Least Darter
  • Side view of an adult female with frayed tail.
  • Side view of an adult female with frayed tail.
  • Side view of an adult male with a deformed spine.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank of a male.
  • Close-up head of a male.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Bottom view of a male: The opercles are narrowly attached, the throat is gray, the pelvic fins are large.
  • The sides show 6-9 irregular blotches and 32-38 lateral line scales of which 0-7 are pored.
  • Close-up of head: The mouth is terminal, a frenum is present, the cheeks are scaled.
  • Close-up dorsal fin of a male: The 1st dorsal has 5-7 spines, the 2nd dorsal has 9-10 rays, there is a small gap between lobes.
  • Flank of a male: The sides are light colored with 6-9 irregular blotches, 32-38 lateral line scales and usually 10 pectoral rays.
  • Close-up anal fin: The anal fin has 1-2 spines and 5-6 rays.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males show enlarged pelvic fins; pelvic, anal, and 1st dorsal fins are of orange-red color; the throat is gray.
  • Side views of male (top) and female (bottom): Males show enlarged pelvic fins; pelvic, anal, and 1st dorsal fins are of orange-red color; the throat is gray.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males show enlarged pelvic fins; pelvic, anal, and 1st dorsal fins are of orange-red color; the throat is gray.
  • Alternative side view.
  • Johnny darter (top), least darter (bottom); both have a strong similarity in appearance.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Perches (Percidae)
Body
Mouth and snout: Mouth terminal, oblique, small teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Back dark olive or brown with faint blotches. Sides mottled with 7-12 dark blotches. Belly cream. First dorsal mottled, often with dark band at margin; second dorsal and caudal with several rows of spots or horizontal bands; other fins lightly pigmented. 32-38 ctenoid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body fusiform to cylindrical and slightly elongated; slightly laterally compressed anteriorly; round to oval in cross section. Typically 25-35 mm (1-1.5 in) TL; maximum about 45 mm (1.8 in).
Fins
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded or square tail. Dorsal fin with 2 lobes, slightly separated, the first with 5-7 (usually 6) spines and the second with 9-10 rays. Pelvic fins thoracic. Adipse fin absent. Anal fin with 1 or 2 spines and 5-6 (usually 6) rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The least darter can be distinguished by its combination of 38 or fewer lateral-line scales with only 0-7 pored, 5-6 anal rays, its lack of a modified scale between the pelvic fins, and its pigment/color pattern. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males with enlarged pelvic fins, orange-red pelvic and anal fins, red spots on membranes of first dorsal fin, and small tubercles on pelvic and anal fins.
Juveniles
Similar to adults.
Hybrids
None
Compare Similar Species
Body Depth/SL
Darter, Bluntnose14-18%
Darter, Crystal11-13%
Darter, Iowa14-18%
Darter, Johnny14-18%
Darter, Least16-20%
Darter, Western Sand11-13%
Frenum
Darter, BluntnoseAbsent
Darter, CrystalPresent
Darter, IowaPresent
Darter, JohnnyAbsent
Darter, LeastPresent
Darter, Western SandAbsent
Snout Stripe
Darter, BluntnoseContinuous over snout
Darter, CrystalContinuous over snout
Darter, IowaGap at tip of snout
Darter, JohnnyGap at tip of snout
Darter, LeastContinuous or gap at tip
Darter, Western SandAbsent or gap at tip
Anal Spines/Rays
Darter, Bluntnose1/7-9
Darter, Crystal1/15-16
Darter, Iowa2/7-9
Darter, Johnny1/7-9
Darter, Least1-2/5-6
Darter, Western Sand1/9-12
Dorsal Spines/Rays
Darter, Bluntnose8-9/9-11, lobes separate
Darter, Crystal14/14-16, lobes close
Darter, Iowa8-12/10-12, lobes separate
Darter, Johnny7-9/11-14, lobes close
Darter, Least5-7/9-10, lobes close
Darter, Western Sand10-12/9-12, lobes far apart
Lateral Scales
Darter, Bluntnose52-58, <25 pored
Darter, Crystal9-95, all pored
Darter, Iowa55-65, <35 pored
Darter, Johnny37-50, all pored
Darter, Least32-38, 0-7 pored
Darter, Western Sand69-81, all pored
Similarity Index
Darter, BluntnoseVery similar
Darter, CrystalVery similar
Darter, IowaVery similar
Darter, JohnnyVery similar
Darter, LeastN/A
Darter, Western SandVery similar
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