Search Order


Search for Fish by the Order Classification

Search Family


Search for Fish by the Family Classification

Search Species


Search for Fish by Species Classification



Brighteye Darter (Etheostoma lynceum)

View Page In PDF Format


Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 39762, USA


Etheostoma lynceum, or the brighteye darter, is one of the more colorful darters that can be found in Mississippi. This species can be found in most tributaries and drainages of the Mississippi River as well as in one location in eastern Asia. The goal was to review literature pertaining to this species in order to discover more information regarding topics such as ecology, reproduction, and conservation. The finding was that Etheostoma lynceum lives in slow moving rocky riffles near debris and prefers gravel or sand as a substrate. The brighteye darter can spawn multiple times in a breeding season and may contribute parental investment to their offspring. Conservation of this species is not a current concern as the brighteye darter has a population that is quite stable.

  • Fig. 1. Brighteye Darter (Etheostoma lynceum)

Context & Content[+] Expand

Superclass – Osteichthyes – Bony fishes

Class – Actinopterygii – Ray-finned fishes, Spiny rayed fishes

Subclass – Neopterygii – Neopterygians

Infraclass – Teleostei

Superorder – Acanthopterygii

Order – Perciformes – Perch-like fishes

Suborder – Percoidei

Family – Percidae – Perches, True perches

GenusEtheostoma – Smoothbelly darters

SpeciesEtheostoma lynceum – Brighteye Darter

General Characteristics[+] Expand

The darters have many similar characteristics, which make some species more difficult to distinguish. For example, most darters have five branchiostegal rays and many have similar colorations, especially in breeding males. Many factors have to be taken into consideration when determining the species of a given specimen.

The common name for Etheostoma lynceum is brighteye darter. The word "lynceum" in latin means "sharp sighted" (Ross, 2001). This species is characterized as having large pectoral fins, a horizontal mouth, a fairly blunt snout, and a wide pre-maxillary frenum. With exception to Etheostoma zonale, Etheostoma lynceum is the only other member of the subgenus Etheostoma containing five branchiostegal rays instead of six. In relation to the complete and straight lateral line, 4–5 scale rows are present above and 5–7 scale rows are present below. The nape and the opercle are fully covered in scales, while the belly, cheek, and breast can range from scaled to unscaled. 2 anal rays, 10–11 (7–13) dorsal spines, 14–15 (10–16) pectoral rays, 7–8 (6–9) anal rays, and 10–12 (8–13) dorsal rays are the norm for this fish species. The largest documented fish in this species is 65 mm (2.6 in.).

In regards to coloration, breeding males usually display more intense pigments than other members of the species. They may contain dark green bands and fins along with red basal bands occurring on the dorsal fins. The mouth and chest also appear green in color. Generally, fish in this species have a brown back with six or seven dark blotches forming irregular saddles. Encircling the body are between nine and twelve dark vertical stripes. Spots may be present on the sides of the body as well as underneath the head and body. Especially prominent in males are the two cream-colored spots located at the base of the caudal fin. On the other hand, females have dark oval or rectangular spots displayed on the fins as well as three to four irregular bands present on the caudal fin.

Distribution[+] Expand

Etheostoma lynceum is one of the many fish species native to the state of Mississippi. This particular species has been located in such areas as the tributaries of the Mississippi River on the Former Mississippi Embayment in western Kentucky, western Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Etheostoma lynceum have also been reported being seen in the Gulf coast drainages from Escatawpa River in Alabama to the Mississippi River in Louisiana. The species also inhabits an area in eastern Asia (FishBase, 2010). In general, this species is found in most river systems and drainages in Mississippi, the exception being the Tombigbee and Tennessee drainages (Ross, 2001).

Form & Function[+] Expand

The species most closely relating to the brighteye darter is the harlequin darter, Etheostoma histrio. This species displays a rust-colored marginal spot or band at the base of the spinous dorsal fin, while the brighteye darter instead displays a red band at this location and also lacks distinct pigmentation under the head (Ross, 2001). Etheostoma lynceum was once considered synonymous with Etheostoma zonale. Questions arose, however, due to the differences in appearance and the differences in habitat and meristic characters between the species. In addition, allopatric distributions in the absence of physical barriers preventing the possibility of sympatry gave sufficient evidence that these taxa required separation (Etnier, & Starnes, 1986).

Ontogeny & Reproduction[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Ecology[+] Expand

The brighteye darter normally occurs in rocky riffles of creeks, small rivers, and streams, as well as near debris in sand and gravel runs (FishBase, 2010). Etheostoma lynceum usually inhabits depths between 10 and 30 cm with exception to occupying deeper water in the colder months (Ross, 2001). A diet of midge and blackfly larvae as well as mayfly nymphs can be expected (FishBase, 2010).

Behavior[+] Expand

Spawning ranges from late February or the beginning of March to mid-May with water temperatures averaging between 12 and 22 degrees Celsius. The size of the fish determines the size of the clutch size. In other words, the larger the female, the more eggs she produces. The average number of eggs varies and in general is around 29 in March and 41 in April (Ross, 2001). In addition, intraseasonal trends in clutch-size and egg-size showed that in the early periods of the spawning season, there were shown to be smaller clutch sizes and larger eggs (Heins, Baker, & Guill, 2004).

Furthermore, the clutch-size increases as the spawning season goes on and the egg size decreases. These two traits demonstrate a slight negative correlation. Changes in egg and clutch-size may be the product of adaptive phenotypic plasticity wherein females are able to produce larger eggs that will become competitively superior offspring at the beginning of spawning. One explanation for doing so may be the low supply of food for the offspring or adults. This is explained by the parental investment hypothesis. Another explanation may be that the female produces larger eggs at the beginning of spawning to make sure that the eggs have adequate resources in case there is a chance that nutrients may be low at that time. This is known as the bet-hedging hypothesis. Although egg-size and clutch size both vary, there is less phenotypic variation in egg-size when compared to clutch-size.

Genetics[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Conservation[+] Expand

A decline in the Etheostoma lynceum population was observed in the Pearl River in 2004 and was thought to be contributed to channel changes and loss of gravel substrate (Bart, Piller, & Tipton, 2004). A study was done observing the effects of hurricanes on fish populations in different sized streams. Etheostoma lynceum was not found in the large stream samples, but was present in Black Creek along with other small streams. No major impacts were found regarding hurricanes and their effect on fish populations in the smaller streams that the brighteye darter was found to inhabit (Schaefer et al, 2006). Fortunately, brighteye darters in Mississippi currently maintain a stable population and therefore, the species is considered secure (Ross, 2001).

Acknowledgements[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Remarks[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Literature Cited[+] Expand

Bart, H.L., Piller, K.R., & Tipton, J.A. (2004). Decline of the frecklebelly madtom in the pearl river based on contemporary and historical surveys . Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 133(4), Retrieved from doi: 10.1577/T03-047.1

Basses Perches and Relatives: Perciformes-Physical Characteristics, Behavior and Reproduction, Perciformes and People, Conservation Status- Geographic Range, Habitat, Diet. (2011). Net industries. Retrieved March 27, 2011, from

Etheostoma lynceum hay. 1885 brighteye darter. (2010, October 06). Retrieved from speciesSummary.php%3Fgenusname%3DEtheostoma%26speciesname%3Dlynceum.

Etnier, D.A., & Starnes, W.C. (1986). Etheostoma lynceum removed from the synonymy of e. zonale (pisces, percidae). American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 1986(3), Retrieved from

Heins, D.C., & Baker, J.A. (1999). Evaluation of Ovum Storage Techniques for Reproductive Studies of Fishes. Ecology of Freshwater Fish.

Heins, D.C. Baker, J.A. & Dunlap, W.P. (1992). Yolk loading in oocytes of darters and its consequences for life-history study. Copeia 1992: 404-412.

Heins, D.C., Baker, J.A., & Guill, J.M. (2004). Seasonal and Interannual Components of Intrapopulation Variation in Clutch Size and Egg Size of a Darter. Ecology of Freshwater Fish.

Helfrich, L., Newcomb, T., Hallerman, E. & Stein, K. (2005) The Virtual Aquarium. Informally published manuscript, The Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA. Retrieved from

Johnston, C.E. (1994). Spawning behavior of the goldstripe darter (etheostoma parvipinne gilbert and swain) (percidae). American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 1994(3), Retrieved from

McEdward, L.R. & Coulter, L.K. 1987. Egg volume and energetic content are not correlated among sibling offspring of starfish: implications for life-history theory. Evolution 41: 914-9 17.

Itis Report. Etheostoma lynceum Hay in Jordan, 1885. (2011, February 01). Retrieved from

Percidae, (2011). Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved March 27, 2011, from

Ray-finned fish. (2011). Animal facts. Retrieved May 11, 2011, from

Ross, S.T. (2001). Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Schaefer, J., Mickle, P., Spaef, J., Kreiser, B.R., & Adams, S., Matamoros, W., Zuber, B., Vigueira, P., (2006). Effects of hurricane katrina on the fish fauna of the pascagoula river drainage. Retrieved from

Order[+] Expand

Perciformes, also called the Percomorphi or Acanthopteri, are the largest order of vertebrates, containing about 40% of all bony fish. Perciformes means "perch-like". They belong to the class of ray-finned fish, and comprise over 10,000 species found in almost all aquatic environments. The order contains about 160 families, which is the most of any order within the vertebrates.[1] It is also the most variably sized order of vertebrates, ranging from the 7–mm (1/4–in) Schindleria brevipinguis to the marlins in the Makaira species and the heaviest of bony fish, Mola mola. They first appeared and diversified in the Late Cretaceous. Among the well-known members of this group are cichlids, California sheephead, sunfish/bluegills, damselfish, bass, and perch.

Family[+] Expand

The Percidae are a family of perciform fish found in fresh and brackish waters of the Northern Hemisphere. The majority are Nearctic, but there are also Palearctic species. The family contains about 200 species in 10 genera. The darters, perches, and their relatives are in this family; well–known species include the walleye, sauger, ruffe, and three species of perch. However, small fishes known as darters are also a part of this family.

About This Project.

This website is an ongoing project by Ichthyology students of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture, within the College of Forest Resources to provide information on the biology and ecology of fishes that occur in Mississippi. These accounts were written by undergraduate students as a course assignment, generally follow the format of Mammalian Species, and nomenclature follows Nelson 1994.

Generic placeholder image