The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Cyprinella whipplei
Cyprinella whipplei
(Steelcolor Shiner)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Cyprinella whipplei Girard, 1856

Common name: Steelcolor Shiner

Synonyms and Other Names: Steelcolor shiner, steelcolor shiner minnow, silver-finned minnow, satin-finned minnow, Abramis whipplei (Girard, 1856), Cyprinella whipplii (Girard, 1856), Notropis whipplei (Girard, 1856), Notropis whipplii (Girard, 1856).  Trautman (1981); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); commonly used names Notropis whipplei and C. whipplei. The spelling of the specific epithet was changed to follow ICZN rules (Gilbert 1998).

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Cyprinella whipplei is a shiner fish with a laterally compressed body and a small subconical head (Ross 2001). The mouth is oblique and terminal to subterminal. The pharyngeal teeth are hooked, with narrow serrated surfaces. The eyes are small. The back and sides are blue to olive green, and the flanks are silvery. The breast and belly are completely scaled. The lateral line is decurved and completely pored. The dorsal and lateral scales are strongly outlined with melanophores, creating a cross-hatched pattern. The dorsal and ventral profiles of the body are similarly curved. The greatest body depth is in front of the dorsal fin origin. The dorsal fin origin is above or slightly posterior to the pelvic fin origin. There are nine anal rays. It can be distinguished from other members of the Cyprinella genus by the base of its caudal fin, which is not milky white.

Size: 16 cm.

Native Range: Mississippi River basin, from Ohio and West Virginia to Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Oklahoma, and south to Northern Alabama and northern Louisiana; Black Warrior River system (Mobile Bay drainage), Alabama. Native to Monongahela, Little Kanawha, and Kanawha below the falls, Guyandotte, Big Sandy, small Ohio River tributaries in West Virginia, and the main channel of the Ohio River (Stauffer 2007). Mostly absent from Coastal Plain (Page and Burr 1991).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Cyprinella whipplei are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
MI200520051St. Joseph
OK195019732Arkansas-White-Red Region; Middle Washita

Table last updated 2/20/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Cyprinella whipplei inhabits low-to-moderate gradient streams that have permanent flow (Ross 2001) as well as medium to large sized streams (Miller and Robison 2004). It occurs in streams with sand or gravel substrates, such as riffle or pool segments (Ross 2001). This species has been recorded in streams with temperatures as low as freezing (Felley and Hill 1983) and as high as 25.0°C (Risch 2004). Cyprinella whipplei generally feeds on insects in the water column, and changes its diet seasonally (Ross 2001). They feed on terrestrial insects that fall into the stream in the summer and fall. Cyprinella whipplei shifts to feeding on benthic invertebrates during colder weather. During the winter and spring, they also feed on organic detritus. It preys on small crustaceans, mites, and earthworms (Stauffer 2007). Piscivorous animals such as gar, bass, sunfish, sturgeon, large chubs, kingfisher, heron, and turtles are known to feed on shiners (Mayden pers. comm. 2013). Spawning occurs between June and August. Most Cyprinella whipplei reaches sexual maturity after their second summer, but most do not spawn until after their third summer. They spawn in the crevices in logs and roots. Females who are ready to spawn move to a spawning log and may be approached by several males. Males compete with each other for the spawning female. Usually one male is successful in driving the other males away. The successful male mates with the female by pressing her against the spawning log. Males are territorial and defend their nest from other males. They display threats to males swimming near their nest by raising their dorsal fins and parallel swimming, or hitting the other male with their snouts.  It is able to hybridize with Cyprinella camura in Greenleaf Creek. Cyprinella whipplei possesses alarm substances in their epidermal cells that are released when damaged, which chemically alert conspecifics to perform a fright reaction that may increase their chances of survival in the face of predators (Smith and Smith 1983). These alarm substance cells are lost during the spawning season. It has been suggested spawning may cause epidermal damage, and the absence of these alarm cells prevents the release of alarm substances during spawning, a situation where a fright reaction is not necessary for conspecifics.

Means of Introduction: Likely bait bucket release (Miller and Robison 1973).

Cyprinella whipplei has a moderate probability of introduction to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

Potential pathway(s) of introduction: Dispersal

Cyprinella whipplei occurs in the Mississippi River basin, Ohio River, Muskingum River, and the Fox River drainage, which are near waters connected to the Great Lakes basin (Page and Burr 1991, Retzer and Batten 2005, Sanders 1992). There are electrical barriers between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins that function to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (Rasmussen et al. 2011). There is no evidence that suggests that Cyprinella whipplei is capable of hitchhiking or fouling ships. There are no records of the stocking, culture, or sale of Cyprinella whipplei in the Great Lakes region.

Status: Established in Oklahoma.  Cyprinella whipplei is established in Oklahoma (Fuller and Nico 2014). A survey conducted by Fisher et al. (1998) in 1994 found that the historically uncommon Cyprinella whipplei had expanded its range in Tippecanoe County, Indiana since the mid-1970’s. The 1978 survey collected 2 specimens of Cyprinella whipplei, and the 1994 survey collected 16 specimens; however, the authors note that the historically low abundance of Cyprinella whipplei could be attributed to misidentification of this species during the 1978 survey.  Although historically present in Indiana, Cyprinella whipplei was first recorded in the Kankakee River drainage in 1990 (Simon 1992). Cyprinella whipplei was found in fish surveys conducted in 2008 in Killbuck Creek and Pipe Creek, but were absent in 1978 (Doll 2010).

Cyprinella whipplei has a moderate probability of establishment if introduced to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: Moderate).

Cyprinella whipplei has a wide temperature tolerance, and has been reported to occur in streams with temperatures as low as -0.5°C (Felley and Hill 1983) to temperatures as high as 25°C (Risch 2004). This species is somewhat likely to overwinter in the Great Lakes region due to its ability to tolerate low temperature waters and its current geographical range that extends to Illinois and Ohio. It is native to the Alabama and Louisiana, so warmer water temperatures and shorter ice cover may aid the establishment of Cyprinella whipplei. It inhabits streams of varying sizes with sand or gravel bottoms and permanent flows (Ross 2001). This species’ reproductive behavior involves the use of crevices in submerged logs (Pflieger 1965). These habitats are available in the Great Lakes basin.

Cyprinella whipplei may have a low tolerance to habitat degradation. This species once occurred throughout central Illinois, but has retreated eastwards (Smith 2002). Its retreated distribution has been attributed to increasing siltation, removal of riparian vegetation, and the deterioration of water quality, as well as its inability to compete with the red shiner and spotfin shiner. 

Cyprinella whipplei was found in fish surveys conducted in 2008 in Killbuck Creek and Pipe Creek, Indiana, but were absent in 1978 (Doll 2010). Since the 1978 survey, there has been an effort to increase the area of wetland coverage in Indiana, although there has been some clear cutting of the riparian zone in 1998. It is possible that Cyprinella whipplei was able to establish in these areas since 1978 due to increased habitat quality.

Cyprinella whipplei feeds on macroinvertebrates such as aquatic and terrestrial insects, benthic invertebrates, crustaceans, mites, and earthworms (Ross 2001, Stauffer 2007). Its prey is readily available in the Great Lakes basin. Piscivorous animals such as gar, bass, sunfish, sturgeon, large chubs, kingfisher, heron, and turtles are known to feed on shiners (Mayden pers. comm. 2013). These piscivores occur in the Great Lakes region (DEQ-MI 2008). 


Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: Smith-Vaniz (1968) reported that a few collections were known from the upper Black Warrior River system (Mobile Bay drainage) of Alabama, and attributed its occurrence to introductions by anglers. However, Barclay and Howell (1973) argued that stream capture rather than bait bucket introductions may have been the source of invasion. Page and Burr (1991) apparently considered the Black Warrior River system to be part of the species' native range.

References: (click for full references)

Barclay, L.A. and W.M. Howell. 1973. Ichthyofauna of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River system of Alabama. J. Alabama Acad. Sci.

Boogaard, M.A., T.D. Bills, J.H. Selgeby, and D.A. Johnson. 1996. Evaluation of piscicides for control of ruffe. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 16(3):600-607.

DEQ-MI. 2008. "Tittabawassee River System Assessment Area Biota Lists." from http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-whm-hwp-TRSAA-NRDA-Plan-Attachments_230494_7.pdf.

Doll, J.C. 2010. Changes in fish assemblages of Killbuck Creek and Pipe Creek, Delaware County, Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 119(1): 52-63.

Felley, J.D., and L.G. Hill. 1983. Multivariate assessment of environmental preferences of Cyprinid fishes of the Illinois River, Oklahoma. American Midland Naturalist 109(2): 209-221.

Fisher, B.E., S.P. Wente, T.P. Simon and A. Spacie. 1998. The fishes of Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 107: 151-166.

GLMRIS. 2012. Appendix C: Inventory of available controls for aquatic nuisance species of concern, Chicago Area Waterway System. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. http://glmris.anl.gov/documents/docs/anscontrol/All27ANSControlFactSheets.pdf.

Marking, L.L., T.D. Bills, J.J. Rach, and S.J. Grabowski. 1983. Chemical control of fish and fish eggs in the Garrison Diversion Unit, North Dakota. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 3(4):410-418.

Mayden, R.L. 2013. Pers. Comm. Cyprinella whipplei expert. C. Kelly. Outlook Web Application

Meronek, T.G., P.M. Bouchard, E.R. Buckner, T.M. Burri, K.K. Demmerly, D.C. Hatleli, R.A. Klumb, S.H. Schmidt, and D.W. Coble. 1996. A Review of Fish Control Projects. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 16:63-74.

Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, 450 p.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.

Pflieger, W.L. 1965. Reproductive behavior of the minnows, Notropis spilopterus and Notropis whippli. Copeia 1: 1-8.

Rasmussen, J.L., H.A. Reiger, R.E. Sparks, and W.W. Taylor. 2011. Dividing the waters: the case for hydrologic separation of the North American Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins. Journal of Great Lakes Research 37(3): 588-592.

Retzer, M.E., and B. Batten. 2005. Fishes of the Chicago Region: a review of the Dennison and Illinois Natural History Survey collections. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science 98(1-2): 63-73.

Risch, M. 2004. Chemical and biological quality of surface water at the U.S. Army Attenbury Reserve Forces Training Area near Edinburgh, Indiana, September 2000 through July 2001. DIANE Publishing.

Ross, S.T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, 624 p.

Sanders, R.E. 1992. Day versus night electrofishing cataches from near-shore waters of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. Ohio Journal of Science 92(3): 51-59.

Simon, T.P. 1992. New ichthyofaunal records for the Calumet, Kankakee, and Iroquois drainages of Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 101: 279-291.

Smith, R.J.F., and J.D. Smith. 1983. Seasonal loss of alarm substance cells in Chrosomus neogaeus, Notropis venustus, and N. whipplei. Copeia 1983(3): 822-826.

Smith, P.W. 2002. The Fishes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Division. University of Illinois Press. 314 p.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1968. Freshwater Fishes of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station Auburn, AL.

Stauffer, J. 2007. Fishes of West Virginia. Academy of Natural Sciences. 389 p.

Tyus, H.M., and J.F. Saunders, III. 2000. Nonnative fish control and endangered fish recovery: Lessons from the Colorado River. Fisheries 25(9):17-24. dx.doi.org/10.1577/1548-8446(2000)025<0017:NFCAEF>2.0.CO;2.

FishBase Summary

Author: Nico, L., P. Fuller, and J. Li

Revision Date: 8/3/2018

Peer Review Date: 1/22/2015

Citation Information:
Nico, L., P. Fuller, and J. Li, 2024, Cyprinella whipplei Girard, 1856: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=523, Revision Date: 8/3/2018, Peer Review Date: 1/22/2015, Access Date: 2/20/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [2/20/2024].

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