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Population Characteristics of the Etheostoma pallididorsum Distler and Metcalf (Paleback Darter), a Narrowly Distributed Endemic in the Ouachita Highlands, Arkansas

Brittany L. McCall1,* and Brook L. Fluker2

1Arkansas State University Department of Environmental Sciences, Jonesboro, AR 72401. 2Arkansas State University Department of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, 2713 Pawnee Building A, Jonesboro, AR 72401. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 21, Issue 2 (2022): 140–157

Etheostoma pallididorsum (Paleback Darter) is endemic to the headwater reaches of 2 river systems in the Ouachita Highlands of Arkansas. Records of low abundance and habitat alterations have resulted in the species’ imperiled conservation status and being petitioned for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. The objective of this study was to conduct seasonal surveys across the Paleback Darter’s distribution to better characterize growth, spawning patterns, and mortality using the seasonal von Bertalanffy statistic with an optimized electronic length frequency analysis (ELEFAN), as well as assess sex ratios throughout a calendar year to better inform future conservation management decisions for the species. We established seasonal survey collection sites at 4 localities and sampled with a backpack electrofishing unit and dip nets from January 2016 to October 2017. The study indicated relatively high abundance, based on catch per unit effort (CPUE), across all sampled localities throughout the duration of the study, with representation of the entire population from 3 age classes: 0, 1, and 2. Growth and coarse spawning patterns, based on the seasonal von Bertalanffy statistic, were comparable between the populations, suggesting similar and stable environmental factors throughout the distribution. Lastly, there was evidence of multiple spawn events occurring during winter and late spring or early summer that has not been documented for this species, warranting additional research. Collectively, this study, though narrow in scope and with limited data, suggest that the Paleback Darter populations assessed are not impaired. The endemic status and narrowly fragmented distribution of the Paleback Darter, however, still renders this species vulnerable to extirpation or extinction by stochastic events.

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