Creature Feature: Rainbow Darter

By MDC | May 1, 2024
From Xplor: May/June 2024

Hiding in Plain Sight

Females sport brown blotches to help them disappear against a gravelly stream bottom. When it isn’t mating season, males look drab, too.

Bottom Dweller

Rainbow darters live in the rocky riffles of swift-flowing streams. They hug the bottom to avoid being swept away.

Swim or Sink

Unlike most fish, darters lack a swim bladder, an organ that helps fish float up or down. When a darter stops swimming, it sinks.

Flashy Fellas

During mating season, male rainbow darters sport dazzling colors to impress a girlfriend.

Dart Around

Darters swim from place to place in a series of short, quick dashes. That’s why they’re named “darters.”

Water Wings

Water flowing over their large, winglike pectoral fins helps press darters down against the bottom of a stream.

Also In This Issue


Animals have adaptations to help them catch food, avoid being eaten, and survive nature’s unforgiving environments.

Fireflies in a Field

Forget what the calendar says. When you see the flicker of a firefly’s fanny, you know summer has arrived.

This Issue's Staff

Artist – Matt Byrde
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Marcia Hale
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber