Monday, March 3, 2014

Etheostoma, America's most Political Fish

Redspot Darter
This post was originally titled Darters, America's most Patriotic Fish.  But the post morphed as I did a little bit of research.

The males of many species of darters (Etheostoma) turn brilliant shades of red, white and blue as breeding season approaches.  Darters are small, minnow sized and shaped fish that live in gently flowing creeks and streams.  They tend to show wide variation in how their "plumage" looks. 

Lumpers and splitters

Biologists fall into two groups:  Lumpers and Splitters.  Splitters are quick to identify new species based on minor variation in appearance.  It is rumored that one directionally challenged "splitter" once identified the same specimen of Hawthorn as two different species due to the variation in the appearance of the leaves from one side of the tree to the other.

Splitters love the genus Etheostomata.

Etheostoma stigmaeum (Stigmatized Darter, literally) was split up into five separate species in 2012.
  • Etheostoma obama
  • Etheostoma gore
  • Etheostoma jimmycarter
  • Etheostoma clinton
  • and Etheostoma teddyroosevelt
 You cannot make this stuff up.

OK, who will be the first to find an Etheostoma tobykeith and an Etheostoma tednugent?

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