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Rediscovery of the Flame Chub (Hemitremia flammea) in Kentucky


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#1 Guest_jblaylock_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 03:06 PM

Article from KDFWR Commissioner's Newsletter
Dec. 2011: Vol 6, #12

Most biologists consider the vertebrate animals of Kentucky to be wellknown, but occasionally surprises do turn up. On August 19, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife ichthyologists, Matt Thomas and Stephanie Brandt, collected the Flame Chub for the first time in Kentucky since its initial discovery in the early 1880s. Ten individuals of this small minnow species were captured in Spring Creek, a small spring-fed stream in the upper Red River (lower Cumberland) drainage in Simpson County. The current range of the Flame Chub lies mostly within Tennessee, with small portions in northern Alabama and Georgia. Most populations are known from springs and cool spring-fed creeks. The Flame Chub is a small fish, growing to about 3 inches with a life span of 2-3 years. During the spawning period in early spring, males develop brilliant red color on the lower sides of the body, hence the common name. The Flame Chub records in Kentucky from the mid-1870s to early 1880s were from the Laurel River and Clear Fork drainages, both in the upper Cumberland River basin. No other collections of this minnow have been reported and it was thought to have long since disappeared from the state. The individuals collected from Spring Creek in August represent an entirely new population and northern extension of the speciesí current range. These fish were photographed, euthanized and preserved, and will be archived in the Southern Illinois University
Ichthyological Collection. Tissue samples will be sent to researchers at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute for DNA analysis to determine relationships of these specimens to other known populations. Springs are known for having good water quality and they support unique plant and animal communities; however, they are also fragile habitats easily degraded by various forms of development and land-use activities. Recent surveys in Tennessee and Alabama have shown declines in Flame Chub populations due to alteration or elimination of spring habitats. An important next step will be to gain a better understanding of the population in Spring Creek and systematically survey other springs and associated habitats in south-central Kentucky for other potential occurrences. Successful management and protection of this unique minnow and its spring habitat will be dependent on the cooperation of private landowners.


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#2 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 05:57 PM

It always confuses me when biologists find something new and go "ooh! Euthanize it!"
I once heard a story of an African cichlid female that was found with a brood of young in her mouth. This was a species that had previously been thought to be extinct. So the response of the biologists was to remove the young, euthanize, and preserve her.
Did they have to kill all ten in this story? Do they need that many to verify which species it is?

Edited by EricaWieser, 21 December 2011 - 05:58 PM.


#3 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:28 PM

Nice! Josh! Get to know Matt Thomas! Great guy, made our Kentucky trips much more productive. Matt

#4 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:29 PM

That'll be interesting if they really turn out to be flames. Brooks Burr of the Illinois Natural History Survey has been of the opinion that the specimens identified as flame chubs from Kentucky mentioned in that press release were not flame chubs, but misidentified, and then disappeared anyway. This would be the first real find of the species in the state. It would be unusual since almost all other flame chub populations are in the Tennessee drainage.

#5 Guest_daveneely_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 06:43 PM

Hey Bruce,

They're flames (at least sensu lato). There's quite a few populations in portions of the Cumberland, just none quite that far north... including a late 1920s record from spitting distance of the TN/KY line, NNE of Nashville. I suspect Brooks was questioning the veracity of the record just because of the lack of recent records -- based on this I wouldn't be so sure.

#6 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 07:57 PM

Red river is Ohio drainage. The info says upper Cumberland?

#7 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 08:03 PM

Red bird is in the Cumberland.

#8 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 08:10 PM

Hey Bruce,

They're flames (at least sensu lato). There's quite a few populations in portions of the Cumberland, just none quite that far north... including a late 1920s record from spitting distance of the TN/KY line, NNE of Nashville. I suspect Brooks was questioning the veracity of the record just because of the lack of recent records -- based on this I wouldn't be so sure.

You're right, I drove by that historic site NNE of Nashville which is now in suburbia; I didn't have a chance to see if any flames are left, though. And of course the fish could well have been in this area all along with no one noticing, how many people would have gone looking for them?

#9 Guest_jblaylock_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 09:06 PM

About the drainages. The Red Bird is upper Kentucky River. The Red Bird River actually turns in to one of the forks of the KY. There are 2 Red Rivers in KY. One flows into the middle KY and the other is a part of the lower Cumberland River. This fish was found in the southern Red River that is a part of the Cumberland.

#10 Guest_gzeiger_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 10:17 PM

Thanks Erica, for posting what I was about to.

Really, you find a new population and kill every individual you can find?

#11 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 10:40 PM

I seriously doubt they killed every individual they found. And frankly if the population was that small, they're done in nature anyway.

#12 Guest_jblaylock_*

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 10:04 AM

I seriously doubt they killed every individual they found. And frankly if the population was that small, they're done in nature anyway.


That was my thought too. They likely didn't kill every one, and they likely didn't catch everyone that was in the creek. 10 fish in one creek will likely not last anyways.

#13 Guest_Aquaman_*

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 01:39 PM

A more efficient way would be cut a small piece of the tail fin for DNA analysis instead of preserving a specimen. You can then return the fish back to the stream.

Scott

#14 Guest_blakemarkwell_*

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 03:23 PM

A more efficient way would be cut a small piece of the tail fin for DNA analysis instead of preserving a specimen. You can then return the fish back to the stream.

Scott


Yes, but that doesn't do anything for morphologists who may want to compare these to previously known populations. All new populations need vouchers, and this is certainty justifiable given it's disjunction and rarity in Kentucky. Please don't mistake science with hobby, as these specimens will be accessible to scientists for years to come. Sadly, they'll probably be around longer than the spring they inhabit given the pro-growth position that many citizens (and elected officials) hold.

All it takes is a glance at the population clock and an understanding of urban sprawl to adopt the 'get them in freezers and ethanol' mantra, especially when you have growing groups like the FLDS with 20-60 children per individual! Unfortunately, these mini-Semotilus settled and evolved in a more fragmented and fragile habitat than their bigger cousins. Kinda like the 'choice' of Etheostoma sagitta and Plethodon wehrlei to live near coal seams (boy, if hindsight were 20:20!)....

Thanks for posting this, Josh -- what an excellent find!

Edited by blakemarkwell, 22 December 2011 - 03:29 PM.


#15 Guest_Newt_*

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 05:32 PM

Fantastic! I live on the Red River (way downstream) and have been in many Red River drainage springs, both in Tennessee and Kentucky, but never even considered that these little beauties might be around. If the area around this creek is like the rest of the Red drainage (which is basically coextensive with the relatively flat, rich-soiled, karsty Pennroyal Plateau) then it's intensively grazed and cultivated with very poor or no buffers around the springs and streams. I hope the landowners around the site will be willing to protect it. I worked with some water quality improvement programs in the area a few years ago, mostly involving creating vegetated buffers between sinks and streams and ag fields, and landowner cooperation was grudging and expensive.

#16 Guest_jblaylock_*

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 08:57 PM

Ok, so this fish hasn't been found/recorded in KY since the late 1800's. Is this a case of it being there and just not located or something else (bait bucket transfer, migration, etc...). I would assume those KY Biologist sampled in nearby streams to find other populations. The article doesn't mention this, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen. What's the chances this is an isolated population?

#17 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 09:24 PM

It could be isolated now; it may not have been an isolated population say, 200 years ago, before the area was heavily settled and transformed. But there have been flame chub populations of mysterious status in Calhoun County, Alabama, that are (were?) well separated from populations in the Tennessee Valley. Flames have such particular preferences for environmental conditions that they're inherently spread around in small spring-runs for the most part, or streams that are heavily spring-fed. Combine that with the fact that regional fish collections didn't really get under way under after WWII, and it's a puzzling record to reconstruct.



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