SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cottus paulus
CHARACTERISTICS: An Alabama endemic in the family Cottidae, the pygmy sculpin is distinguishable from the other species by its small adult size, broadly connected dorsal fins, two preopercular spines, and a I, 3 pelvic fin ray count. The body is moderately robust, being deepest at the spiny dorsal fin. Body color is somewhat variable, the dominant background colors being gray and black. The three light saddles extending across the back are creamy white to pinkish. The back is darkly mottled in males and evenly pigmented in females.
ADULT SIZE: 1.5 in (38 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Cottus paulus is known from Coldwater Spring and its adjacent downstream spring run (which is a tributary to Choccolocco Creek).
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Coldwater Spring maintains constant flow from the Jacksonville fault at an average rate of 31.4 million gallons per day (mgd). It is a public water supply for the city of Anniston, Alabama, which used approximately 11 mgd in 1993. The water is clear and colorless, has a constant temperature, and is extensively vegetated by several species of aquatic plants, including large mats of Myriophyllum, Ceratophyllum, watercress, and aquatic mosses. Cottus paulus is most common in the gravel-bottomed spring run in moderate to swift flows. Williams (1968) reports on the life history and habitat requirements of this species. Known prey are small snails, microcrustaceans, and midge larvae. The fact that gravid females have been captured throughout the year could signify continuous spawning, but activity appears to intensify from April to August. Eggs are laid beneath cobble, and sexual maturity is reached when individuals grow to be 1 inch or longer.
REMARKS: The type locality is Coldwater Spring, Calhoun County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the pygmy sculpin to be threatened.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Williams described the pygmy sculpin in 1968.
Cottus means an old name for a miller’s-thumb.
In Latin, paulus means little.
(The former name used in Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin, pygmaeus, means dwarf, referring to the small adult size of this species.)
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 threatened, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more information on the pygmy sculpin.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.