Eastern Sand Darter Fact Sheet
Eastern Sand Darter
New York Status: Threatened
The eastern sand darter is a small fish, averaging 2.5 inches in length. It has a long, slender body with no scales on the belly. Its flesh is transparent and the upper portion of the body is fluorescent violet in color. A row of 10-17 dark spots are found along both sides of the fish, as well as along the top.
Little information is available on the biology of the eastern sand darter. This fish is thought to spawn beginning in May and possibly continuing into the fall. Tubercles (small bumps on fins that indicate spawning activity) have been observed on males in August.
The eastern sand darter will frequently bury itself in the sandy bottom, leaving only its eyes exposed. This behavior helps the fish to hide from predators, to maintain its position in a fast-flowing stream section, and to ambush prey. Aquatic insects make up the bulk of the eastern sand darter's diet.
Distribution and Habitat
The eastern sand darter is found east of the Mississippi River in the states of Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. In New York State, it occurs in six locations: Lake Erie, the Metawee and Poultney Rivers near Lake Champlain, the St. Regis River and Salmon Rivers near Quebec and the Grasse River. The eastern sand darter occurs in streams that have a sand bottom.
The American Fisheries Society has listed the eastern sand darter as threatened in all the states where it occurs. The major cause of declines in eastern sand darter populations is loss of clean sandy substrate due to siltation. On some streams, the construction of dams led to fragmentation of sand darter populations. In addition, the impoundments created with the construction of these dams also act as settling basins which aggravate siltation problems. Stream pollution and stream channelization have also caused loss of eastern sand darter habitat.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) goal is to maintain and monitor secure, healthy, and self-sustaining populations of eastern sand darters in at least five separate systems.