Muscadine Darter, is based on the dark purplish color of the lateral stripe in live individuals that is similar to the color of ripe Muscadine ( Vitis rotundifolia  ) fruit in early fall. Muscadine vines occur along many of the more pristine streams inhabited by the Muscadine Darter.

Comparison with congeners. In the Tallapoosa River drainage above the Fall Line, Percina smithvanizi  occurs with three other species of Percina  : P. kathae  ZBK  , P. nigrofasciata  and P. palmaris  . The pigmentation pattern of P. smithvanizi  differs from P. kathae  ZBK  which has numerous narrow, vertical bars on the side and a welldeveloped basicaudal spot. Also the cone-shaped snout of P. kathae  ZBK  projects beyond the anterior margin of the upper jaw. Percina smithvanizi  can be distinguished from P. nigrofasciata  which has moderately joined gill membranes, vertically elongate lateral blotches and often has irregular shaped blotches on the belly. The broad saddles that extend across the back and bright colors of the fins and body of P. palmaris  readily distinguish it from P. smithvanizi  .