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Etheosomatidae is a species rich subfamily of freshwater ray-finned fish, the members of which are commonly known as the darters. The subfamily is part of the family Percidae which also includes the perches, ruffes and pikeperches. The family is endemic to North America. It consists of 3-5 different genera and well over 200 species.

Etheostoma blennioides.jpg
Etheostoma blennioides
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Percidae
Subfamily: Etheostomatinae
Agassiz, 1850[1]

see text


Species within the Etheostomatinae are all small fish, mostly less than 11 centimetres (4.3 in) in length and their bodies are slightly compressed or fusiform in shape. They have two pterygiophores between the first and second dorsal fins which do not have spines and they a reduced swimbladder which may be completely lacking.[2] The name darter becomes because these fish are seen to dart around in their habitat and these fish have benthic habits. They are sexually dimorphic and most species have males with bright colours and patterning, particularly when breeding and these colours and patterns are used to attract females and allow for recognition of species as the colours and patterns are particular to each species. Many species use typical sites for spawning and they care for their eggs and fry. They have evolved a variety of methods of depositing eggs and these include burying them, which may be the basal habit as it is found in all genera, as well as attaching eggs to a substrate and egg clustering.[3]


Etheostomatinae darters are endemic to North America where they are found in the Mississippi River basin and the drainages of the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, the seaboards of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast of Mexico.[3]


Fishbase recognises 5 genera as follows:[4][5]

However, Fishbase places Crystallaria within the subfamily Percinae[6] while the 5th Edition of Fishes of the World regard it as a subgenus of Ammocrypta and Nothonotus as a subgenus of Etheostoma.[2]


  1. ^ Richard van der Laan; William N. Eschmeyer & Ronald Fricke (2014). "Family-group names of Recent fishes". Zootaxa. 3882 (2): 001–230.
  2. ^ a b J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. pp. 448–450. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6.
  3. ^ a b Carol A. Stepien & Amanda Haponski (2015). "Taxonomy, Distribution, and Evolution of the Percidae". In Patrick Kestemont; Konrad Dabrowski & Robert C. Summerfelt (eds.). Biology and Culture of Percid Fishes. Springer, Dordrecht. pp. 3–60. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-7227-3_1. ISBN 978-94-017-7227-3.
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2019). "Etheostomatinae" in FishBase. December 2019 version.
  5. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Etheostomatinae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  6. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2019). Species of Crystallaria in FishBase. December 2019 version.