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.

Percina shumardi
Percina shumardi
(River Darter)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Percina shumardi (Girard, 1859)

Common name: River Darter

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The body of the River Darter Percina shumardi is elongate and slightly compressed laterally. The back is brown to olive brown in color with lighter sides and a white belly. The snout is curved downwards and short. The mouth is slightly slanted and jaw protrudes past the eyes. River Darters are distinguished by 6-7 saddle marks on its back, 8-11 vertical bars along its side, and a black bar below the eyes. The spiny dorsal fin has a large black spot on tissue behind the last 3-4 spines. The caudal fins and second dorsal fins are lightly speckled and barred. Pelvic, pectoral, and anal fins are transparent to lightly pigmented. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, males will normally have a line of modified scales from the anal fin to pelvic fin. Males will also have a thickened membrane on the edge of pelvic fins, while females lack this feature. Breeding males are typically darker and have more pronounced colors than females (Becker 1983).

Size: 7.8 cm.

Native Range: Hudson Bay basin, Ontario, Manitoba, North Dakota, and south in Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins to Louisiana; Gulf drainages from Mobile Bay, Alabama, to Neches River, Texas; isolated population in San Antonio drainage, Texas (Page and Burr 1991). Native to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie. Absent from Lake Superior and Lake Ontario (Roth et al. 2013; Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000). Although the species has been recorded from the Tennessee drainage in northeastern Tennessee, it has not been reported in Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994), North Carolina (Menhinick 1991), or Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971a).

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 Percina shumardi are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
IL192619261Lake Michigan
WI196319832Lake Winnebago; Wolf

Table last updated 7/19/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The River Darter inhabits deep riffles and chutes of medium to large rivers, in areas of moderate current and coarse gravel to rock substrates (Gilbert 1980). It is more frequently found in smaller streams during winter and spawning season in early spring. The species is also reportedly tolerant of stream impoundments (Etnier and Starnes 1993). River Darters can also be found in lakes along wave-swept shores with sand, gravel, or rubble, to depth of ~1 m (Becker 1983).

Spawning can occurs at 10°C and has been observed in February at the earliest. Larvae take 6-7 days to hatch at temperatures of 22°C and likely take longer to hatch at lower temperatures. Larvae are active during the day can be found drifting downstream near the surface. Once larvae have grown from the initial size of 4mm to 12-15mm they are considered juveniles. Juveniles are found in areas with sand or gravel substrate and moderate current (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Sexual maturity is reached at age 1 and the average lifespan of individuals is three years old (Dalton 1990).

River Darters are benthic invertivores, primarily consuming chironomids, trichopterans, and small crustaceans (Thomas 1970). Small zooplankton are the primary food source for juveniles (Becker 1983). It is also known to exploit pleurocerid snail populations (Haag and Warren 2006).

Means of Introduction: The River Darter may have found its way to Illinois waters of Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The species likely gained access to the Lake Michigan drainage in Wisconsin via the Wisconsin-Fox Canal at Portage, Wisconsin (Becker 1983). It was first reported from this area in 1963 from the western shore of Lake Winnebago (Becker 1983). This species was not found in this drainage in surveys conducted in the late 1920s (Becker 1983). See Remarks section for a possible alternate scenario.

Status: Failed in Lake Michigan, Illinois. Established in the Lake Michigan drainage, Wisconsin.

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: Becker (1983) described the low divide between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers at Portage as one of the major historical natural crossover connections between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes drainage basins. Historical reports from both before and after construction of the Portage Canal describe movement of water from the Wisconsin River through the divide to the Fox River; hydrologic analysis combined with local topography indicate that this connection has been a regular historical occurrence (J. Lyons, Wisconsin DNR, personal communication). It is likely that P. shumardi is native to the Fox River drainage, having colonized from the Wisconsin River at some point since the last glaciation, and was simply overlooked prior to Becker (1983) due to the higher sampling intensity of Becker et al. in the Fox River relative to earlier collectors and the low abundance of P. shumardi in the Fox River drainage (J. Lyons, Wisconsin DNR, personal communication).

This species should be considered cryptogenic in Lakes Huron, Michigan and Erie. Percina shumardi is  considered native to Lake Huron according to Bailey et al. 2004 (Atlas of Michigan Fishes), and questionably native by Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman (2000).  Roth et al (2011) considered it native to these three lakes, likely endangered and declining; but Roth independently wrote that it "may be invasive to Lake Michigan, although it is listed within the range proposed by Scott and Crossman and Hubbs et al. 2004.  It was considered possibly introduced to Lake Michigan through a canal (Bailey & Smith 1981, Becker 1983, but see Hubbs & Lagler, Roth et al. in prep.). The species is unquestionably rare in the Great Lakes” [Mandrak 2017, personal communication].

References: (click for full references)

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press, Madison, WI.

Cudmore-Vokey, B., and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2550. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Burlington, Ontario.

Dahlberg, M.D. and D.C. Scott. 1971. The freshwater fishes of Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:1-64.

Dalton, K.W. 1990. Status of the River Darter, Percina shumardi, in Canada. Canadian Field Naturalist 104(1):59-63.

Etnier, D.A. and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. Unversity of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Gilbert, C.R. 1980. Percina shumardi (Girard), Dusky Darter. 741 in Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

GLMRIS. 2011. Inventory of Available Controls for Aquatic Nuisance Species of Concern, Chicago Area Waterway System. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Haag, W.R. and M.L. Warren. 2006. Seasonal Feeding Specialization on Snails by River Darters (Percina shumardi) with a Review of Snail Feeding by Other Darter Species. Copeia 4:604-612.

Jenkins, R.E. and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

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.

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

Patrick, P.H., A.E. Christie, D. Sager, C. Hocutt, and J. Stauffer, Jr. 1985. Responses of fish to a strobe light/air-bubble barrier. Fisheries Research 3:157-172.

Roth, B.M., N.E. Mandrak, T.R. Hrabik, G.G. Sass, and J. Peters. 2013. Fishes and decopod crustaceans of the Great Lakes Basin. Pages 105-135 in Taylor, W.W., A.J. Lynch, and N.J. Leonard, eds. Great Lakes fisheries policy and management: a binational perspective. 2nd edition. Michigan State University Press. East Lansing, MI.

Thomas, D.L. 1970. An ecological study of four darter species of genus Percina (Percidae) in the Kaskaskia River, Illinios. Illinois Natural History Survey, Biological Notes 70:1-18.

Other Resources:
Distribution in Illinois - ILNHS

Texas Freshwater Fishes - Texas State University San Marcos

FishBase Fact Sheet

Great Lakes Waterlife

FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, Matt Neilson and Kylan Hopper

Revision Date: 1/17/2024

Peer Review Date: 6/5/2012

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, Matt Neilson and Kylan Hopper, 2024, Percina shumardi (Girard, 1859): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=826, Revision Date: 1/17/2024, Peer Review Date: 6/5/2012, Access Date: 7/20/2024

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.


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 [7/20/2024].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted.

For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.