Fundulus zebrinus
Fundulus zebrinus
(Plains Killifish)
Native Transplant
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Fundulus zebrinus Jordan and Gilbert, 1883

Common name: Plains Killifish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Sigler and Sigler (1987); Hubbs et al. (1991); Page and Burr (1991); Pflieger (1997). Fundulus kansae is considered a junior synonym (Poss and Miller 1983).

Size: 10 cm.

Native Range: Mississippi River and Gulf Slope basins from north central Missouri to central Wyoming, and south to Colorado River, Brazos River, Galveston Bay, and Rio Grande (primarily Pecos River) drainages, Texas. Mostly on Great Plains (Page and Burr 1991).
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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species is known from the Colorado and Little Colorado river drainages and Lake Powell in Arizona (Miller and Lowe 1967; Minckley 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Hughes 1981; Poss and Miller 1983); the Colorado River and several tributaries (e.g., Gunnison, Green, Yampa, San Juan) in Colorado (Holden and Stalnaker 1975; Hughes 1981; Tyus et al. 1982; Poss and Miller 1983; Woodling 1985); Fort Peck Reservoir, O'Fallon Creek (a tributary of the Yellowstone), and the Little Missouri, Big Horn, and Yellowstone rivers in Montana (Brown 1971; Poss and Miller 1983; Cross et al. 1986; Holton 1990); tributaries of Lake Mead and along the Colorado River, Nevada (Deacon and Williams 1984; Vinyard 2001); the Zuni and San Juan rivers in New Mexico (Hughes 1981; Tyus et al. 1982; Poss and Miller 1983; Sublette et al. 1990); the Cheyenne River drainage in South Dakota (Bailey and Allum 1962; Poss and Miller 1983); the Rio Grande and a few of its tributaries in and near Big Bend National Park, and possibly elsewhere (e.g., Trinity River) in Texas (Poss and Miller 1983; Hubbs et al. 1991); Juab County near Mona Reservoir, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the Colorado River in Utah (Sigler and Miller 1963; Minckley 1973; Hughes 1981; Tyus et al. 1982; Poss and Miller 1983; Woodling 1985; Sigler and Sigler 1987; Tilmant 1999); and the Bighorn and Cheyenne river drainages, Wyoming (Poss and Miller 1983).

Means of Introduction: Most introductions apparently originated from bait bucket releases. In western Colorado, the species may have been introduced by bait bucket transfers or accidentally stocked as a contaminant with other species, although upstream expansion from Utah cannot be ruled out (Woodling 1985). It possibly spread downstream into the Big Horn River of Montana from Wyoming (Brown 1971). The species has been introduced widely since about the 1930s (Poss and Miller 1983).

Status: Established in many areas of the Colorado River above and below Glen Canyon dam (Poss and Miller 1983). Presumably established in other localities mentioned.

Impact of Introduction: Unknown.

Remarks: Poss and Miller (1983) discussed the introduction history of this species and provided a dot distribution map distinguishing native and introduced records. According to Lee et al. (1980 et seq.), many records represent natural occurrences (e.g., the Yellowstone River drainage records in Montana and Wyoming, the Cheyenne River records in Wyoming and South Dakota, the non-Pecos records in the Rio Grande Basin in Texas); however, Poss and Miller (1983) concluded these populations were introduced. Holton (1990) found the species to be more widespread in Montana than previously thought, inhabiting the Little Missouri and Yellowstone drainages and the Fort Peck Reservoir area; thus, he suggested that the species may be native to the state. Tyus et al. (1982) gave a map showing its distribution in the upper Colorado basin. The Plains Killifish has never been collected in North Dakota (Steinwand, personal communication) even though it has been collected in the Yellowstone River in Montana near the Montana/North Dakota state line (Elser et al. 1980). That area of western North Dakota has been intensively surveyed (Steinwand, personal communication), so it is not likely that the species was overlooked.

References: (click for full references)

Bailey, R. M. and M. O. Allum. 1962. Fishes of South Dakota. Miscellaneous Publications of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 119:1-131.

Brown, C. J. D. 1971. Fishes of Montana. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

Deacon, J. E., and J. E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

Holden, P. B., and C. B. Stalnaker. 1975. Distribution and abundance of mainstream fishes of the middle and upper Colorado River basins, 1967-1973. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 104(2):217-231.

Holton, G. D. 1990. A field guide to Montana fishes. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, MT. 104 pp.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hughes, R. M. 1981. The plains killifish, Fundulus zebrinus (Cyprinodontidae), in the Colorado River basin of western North America. Southwestern Naturalist 26(3):321-324.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Miller, R. R., and C. H. Lowe. 1967. Fishes of Arizona. Pages 133-151 in C. H. Lowe, editor. The vertebrates of Arizona, part 2. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ.

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Poss, S. G., and R. R. Miller. 1983. Taxonomic status of the plains killifish Fundulus zebrinus. Copeia 1983(1):55-67.

Schmidt, B. - Chief Fisheries Mangement, Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City, UT. Response to NBS-G non-indigenous questionaire. 1992.

Sigler, F. F., and R. R. Miller. 1963. Fishes of Utah. Utah Department of Fish and Game, Salt Lake City, UT. 203 pp.

Sublette, J. E., M. D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM. 393 pp.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Woodling, J. 1985. Colorado's little fish: a guide to the minnows and other lesser known fishes in the state of Colorado. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver, CO. 77 pp.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P.

Revision Date: 4/13/2006

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., 2018, Fundulus zebrinus Jordan and Gilbert, 1883: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 4/13/2006, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 3/21/2018

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. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/21/2018].

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