eastern sand darter

Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida)

The eastern sand darter occurs east of the Mississippi from southern Illinois and Kentucky through the Mississippi, Ohio, and Great Lakes drainages to southern Michigan and southern Ontario. It occurs in Lake Erie and its tributaries but the only New York records are from Cattaraugus Creek near Gowanda and Irving, and Cazenovia Creek near Buffalo where it was taken in 1893 by A. J. Woolman. There are no records from Lake Ontario but it is present in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal where it was reported as common as recently as 1941. The Biological Survey (conducted in the 1920's and 1930's) collected it in the Little Salmon River near Ft. Covington and J. Platt confirmed that it still is present by collecting a single specimen in 1980. In 1935, it was taken in the Lamoille River in Vermont about four miles from Lake Champlain. In 1979, we found a breeding population (as indicated by the presence of juveniles) in the Mettawee River south of Whitehall. Recently, it has been collected in the Poultney River on the border between New York and Vermont. The absence of this species from Lake Ontario suggests that it may have reached Lake Champlain through glacial connections in the Mohawk Valley and glacial Lake Albany, although a more northern route is possible.

The sand darter is restricted to moderate-sized streams with clean sandy bottoms. This species is apparently becoming scarce throughout much of its range, and this decline is ascribed to habitat degradation. The sand darter requires fine sand with currents slow enough to retain sand but fast enough to prevent deposition of fine silt. Clearing the land for agriculture has probably resulted in silting of many streams that were formerly suited for the sand darter.

Several authors have reported that the sand darter dives into the sandy bottom and then lies concealed with only its eyes showing. From this position it ambushes its prey, mainly midge larvae and entomostracans.

This fish is considered endangered in New York State. For more information about the legal status of this fish, please see the North American Native Fishes Association at http://www.nanfa.org


Distribution of the eastern sand darter in NY state.

An image of the sand darter is also available for download.

The above species description and all pictures of this fish were taken out of "The Inland Fishes of New York State" by C. Lavett Smith, published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 1985.

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