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Mountain Brook Lamprey

Mountain Brook Lamprey
Ichthyomyzon greeleyi

New York Status: Special Concern


mountain brook lamprey image

Growing only to about 8 inches, the mountain brook lamprey is a small species, but quite attractive. It is gray-brown to olive-tan above, white or cream below with cream to yellow fins. Its sides are olive to tan with small dark flecks. It has one slightly-notched dorsal fin, and its expanded oral disk is narrower than the head.

Life History

Spawning occurs in late May when the water temperature reaches 18.9 C (42.5 F). The males build nests just above riffles in about 1 foot of water, and just downstream from a flat stone 6 to 12 inches in diameter. The male excavates the nest by removing small stones and pebbles, forming a depression about 2 inches deep and 8-10 inches in diameter with a fine gravel and sand bottom. Spawning occurs when a female moves over a nest and attaches to a rock. Spawning pairs stimulate other pairs to begin spawning. The mountain brook lamprey lives up to 5 or 6 years, and usually dies after spawning.

Distribution and Habitat

The mountain brook lamprey has a fragmented range in the Mississippi basin with populations being found in New York, Pennsylvania and adjacent areas of Ohio. Mountain brook lamprey are also found in the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia. In New York State, this lives in French Creek, and other northern and central parts of the Allegheny basin.

The mountain brook lamprey is found in gravel riffles and sandy runs of clean, clear streams and in the sand, mud and debris in pools and backwaters. It spends its life in creeks without moving to larger rivers.

Population Status

The current population status is unknown due to its secretive habits, but in New York the species is at the extreme edge of its range.

Management/Research Needs

The best management strategy for the mountain brook lamprey is habitat protection. Threats to the habitat include: 1) siltation from over grazing, row cropping and land clearing and 2) runoff with cow manure, sewage, fertilizer and pesticides.

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