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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide
Species Group: Fish
State: Special Concern
This small minnow-like fish reaches a length of approximately 2 ½ inches long. It has a dark stripe on the side of its body which runs from the nose, across the eye, and to the tail. The stripe continues around the snout to the other side, covering the lips and chin. Above that stripe, the color is a straw yellow while below the strip, on the belly, the color is white. Breeding males have an orange-gold body and fins.
The body is compressed and slightly arched at the dorsal fin. It has a pointed snout with a small, terminal mouth.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Ironcolor shiners occur within freshwater along the Atlantic coast from central Florida in the south to southern New York in the north - New Jersey is near the northernmost edge of it range. It also occurs along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico as far west as Louisiana and northward along the Mississippi and some tributaries as far north as Illinois. There are additional isolated populations in Texas, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
There are scattered records of this species within New Jersey’s Atlantic, Delaware River, and Delaware Bay drainages, but primarily in the southern portion of the state. They occur in the Pinelands, but only at a few localities.
They prefer clear, vegetated pools with sandy bottoms as well as slow runs of creeks and small rivers.
Ironcolor shiners are invertivores, consuming insects and other small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. Like other members of the Cyprinidae family, they are stomachless fish with toothless jaws. Food is chewed by pharyngeal teeth (teeth in the pharyngeal arch of their throat). The pharyngeal teeth are species-specific and are a way to identify some species.
Ironcolor shiners spawn in New Jersey between May and July. Eggs drop to the bottom of the water, usually on sand, and hatch in about two days. The parents do not guard the eggs. They reach sexual maturity in one year. The typical life span is two years. They are a schooling fish.
CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION
The species was historically widespread but their numbers have greatly decreased in New Jersey more recently. It has disappeared from portions of its range in the state. It is an intolerant species of habitat conditions which are not ideal.
Ironcolor shiners are listed as Endangered in Pennsylvania, where it may be extirpated, and Special Concern in New York. It is classified as Vulnerable by the American Fisheries Society. There may only be two disjunct populations remaining in New Jersey.
In 2016, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended an Endangered status for this species, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date.
Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2016.
- Arndt, Rudolf G. 2004. “Annotated Checklist and Distribution of New Jersey Freshwater Fishes, With Comments on Abundance.” The Bulletin: New Jersey Academy of Scince. Vol. 49, No. 1.
- Page, Lawrence M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico.
Species: N. chalybaeus
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