Mud 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 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 9-12 blotches/bars, 45-50 lateral line scales (25-43 pored), and three faint vertical spots at the base of the tail.
  • Close-up head: Notice the terminal mouth, the frenum, the scaled cheeks; there are usually 13-14 pectoral rays.
  • Close-up dorsal fin: The 1st dorsal fin has 10-12 spines, the 2nd has 10-14 rays, there is a gap between lobes.
  • Side view of a male: The sides show 9-12 blue vertical bars with red coloration in between.
  • Close-up anal fin of a male: The anal fin has 2 spines and 8-9 rays and blue coloration without orange.
  • Close-up underside of head of a male: Notice the narrowly attached opercles, the gray throat, and the normal-sized pelvic fins.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have blue vertical bars interspersed with red, the anal fin is blue, the throat is gray.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males have blue vertical bars interspersed with red, the anal fin is blue, the throat is gray.
  • Close-up caudal region: Males have blue vertical bars interspersed with red, and 3 irregular blue spots at the base of the tail.
  • Close-up underside of head: The throat is gray.
  • Close-up dorsal fin: The lower half of the dorsal fin is green-blue, the middle portion shows a red band, the margin is again green-blue.
  • Close-up anal fin: The anal fin is bluish without any orange.
  • Close-up head: The throat is grayish and the cheek is scaled.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: They are similar to adults, but less colorful and more nondescript.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: They are similar to adults, but less colorful and more nondescript.
  • Alternative side view.
  • Alternative side view of an adult.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Perches (Percidae)
Body
Mouth and snout: Mouth terminal, slightly oblique, small teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Back olive or brown with 8-11 dark saddles or blotches. Sides with about 9-12 dark brown blotches or irregular vertical bars, sometimes fused along lateral line to give vague appearance of a diffuse lateral stripe; 3 blotches or spot arranged vertically at base of tail. Belly cream or light olive. First dorsal with dark base, then orange horizontal band, then dark margin. Second dorsal and caudal mottled or with diffuse bands; other fins lightly pigmented. 45-50 ctenoid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body fusiform to cylindrical and slightly elongated; round to oval in cross section. Typically 35-50 mm (1.5-2 in) TL; maximum about 65 mm (2.5 in).
Fins
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded or square tail. Dorsal fin with 2 lobes, slightly connected or separated, the first with 10-12 (usually 10) spines and the second with 10-14 (usually 13) rays. Pelvic fins thoracic. Adipose fin absent. Anal fin with 2 spines and 8-9 (usually 8) rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The mud darter can be distinguished by its color pattern and by its lack of a modified scale between the pelvic fins. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males with greenish-blue vertical bars with orange-red pigment in-between them (most pronounced on caudal peduncle). Head blue-gray. Belly orange-red. First dorsal with greenish-blue base, then orange-red band, then blue at margin; similar but less pronounced pattern on second dorsal and caudal fin. Anal fin with blue at base, pelvic and pectoral fins dusky.
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 Pigment 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, FantailModerately similar
Darter, IowaModerately similar
Darter, LeastModerately similar
Darter, MudN/A
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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