Percina sipsi, Williams & Neely, 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 : 12-15

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Percina sipsi, Williams & Neely

new species

Percina sipsi, Williams & Neely , new species

Bankhead Darter

(Fig. 2b)

Holotype. UF 165737 , 46 mm SL, Sipsey Fork at Alabama Hwy 33, 3 km NE of Rock Springs , Winston County, Alabama (34°13’05”N; 87°22’09”W), 20 January 2003. GoogleMaps

Paratypes. Black Warrior River drainage -Sipsey Fork system

Alabama: Lawrence County: TU 163064 (1; 43 mm) Borden Creek, tributary to Sipsey Fork , 29 April 1992 . TU 168262 (1; 50 mm) Borden Creek at Forest Road, Sipsey Wilderness, Section 12 , 12 September 1993 . UAIC 6427.03 (1; 39 mm) Borden Creek at Forest Service Route 224, Bankhead National Forest (34°18'34"N; 87°23'42"W), 19 April 1981 GoogleMaps . Winston County: AUM 18786 (6; 35-45 mm) West Fork Sipsey Fork at Forest Service Road 234, 8.8 km NNE of Double Springs (34°13'32"N; 87°22'37"W), 3 June 1979 GoogleMaps . UF 103304 (9; 37-49 mm) same locality, 17 April 1995 GoogleMaps . TU 83137 (7; 16-46 mm) same locality, 3 July 1971 GoogleMaps . UAIC 4329.21 (5; 39-46 mm) West Fork Sipsey Fork, 21.6 km ENE of Haleyville (34°17'03'N; 87°23'56"W), 2 November 1978 GoogleMaps . INHS 48682 (7; 29-47 mm) Sipsey Fork at Alabama Hwy 33, 3 km NE of Rock Springs (34°13’05”N; 87°22’09”W), 13 August 1998 GoogleMaps . UAIC 10390.08 (6; 31-40 mm) same locality, 20 August 1986 GoogleMaps . UF 165738 (5; 38-48 mm) same locality, 20 January 2003 GoogleMaps . UMMZ 194316 (9; 36-40 mm) Sipsey River at Low Pressure Bridge, about 6.4 km E of Alabama Hwy 195, about 8.8 km NNE of Double Springs (T9S, R8W, S23) , 15 October 1971 . USNM 211256 (35; 32-44 mm) Sipsey River, about 4 km W of Grayson and about 16 km NNE of Double Springs, (T9S, R8W, S10) , 29 October 1971 .

Additional material (nontypes).

Black Warrior River drainage -Sipsey Fork system

Alabama: Lawrence County: AUM 27232 (1) Borden Creek at gravel road, Sipsey Wilderness, 22.2 air km SW of Moulton , 30 August 1991 . Winston County: AUM 27043 (4) Sipsey Fork at Alabama Hwy 33 (34°13’05”N; 87°22’09”W), 27 November 1990 GoogleMaps . TU 83136 (1) Sipsey Fork, 8.5 km E of Ashridge, 1 km above Lake Lewis Smith (T9S, R8W, S33) , 3 July 1971 . UAIC 1695.21 (8) West Fork Sipsey Fork, 22.5 km ENE of Haleyville (34°16'24"N; 87°22'28"W), 12 July 1978 GoogleMaps . UAIC 4323.18 (1) West Fork Sipsey Fork, 20.6 km ENE of Haleyville (34°17'56"N; 87°24'55"W), 2 November 1978 GoogleMaps . UAIC 10274.02 (3; 39-48 mm) West Fork Sipsey Fork at Forest Service Road 234, 8.8 km NNE of Double Springs (34°13'32"N; 87°22'37"W), 2 March 1992 GoogleMaps .

Material used in molecular analysis.

Black Warrior River drainage

Alabama: Winston County: STL 1406.01 (4) Sipsey Fork at Alabama Hwy 33, 3 km NE of Rock Creek (34°13'05"N; 87°22'09"W), 20 January 2003, EF613207, EF613208, EF613209, EF613210 GoogleMaps

Diagnosis. Percina sipsi 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 fused into continuous dark brown to black lateral stripe with undulating margins; lateral stripe continuous with large, somewhat quadrate basicaudal blotch that extends onto base of caudal fin rays; small, dark blotch on upper and lower portion of caudal fin base, dorsal blotch typically darker; body below lateral stripe white to cream colored, without dark blotches, becoming dusky in breeding males; 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 scales 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 project beyond anterior margin of upper jaw; broad premaxillary frenum present; serrae on margin of preopercle absent; branchiostegal membranes very narrowly joined to overlapping.

Percina sipsi is distinguished from the other two species described herein by a combination of the following characters: dorsal saddles usually present but may be poorly developed, typically consisting of quadrate blotches on the posterior portion of nape, under posterior end of spinous dorsal fin, and the soft dorsal fin; dorsum with dusky brown reticulations above lateral stripe; cheeks and opercles scaled; nape typically naked, occasionally partially scaled; breast naked, occasionally with a few embedded cycloid scales.

Description. Percina sipsi is one of the two smallest species in the genus Percina , rarely exceeding 50 mm SL ( P. brevicauda   ZBK , maximum SL is 50 mm, see Suttkus et al. 1994). Shape of the head and body are illustrated in Figure 2b. Frequency distribution of scale, fin ray and vertebral counts given in Tables 1-8. Degree of nape squamation presented in Table 9 and posterior extent of development of pored lateral line scales given in Table 10. Proportional measurements presented in Table 11. Body terete, moderately elongate, snout moderately long, about equal to orbit in length, with a well-developed frenum. Preopercular margin entire and branchiostegal membranes separate or very narrowly joined. Total lateral line scales 56-72, usually 60-69; transverse scale rows 14-19, usually 16 or 17; caudal peduncle scales 18-22, usually 19-21; dorsal spines 12- 15, usually 13 or 14; dorsal soft rays 9-11, usually 9 or 10; anal soft rays 6-8, usually 8; pectoral rays 13-14, usually 13; vertebrae 40-42, usually 41.

Lateral line complete but occasionally an individual will have 1-3, usually one or two, unpored scales before the posterior edge of the hypural plate or a pored scale on the base of the caudal fin (Table 10). Embedded scales present on the upper three quarters of the cheek and opercle. Nape usually naked, occasionally with some embedded scales (Table 9). Breast and prepectoral area naked, rarely individuals with a few embedded scales. Belly typically scaled with the exception of the area immediately posterior of pelvic fin base. A row of enlarged, modified ctenoid scales present on midline of belly but ends a few scale rows posterior to pelvic fin base. Typically one or two modified scales present between the bases of pelvic fins. The large modified breast scale at the anterior margin of the pelvic girdle of some Percina is absent in P. sipsi . In females the scales along the midline of the belly and laterally one to two rows are often embedded. Midventral row of modified scales on the belly of females is greatly reduced in development and number compared to males and is absent in some individuals. There are usually one or two modified scales present between the bases of the pelvic fins. Breeding tubercles and the thickened ridges along margin of anal fin rays of some males are absent in females.

The general pattern of pigmentation in life is similar in males and females but females usually lack the dusky ground color present in males, most pronounced in breeding males. Sides of the body with 7-10 round to slightly oval, dark brown blotches which are typically connected by a lighter brown lateral stripe two or three scale rows wide. Some individuals appear to have smaller blotches between larger blotches but are obscured by the underlying lateral stripe. Lateral blotches are usually lighter in color and less connected in small individuals and females. Anteriorly the lateral stripe merges with the postorbital and preorbital bars. The lateral stripe terminates on the base of the caudal fin in a quadrate basicaudal blotch. There are also dark blotches on the caudal fin base above and below the basicaudal blotch. These blotches vary in size and intensity but the upper blotch is usually more distinct than the lower. Above the lateral stripe the dorsum is variously marked with tan to light brown reticulations and blotches, varying in size and intensity. Most reticulations are formed by darkly pigmented scales and are 1-3 scale rows wide. Some individuals have reticulations that are aligned in a pattern two or three scale rows above the lateral stripe while others have no discernible pattern. Along the midline of the dorsum there are up to nine tan to light brown poorly developed saddles and when present typically consist of quadrate blotches. These blotches are often irregular in shape and vary in their placement and development. Their alignment usually consists of one blotch on the nape just anterior to the dorsal fin origin and if a second is present it is located anteriorly on the nape, three blotches under the spinous dorsal, one near the junction of the spinous and soft dorsal fin, two under the soft dorsal fin, and two on the caudal peduncle. Below the lateral stripe the body is usually devoid of blotches, spots, or reticulations but may be dusky on breeding males. On the head, the cheeks and opercles below the postorbital stripe lack dark pigment but may be dusky on breeding males. A well-developed suborbital bar is absent but a cluster of large melanophores may be present on the midventral margin of the orbit. The breast is without any dark pigment but there is typically a cluster of melanophores present on the anterior prepectoral region.

The spinous dorsal fin of males has a thin, dusky margin, a clear submarginal band, and a dark basal band which is usually darker posteriorly. The soft dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are usually clear but may be dusky in breeding males, with a slight intensification of pigment towards the margin. The pelvic and pectoral fins are usually clear but are dusky in breeding males.

Distribution. Percina sipsi is known only from the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River in the Bankhead National Forest in northwestern Alabama (Fig. 3). It occurs in Borden Creek in Lawrence County, and Brushy Creek, Caney Creek, and Sipsey Fork (recorded as West Fork Sipsey River on some maps) in Winston County. While the current known range of P. sipsi is very limited and confined downstream by Lewis Smith Reservoir, historically it is possible that the species ranged farther downstream in the Sipsey Fork and conceivably in the Locust and Mulberry forks of the Black Warrior River, which are all located in the Cumberland Plateau physiographic province (Fig. 3). Riverine habitat in the lower reaches of the Sipsey Fork was destroyed in 1960 by the Alabama Power Company impoundment behind Lewis Smith Dam. The current distribution of P. sipsi represents the most restricted range of any known species of Percina .

Ecology. Percina sipsi inhabits creeks and small rivers ranging in size from 5-40 m in width and 0.25 to 2 m in depth. The species occurs in clear water over sand and fine gravel, usually in association with leaf packs and/or woody debris, but occasionally over the broad expanses of open bedrock which are abundant in parts of the mainstem Sipsey Fork.

Conservation status. Ramsey (1976) published the first conservation status review of Percina sipsi and reported it to be a threatened species. Although the assigned conservation status category has varied in subsequent evaluations (Deacon et al. 1979; Ramsey 1984; Williams et al. 1989; Warren et al. 2000), all authors considered the Bankhead Darter’s continued existence to be in a precarious situation. In the most recent assessment of conservation status of Alabama wildlife, Kuhajda (2004) reported it as a species of highest conservation concern. The entire range of this species is in the Bankhead National Forest, providing some level of protection. We consider P. sipsi to be highly endangered based on its restricted distribution, rarity within the occupied range, habitat vulnerability, and absence of downstream habitat for future recovery. Percina sipsi is extremely vulnerable and needs continuous monitoring and proactive management actions to prevent extinction.

Etymology. The specific name, sipsi, is the Chickasaw-Choctaw Indian name for poplar or cottonwood tree, and is the origin of “Sipsey” in the stream name, Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River (Foscue 1989), to which this species is endemic. The common name, Bankhead Darter, is in reference to the William B. Bankhead National Forest which encompasses the range of the species.

Comparison with congeners. In the Sipsey Fork, a tributary to the Black Warrior River, Percina sipsi occurs with five species of Percina : P. kathae   ZBK , P. maculata , P. nigrofasciata , P. sciera and P. shumardi . Prior to construction of the impoundments on the Black Warrior River it may have occurred sympatrically with a sixth species, P. brevicauda   ZBK . Percina sipsi is distinguished from P. kathae   ZBK which has the snout projecting beyond the anterior margin of the upper jaw, numerous narrow vertical bars on the dorsum and a well-developed basicaudal spot. It differs from P. maculata which has a well-developed subocular bar and basicaudal spot and a dark blotch on the base of the anterior 3-4 membranes of the spinous dorsal fin. Males of P. maculata typically have a well-developed modified breast scale. Percina sipsi can be distinguished from P. nigrofasciata which has vertically elongate lateral blotches and moderately joined gill membranes. Percina sipsi differs from P. shumardi in having a well-developed frenum and a row of modified scales along the midline of the belly of males. Breeding males of P. sipsi also lack the elongation of the anal fin and breeding tubercles on the anal, caudal, and pelvic fins that are characteristic of P. shumardi . Percina sciera is superficially very similar to P. sipsi and the two are difficult to distinguish in the field. The most reliable characters to distinguish the two species are the more moderately joined gill membranes and typically serrate preopercle margin in P. sciera compared to the narrowly joined gill membranes and smooth preopercle margin of P. sipsi . Nape squamation is also a helpful character to distinguish the two species, with P. sciera having exposed and/or embedded scales over the entire nape while P. sipsi is typically naked or only has a few embedded scales. Percina sipsi is a small species, 50 mm maximum known SL, while P. sciera often exceeds 50 mm SL. The standard length of 58 mm for P. sipsi (UAIC 10274.02) reported in Boschung and Mayden (2004) should read 48 mm. If P. sipsi and P. brevicauda   ZBK were found to occur sympatrically they could be distinguished by the presence of a frenum in P. sipsi and a black basicaudal spot in P. brevicauda   ZBK .