Leopard Darter (Percina pantherina)
(Federally listed as Threatened)
Description: The Leopard Darter is a small fish that rarely exceeds three inches in length. It gets its name from the row of 11 to 14 dark blotches that run along each side of the body. Its background color is a light yellowish-olive. It feeds on small aquatic insects and other invertebrates.
Habitat: Leopard Darters live among the rocks and cobble on the bottom of clear, swift-flowing small rivers in the southern Ouachita Mountains. During the summer, fall and winter, they occupy clear pools within the rivers that are usually less than six feet deep. During the spring, they move into riffles to spawn.
Current and Historic Distribution: In Oklahoma, the Leopard Darter currently lives in three isolated populations within the Little River watershed. One population occurs in the Little River above Pine Creek Reservoir, one occurs in the Glover River and the third occurs in the Mountain Fork River above Broken Bow Reservoir. There are two additional isolated populations in Arkansas. Historically, these Leopard Darter populations were connected and the darter occupied larger portions of these rivers.
Reasons for Decline: Reservoir construction has had the greatest impact on the Leopard Darter’s population. Reservoirs have fragmented and isolated its populations, have permanently inundated much of their habitat and made it too deep to be suitable, and have altered flow patterns and temperatures below dams.