Swamp Darter Fact Sheet
New York Status: Threatened
Cryptically colored with natural camouflage the swamp darter is well suited to its environment. Its back is dark olive with 8-12 dark blotches and the sides are mottled with mid-lateral blotches in tan to green. Its belly is whitish with dark specks, the first dorsal fin has dark bands and the tail is barred with 3 dark spots at its base. The swamp darter has a short snout, shorter than the eye, with a groove (called a frenum) separating the tip of the upper lip from the snout. A small fish, it grows to 1 to 2 inches in length.
Spawning occurs during late April and May. Not a nest builder, the swamp darter deposits its eggs singly on the leaves of aquatic plants. It feeds on amphipods, small crustaceans and insects. The swamp darter matures at age one and rarely lives beyond its second summer.
Distribution and Habitat
In the United States, the swamp darter has a wide range. They are found from southwestern Maine to south Florida west to Texas. In the Mississippi Valley, they are found northward to Tennessee and Kentucky. The distribution of the swamp darter closely follows the fall line, the border between the hilly piedmont and the flat coastal plain. However, in New York, its range is extremely limited, occurring in only a few ponds near to, and in the Peconic River in eastern Long Island. The typical habitat of the swamp darter is quiet or slow moving water with a sand, detritus or muck bottom and with an abundance of aquatic vegetation.
The current population trend is unknown but because the swamp darter occurs in such a restricted area they may be very vulnerable. Since 1999 the swamp darter has been confirmed in 8 of its 16 historical locations.
The swamp darter is a hardy species able to tolerate a variety of water conditions, and their management includes the protection of the wetlands in eastern Long Island.