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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma chermocki

CHARACTERISTICS: The vermilion darter has a poorly developed frenum hidden undr the upper lip flap and broadly connected gill membranes. Breeding males have a light olive to straw-colored body, and the back is crossed by eight dark olive saddles. Brick red spots and olive green blotches occur along the lateral line. The lower sides, venter, and lower caudal peduncle area are dark vermilion, which occasionally extends dorsally to the lateral line. The spiny dorsal fin has a cherry-red ocellus in the first membrane and a broad, brick red submarginal band in the remaining membranes. The soft dorsal fin has a submarginal red band along its entire length. Etheostoma chermocki is distinguished from the Warrior darter, E. bellator, by its stockier body, shorter caudal peduncle, taller dorsal fins, and more extensive vermilion along the venter. See Boschung et al. (1992) for original description and Suttkus and Bailey (1993) for additional diagnostic information.

ADULT SIZE: 1.8 to 2.4 in (45 to 60 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Etheostoma chermocki is limited in distribution to upper Turkey Creek, a tributary to the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River system in Jefferson County, Alabama. Existing populations appear isolated in the Birmingham-Big Canoe Valley section of the Alabama Valley and Ridge physiographic province.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: The vermilion darter occurs in moderate to swift currents in streams of alternating riffles and pools. Riffles contain small limestone rubble and shale cobble. Clean bedrock, occasionally covered with a layer of sand, occurs in pools. Breeding individuals have been captured during April in root mats of waterwillow in larger riffles and shoals. Near springs, we captured individuals in swift runs and chutes adjacent to watercress and pondweed. Sedimentation from urban expansion threatens the preferred habitat of this species.

REMARKS: The type locality of the vermilion darter is Turkey Creek, Jefferson County, Alabama.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: The vermilion darter was described by Boschung and Mayden in 1992.

Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.
Chermocki refers to being named in honor of R. L. Chermock, former director of the Environmental Geology Division at the Geological Survey of Alabama.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects this fish from capture or possession. Federally listed as endangered, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on the vermilion darter.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

December 6, 2010 News Release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Critical Habitat Designation for Vermilion Darter

A little over 13 stream miles of critical habitat in Jefferson County is designated for the vermilion darter, a small, multi-colored fish found only in Alabama. The species, federally listed as endangered in 2001, reaches lengths of roughly two inches as an adult.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its critical habitat designation of 13.15 stream miles in the Turkey Creek watershed today in the Federal Register.

The darter’s critical habitat area includes five units in and near the city of Pinson. The units are within the upper main-stem reaches of Turkey Creek and in four tributaries, including Beaver Creek, an unnamed tributary to Beaver Creek, Dry Creek, and Dry Branch.

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act (Act) that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not already require federal funding or permits.

The final rule can be obtained on the Internet by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2009-0079. A copy of the final rule is also available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213, phone: 601-321-1121.

This darter is endangered due to the effects of urbanization on its habitat, such as construction of impoundments; gravel extractions; road, pipe, and bridge construction; and decreased water quality and flow. Currently, the vermilion darter only occurs in sparse, isolated populations in the Turkey Creek watershed. Surviving populations are highly vulnerable to habitat destruction, deterioration, and fragmentation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit the Service’s website at www.fws.gov or www.fws.gov/southeast/

Connie Light Dickard, 601/321-1121
Denise Rowell, 251/441-6630
Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

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