Ammocrypta pellucida


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ammocrypta pellucida
Species Authority: (Agassiz, 1863)
Common Name(s):
English Eastern Sand Darter
Taxonomic Notes: In a phylogenetic analysis based on morphology, Simons (1991) concluded that Ammocrypta asprella should be included in the genus Crystallaria (generally has been regarded as a subgenus of Ammocrypta) and that the genus Ammocrypta should be regarded as a subgenus of Etheostoma. Page and Burr (1991), Simons (1992), and Wiley (1992) adopted this change, but Etnier and Starnes (1993) and Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) retained Ammocrypta as a distinct genus and treated Crystallaria as a subgenus. Patterns of molecular variation are consistent with the recognition of Ammocrypta species as taxonomically distinct from Etheostoma (Wood and Mayden 1997, Faber and Stepien 1998, Near et al. 2000).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-10-19
Assessor(s): NatureServe
Reviewer(s): Smith, K. & Darwall, W.R.T.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Hammerson, G.A. & Ormes, M.
Listed as Least Concern because although declines have occurred as a result of habitat degradation, the species is still represented by many subpopulations and a substantial population size; trend is believed to be currently stable in the most of the range. Status is believed to have improved since 1989.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Range encompasses most of the Ohio River basin from western New York and eastern Illinois south to western Kentucky (present downstream to the Wabash drainage on the north side and the Cumberland on the south) (Williams 1975); southern end of Lake Huron, lakes St. Clair and Erie; disjunct population in middle St. Lawrence-Lake Champlain drainage, southern Quebec, Vermont, and New York. 
It is absent, though historically known, from Lake Ontario drainages (Williams 1975, Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 1991). Populations exist in Ontario and Quebec, since 1970 populations in several river systems have been extirpated. (Holm and Mandrak, 1996). In Illinois, it is now restricted to the upper Wabash drainage and is common only in the middle Embarras River and Middle Fork of the Vermilion (Smith 1979). Forbes and Richardson (1920) considered it scarce in Illinois because its habitat was limited. In West Virginia, its distribution is patchy, but it is locally abundant in Middle Island Creek and the Little Kanawha River (Stauffer et al.1995). In Ohio it was widely distributed in inland streams, the Ohio River, and on Lake Erie beaches. Trautman (1981) detailed its decline with a distribution map. Van Meter and Trautman (1970) reported that although once numerous in Lake Erie, it had been greatly reduced in numbers or extirpated in many sections of the lake and tributaries. In New York, there are records from two tributaries to lake Erie, and it has been recently collected from the Little Salmon and Mettawee rivers (Smith 1985) and the St. Regis (Carlson, personal communication, 1998). In Kentucky, there have been recent collections from the Green, Rolling Fork, Kentucky, Licking, and Little Sandy rivers, and Blaine creek (Burr and Warren 1986). In Pennsylvania, it was reported from the Youghiogheny (Cope 1869) and Monongahela rivers (Evermann and Bollman 1886), but is now known only from French Creek (Criswell 1992) and the Presque Isle area of Lake Erie (Hendricks 1985, Kenyon and Perise 1986); apparently extirpated from the former two rivers by the late 1930s (Raney 1938). In Vermont, there are records from the Lamoille and Poultney Rivers (Smith 1985, Bouton 1986). Many reports attest to its original abundance (Evermann and Bollman 1886, Evermann and Jenkins 1889, Gilbert 1885, Meek 1889, Kirsch 1895, Osburn 1901).
Canada; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The number of distinct occurrences has not been determined using standardized criteria.

A questionnaire was sent to eleven heritage programs in 1996 with seven responding. The following is from that survey, with data on Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania and New York from published sources and interviews. The questionnaire results indicated that there were just over 100 recent (since 1970) occurrences reported (over 150 including older records, prior to 1970). Largest numbers remain in Indiana (51 total, 14 since 1970), Kentucky (33 since 1969), and West Virginia (estimated 30). Ohio and Michigan both have about 10 occurrences recently verified (includes 1994 data in Michigan). States with limited numbers of occurrences include Illinois (3), Vermont (4), New York (6), and Pennsylvania (2). In Ontario, before 1970, there were 13 sites on six rivers and documented occurrences on Lake Erie. Since 1970, and following intensive surveys there are 12 sites on three rivers with populations extirpated on the four rivers. In Quebec, there were 11 sites on six rivers, one on the St. Lawrence and one lake population. Since 1970, there are 37 occurrences on seven St. Lawrence tributaries and none on the St. Lawrence or on two of the rivers where pre-1970 populations were identified (Holm and Mandrak 1996). Burr and Warren (1986) mapped about 49 post-1950 collection sites in Kentucky and noted the distribution as sporadic and localized.

Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000. Reported to be "seldom common" by Lee et al. (1980); described as locally common by Page and Burr (2011). Distribution is patchy in West Virginia, but the species is locally abundant in Middle Island Creek and the Little Kanawah River (Stauffer et al. 1995).

Over the long term, area of occupancy and abundance have declined significantly in several areas (see reviews by Grandmaison et al. 2004, Adams and Burr 2004).

Overall, populations are believed to be currently stable (Adams and Burr 2004, Grandmaison et al. 2004). Status is believed to have improved since 1989 (Jelks et al. 2008).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Generally this sand darter prefers habitats within small creeks to large rivers and lake shores, with slow to medium current, and lakes and lake-like expansions of rivers with fine sandy substrate (0.1-1.0 mm) (Daniels 1993, Trautman 1981, Scott and Crossman 1973, Williams 1975, Adams and Burr 2004, Grandmaison et al. 2004, and many others).

Sandy areas are generally depauperate of flora and other fauna so that both competitors and predators may be lacking. Sand particles (0.1-1.0 mm) are deposited at low velocities relative silt and clay (which tend to move as aggregates) or larger stones and cobbles. Unconsolidated silts and clays erode at lower velocities than sand, but remain in suspension unless stream velocity decreases (Morisawa 1985). Sand runs form in depositional areas where current slows on the inside of a bend in the river. Such runs can be stable, though sand particles are eroded and deposited with storm events (Gordon et al. 1992). Burrows into sand bottom. Eggs are buried in the substrate. Simon et al. (1992) reported collecting eggs and larvae from the Tippecanoe River (Indiana) from sand and gravel in slight to moderate current at temperatures of 20-23°C.

Ohio: most abundant in larger, sandy areas of sections of moderate or large-sized streams where silting-over of sand was at a minimum and current was not strong enough to wash away the sand (Trautman 1981). Pennsylvania: taken over sandy riffles (Lachner, Westlake and Handwerk 1950). Kentucky: captured over clean sand along the margins of a Dianthera riffle (Branson and Batch 1974). Quebec: Vladykov (1942) reported unusual captures over limestone with a thin layer of mud, and clay mixed with some sand. Sand at one French Creek site was approximately 2-4 dm deep (Criswell 1992), and Barnes (1979) reported substrate depths of 100-500 cm at a sand darter site on Federal Creek. Water depths ranged from 2 dm (Criswell 1992) to 14.6 m (Scott and Crossman 1973). Minimum stream widths reported were 7-9 m (Barnes and Carline 1977). In the Tippecanoe River, greatest abundance occurred where water was approximately 30 cm deep over a substrate of 80% sand and 20% gravel (Johnston 1989). In general, medium and coarse sand co-dominated the substrate in Salt Creek, with fine sand being third most prevalent by weight, and with some silt also present. The dynamic nature of this habitat was documented by percent composition of various particle sizes changing monthly, and by observations of changes in size, shape, topography, and degree of silt cover at study sites (Spreitzer 1979). Daniels studied habitat within the Mettawee River in (New York) and within an artificial stream environment. Greatest abundance (75%) of observed darters was less than 20 m downstream of channel bend (depositional side of stream), 90% on sand 5 m from shore and in less than 0.5 m depth. Vegetation and debris were greater than 5 m; i.e. Measured water velocity was 10-20 cm/sec water column velocity. Artificial stream data corroborated field data. Sand substrate at the riffle site reported by Lachner et al. (1950) is no longer present in sufficient quantity to support A. pellucida, although the site is otherwise intact and still supports all other riffle inhabitants reported (Criswell 1992). Maximum water temperature reported for a capture site was 26°C (Johnston 1989). Vladykov (1942) reported pH readings of 8.2 and 8.6 in Quebec. Specific data on other water parameters quality are lacking.

In Lake Erie, A. pellucida occupied clean sandy shores, shallow bays, and the island region of the lake (Van Meter and Trautman 1970). Langlois (1954) reported it from sandy shoals at the narrows of Middle Bass Island, and noted that some were captured by local boys at a bathing beach on South Bass Island in 1952. It occupies unconsolidated, sandy bottom along the shoreline of Presque Isle in waters 1-5 feet in depth. Although there is little specific data on water quality requirements, a report by Beeton (1961) concluded the change in bottom fauna of Lake Erie, which corresponds to reported declines in A. pellucida (Trautman 1981, Van Meter and Trautman 1970), indicated an increase in the organic component of the sediments. In the western basin island area the bacteria load increased threefold between 1913 and 1946, average total nitrogen increased from 0.265 ppm in 1942 to 0.83 ppm in 1958, free ammonia from 0.013 in 1930 to 0.092 in 1958, and total phosphorous increased from 14.4 ppb in 1942 to 36 ppb in 1959.
Systems: Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Main threats are (1) loss of habitat (clean sandy substrate) due to siltation, (2) construction of impoundments and regulation of flow resulting in changes in high flow conditions important to creating and maintaining habitat as well as sufficient flow during summer or droughts, and (3) reduction in water quality due to point and nonpoint source pollution (Trautman 1981, Spreitzer 1979, Kuehne and Barbour 1983, Cooper 1983, Smith 1985, Barnes and Carline 1977, Branson 1977, Van Meter and Trautman 1970, Page and Burr 1991, Herkert 1992, Simon 1993, Grandmaison et al. 2004).

Heavy siltation is a problem in highly industrialized and agricultural areas. Siltation can vary with the type of crops and tillage practices. Disturbance of riparian areas, such as levees or wetlands that represent silt traps can be a significant threat. Use of lampricide for management of sea lampreys could affect Lake Erie and Lake Champlain populations.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Currently, this species is of relatively low conservation concern and does not require significant additional protection or major management, monitoring, or research actions.

Citation: NatureServe 2013. Ammocrypta pellucida. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 30 May 2015.
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