What’s about five inches tall, olive yellow with dark spots, and apparently no longer extinct in the state of Ohio?
The answer is the longhead darter, a small to medium-sized fish that has been spotted in the state for the first time since 1939, as the Ohio Division of Wildlife announced on Facebook on January 6. .
“Why are we so excited? This striking creature, native to Ohio, was thought to have been extirpated from the state…that is, until fish management teams caught two this fall during electrofishing surveys at Ohio River bar,” the division wrote.
A species is considered extinct if it is locally extinct in a region or area but still present on the planet as a whole. Experts believed the longheaded darter had disappeared from Ohio because it was last seen in Buckeye State over 80 years ago when Milton B. Trautman caught seven in the Walhonding River, which is a tributary of the Muskingum River in east central Ohio.
“Fortunately for the Longheaded Darter and those of us concerned, this species is not extirpated from Buckeye State,” the Ohio Division of Wildlife wrote.
This does not mean that the fish has run out of hot water. Outside of Ohio, it occurs in the Ohio, Tennessee, and Allegheny River drainage systems in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Carolina of the North, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The American Fisheries Society considers it threatened in all states where it lives.
However, little is known about its population historically. In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List indicates that it does not have enough data to assess its conservation status.
The fish depends on clear water with gravel or rocky bottoms, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. For this reason, the biggest threat it faces is most likely pollution from agriculture, industry and development, the IUCN said.
That means his return to Ohio is an example of the success of the Clean Water Act, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Passed in 1972, the law has led to improved water quality in the Ohio River.
Thanks to cleaner water, fish are “certainly” making a comeback in Ohio, John Navarro, aquatic stewardship program administrator for the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The longhead darter is a carnivorous freshwater fish with striped fins.
“Like most species of darters, the longheaded darter is quite colorful,” wrote the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
It has a bright olive yellow back with more than 12 square spots. It also has connected spots along its sides.
“Longhead darters have a series of black spots on the side that are connected by a broad lateral stripe,” wrote the Guide to the Fish of Ohio. “Their spots are never taller than they are wide. They differ from the very similar dark and black darters by having a series of 3 dark spots along their jaw on each side of the head. The largest and most posterior of these often connects to a fairly distinct tear drop forming a dark crescent from the eye to the back of the jaw.