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.

Etheostoma nuchale
Etheostoma nuchale
(Watercress Darter)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Etheostoma nuchale Howell and Caldwell, 1965

Common name: Watercress Darter

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Page (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Mettee et al. (1996).

Size: 5.4 cm.

Native Range: Thomas', Roebuck, Glenn, and Seven springs in the Black Warrior drainage, Jefferson County, Alabama (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992, 2009; Duncan et al. 2010).

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 Etheostoma nuchale are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL196519932Locust; Upper Black Warrior

Table last updated 7/13/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Inhabits slow moving spring pools and associated runs; primarily associated with aquatic vegetation (e.g., watercress) where it feeds and reproduces (Boschung and Mayden 2004; Duncan et al 2010).

Means of Introduction: The species was originally stocked to create a second population. At the time of the original introduction, the species was known only from Glenn Springs. That site was immediately adjacent to Jefferson County Route 20, and would have been imperiled by any road expansions. In 1965, 43 specimens from Glenn Springs were stocked in Prince Springs in hope that a second population would afford the species more security (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1980a; Howell, personal communication). The Watercress Darter was listed as a federally endangered species in 1970 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1980a). The species was later discovered at two other sites during a survey conducted between 1977 and 1978. During the period 1976-1977, all three native populations were at risk. Glenn Springs deteriorated because of sewage contamination; Thomas' Spring was to be dredged, the sportfish removed and then replaced with catfish; and the Roebuck Springs population contracted "gas bubble" disease (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1980a). On 19 January 1988, 400 fish were transplanted from Roebuck Springs, 200 to Tapawingo Springs and 200 to Avondale Springs, as part of an endangered species recovery plan designed to save this species from extinction (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992).

Status: Established at Tapawingo Springs (Howell, personal communication). Failed at Prince Springs, possibly due to competition from redfin darters E. whipplei (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992). Sampling the year after the initial transplant failed to find any individuals. Additional sampling trips in the past ~30 years also have failed to find any individuals (Howell, personal communication). The transplant is believed to also have failed at Avondale Springs (Howell, personal communication). No individuals have been recovered; however, the site is difficult to sample (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992).

Impact of Introduction: The introduction of Watercress Darters to Tapawingo Springs caused the extirpation of rush darter (E. phytophilum), a Federally Endangered species of darter described in 1999, at that locality (George et al. 2009)

Remarks: The Watercress Darter is listed as a federally endangered species. The native population at Thomas' Spring was decimated by removal of aquatic vegetation by an introduced grass carp. In 1981, or shortly thereafter, the spring was restocked with Watercress Darters from Glenn Springs. A new pond, owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was also constructed just downstream of Thomas' Spring in 1988 and stocked with 100 individuals from Thomas' Spring (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992). The species is established in this pond (Howell, personal communication).

In 2008, the City of Birmingham removed a dam at the base of Roebuck Spring pool, causing a large reduction in aquatic habitat around the spring and killing ~12,000 Watercress Darters along with aquatic snails and crayfish (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2009).

References: (click for full references)

Boschung, H.T., and R.L. Mayden. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Books, Washington, DC.

Duncan, R.S., C.P. Elliott, B.L. Fluker, and B.R. Kuhajda. 2010. Habitat use of the watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale): an endangered fish in an urban landscape. American Midland Naturalist 164:9-21.

George, A.L., B.R. Kuhajda, J.D. Williams, M.A. Cantrell, P.L. Rakes, and J.R. Shute. 2009. Guidelines for propagation and translocation for freshwater fish conservation. Fisheries 34(11):529-545.

Mettee, M.F., P.E. O'Neil, and J.M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Inc., Birmingham, AL.

Page, L.M. 1983. Handbook of darters. T.F.H., Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

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

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1980. Watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale) recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, MI.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1992. Watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale) recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, MI.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2009. Watercress darter (Etheostoma nuchale). Five year review: summary and evaluation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, MI.

Other Resources:
Watercress darter - Outdoor Alabama

FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 11/20/2015

Peer Review Date: 11/20/2015

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Etheostoma nuchale Howell and Caldwell, 1965: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=815, Revision Date: 11/20/2015, Peer Review Date: 11/20/2015, Access Date: 7/13/2024

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.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/13/2024].

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