Fantail Darter
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up bottom view of mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • The sides show many fine horizontal stripes over 9-13 blotches/bars; there are 41-53 lateral line scales of which 27-35 are pored.
  • Close-up head: Notice the terminal mouth, the frenum, and the unscaled cheeks; there are 12-13 pectoral rays.
  • Close-up dorsal fin: The 1st dorsal lobe is short and has 7-8 spines, the 2nd lobe has 13-14 rays, there is a very slight gap between the lobes.
  • This male shows numerous fine dark lateral stripes over diffuse lateral bars.
  • Bottom view of a male: Notice the broadly attached opercles, the black throat, and the normal-sized pelvic fins.
  • Close-up anal fin of a male: The anal fin has 2 spines and 7-8 rays and displays a yellow and black coloration indicating a breeder.
  • Close-up anal fin of a male breeder: Notice the yellow and black anal fin.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have a black head, a yellow belly and yellow fins, and the tips of the first dorsal lobe are swollen and egg-like.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have a black head, a yellow belly and yellow fins, and the tips of the first dorsal lobe are swollen and egg-like.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have a black head, a yellow belly and yellow fins, and the tips of the first dorsal lobe are swollen and egg-like.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have a black head, a yellow belly and yellow fins, and the tips of the first dorsal lobe are swollen and egg-like.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have a black head, a yellow belly and yellow fins, and the tips of the first dorsal lobe are swollen and egg-like.
  • Close-up head of a breeding male: The throat is black and the cheeks are unscaled.
  • Close-up dorsal fin of a breeding male: The dorsal fin has a dark base, a yellow middle and edge, and the tips of the spines are swollen and egg-like.
  • Bottom view of a breeding male: Notice the black throat.
  • Alternative view of the caudal region.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Perches (Percidae)
Body
Mouth and snout: Mouth terminal, oblique, small teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Back brown or black with 9-13 diffuse blotches or saddles. Sides olive-brown or yellow-brown with 9-13 diffuse dark brown or greenish blotches or irregular vertical bars, overlain with many thin dark lateral stripes. Belly cream or tan. First dorsal with dark base, clear margin. Second dorsal and caudal heavily spotted or with mottled wavy bands; other fins lightly pigmented. 41-53 ctenoid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body fusiform to cylindrical and elongated; round to oval in cross section. Typically 35-65 mm (1.5-2.5 in) TL; maximum about 75 mm (3 in).
Fins
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded or square tail. Dorsal fin with 2 lobes, slightly connected or separated, the first with 7-8 (usually 8) spines and the second with 13-14 (usually 13) rays. Pelvic fins thoracic. Adipose fin absent. Anal fin with 2 spines and 7-8 (usually 7) rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The fantail darter can be distinguished by its lack of a modified scale between the pelvic fins and its pigment/color pattern. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males with very dark back and pronounced lateral stripes. Head black (including throat). Belly and fins yellowish or gold. First dorsal with golden egg-like knobs at the tip of each spine.
Juveniles
Similar to adults.
Hybrids
None known from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Dorsal Spine/Rays
Darter, Banded10-12/11-12
Darter, Fantail7-8/13-14
Darter, Iowa8-12/10-12
Darter, Least5-7/9/10
Darter, Mud10-12/10-14
Darter, Orangethroat8-12/11-15
Darter, Rainbow8-13/10-15
Anal Rays
Darter, Banded7-10
Darter, Fantail7-8
Darter, Iowa7-9
Darter, Least5-6
Darter, Mud8-9
Darter, Orangethroat4-8
Darter, Rainbow6-8
Lateral Scales
Darter, Banded41-53, all pored
Darter, Fantail41-53, 27-35 pored
Darter, Iowa55-65, 18-28 pored
Darter, Least32-38, 0-7 pored
Darter, Mud45-50, 25-43 pored
Darter, Orangethroat42-50, 10-38 pored
Darter, Rainbow37-49, 20-34 pored
Body Pigmentation Pattern
Darter, Banded6-7 saddles on back; 8-13 blotches or vertical bars not extending onto back or belly except in males where bright green bars encircle body; blotch at base of tail
Darter, Fantail9-13 faint saddles on back; 9-13 irregular vertical bars extending onto back but not belly, overlain with many thin horizontal stripes; no spots at base of tail
Darter, IowaAbout 8 saddles on back; dark mottling often with 9-12 blotches/vertical bars not extending onto back or belly; blotch at base of tail
Darter, Least6-9 blotches on back; mottled, with 7-12 small irregular blotches; blotch at base of tail
Darter, Mud8-11 saddles on back; 9-12 blotches or irregular vertical bars, often partly fused along lateral line, encircling c. peduncle; 3 vertical spots at tail base
Darter, Orangethroat3-11 saddles on back; about 8 blotches or irregular dark vertical bars not extending onto back or belly, faint thin horizontal stripes on upper sides; blotch at base of tail
Darter, Rainbow3-11 saddles on back; 8-13 regular vertical bars extending onto back but not belly, encircling caudal peduncle; no spots at base of tail
Other Characteristics
Darter, BandedGill membranes broadly attached, usually 13-15 pectoral rays; breeding males with green throat and anal fin; cheek scaled
Darter, FantailGill membranes broadly attached; 12-13 pectoral rays; breeding males with black throat and anal fin; cheek unscaled
Darter, IowaGill membranes narrowly attached; 12-14 pectoral rays; breeding males with cream throat; greenish-blue anal fin; cheek scaled
Darter, LeastGill membranes narrowly attached; usually 10 pectoral rays; breeding males with gray throat, brick-red anal fin; cheek scaled
Darter, MudGill membranes narrowly attached; usually 13-14 pectoral rays; breeding males with blue-gray throat, blue anal fin; cheek scaled
Darter, OrangethroatGill membranes narrowly attached, usually ≤12 pectoral rays; breeding males with orange throat, blue anal fin; cheek with a few scales
Darter, RainbowGill membranes narrowly attaches; usually 13 pectoral rays; breeding males with blue-black throat, orange anal fin; cheek largely unscaled
Similarity Index
Darter, BandedVery similar
Darter, FantailN/A
Darter, IowaModerately similar
Darter, LeastModerately similar
Darter, MudVery similar
Darter, OrangethroatVery similar
Darter, RainbowVery similar
Comments
Darter, OrangethroatNot known from WI, but occurs in Illinois very close to the border, so conceivable as a stray
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