Orangethroat Darter

Etheostoma spectabile
Percidae (perches) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fish)

A moderately stout darter with 6-10 indistinct dark brown crossbars on the back. Overall color mottled yellow-brown on back; sides lighter brown, often with several vertical blue bars or brown horizontal streaks. This darter is variable, with different subspecies occurring in the state. Breeding males are brilliant, with alternating blue-green bars and brick-red blotches; gill membranes bright orange; remainder of undersurface of head blue-green; belly sometimes with a patch of red; and fins banded and spotted by blue-green and red.

Total length: 1 1/4 to 2 inches; maximum about 2 1/2 inches
Habitat and conservation: 
Slow-moving riffles in streams with gravel and rock bottoms and clear to moderately clear water. Most active in daytime. The swim bladder in darters is lacking or much reduced. This allows them to sink and hold closely to the bottom of the stream without much effort.
Midge larvae, aquatic sowbugs and other aquatic insects and small crustaceans. They use a roving search pattern, making frequent short moves and turns across the stream bottom, using head and eye movements to locate prey.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Occur throughout Ozarks and in tributaries of the lower Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers.
One of the most frequently encountered darters over much of the Ozarks and in prairie tributaries of the lower Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers. Westward in the prairie sections, it is restricted to a few direct tributaries of the Missouri river. In the Bootheel lowlands, it occurs only in small creeks draining Crowley's Ridge.
Life cycle: 
Lifespan is usually 4 to 5 years. Shortly after hatching, orangethroat darter fry sometimes inhabit the nests of smallmouth bass. Many bass nests literally swarm with darters. It is believed that they benefit from the protection of the male bass guarding its nest; the full-grown bass will not feed on such "small fry." There may also be more of the preferred prey for the orangethroat fry in these locations, too.
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