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Freckle Belly Madtom (Noturus munitus)


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

  • Fig. 1. Freckle Belly Madtom (Noturus munitus)
  • Fig. 2. Geographic Distribution of Noturus munitus. It occupies large and medium-sized rivers mostly on the Gulf Coastal Plain, with an additional population in upland areas in the upper Coosa River.

Context & Content[+] Expand

Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Actinopterygii, Order Siluriformes, Family Ictaluridae, Genus Noturus, Species N. munitus. munitus meaning armed, referring to the excessive development of both anterior and posterior pectoral fin serrae. With 29 species, Noturus is the most species-rich genus in the North and Central American catfish family Ictaluridae. (Etnier and Starnes1993).

General Characteristics[+] Expand

The Freckle belly Madtom is a species from the family Ictaluridae with a distinct color and marking, which separates this madtom from other madtoms in its family. The color of the fish species is an anterior mixture of light yellows with brownish patch areas, which resembles a golden color, with the purpose of camouflaging the fish on gravel filled sandy steams. One, unique trait of the fish are the four distinct saddles, which line the back and side portions of the fish. On the Venter this fish exhibits a lighter color with a combination of many scattered specks or freckles. According to (Suttkus and Taylor 1965) this is where the fish had derived its common name. There are a total of eight fins on the fish for movement in their environment.

It is composed of two pectoral fins, two pelvic fins, anal fin, dorsal fin, and a caudal fin or tail. The color variation on the fins can vary, but usually consist of several chromatophores. On the chin and nasal portions of the mouth of the fish there are barbels, which act sensory mechanism to allow them to find food.

The size of this species is very small and unless intent on searching one out they would be rather hard to locate because they are also nocturnal. The maximum body size is 99mm (3.9 in). (Ethnier and Starnes 1993) The largest specimen from Mississippi is 78mm (3.1 in) SL, with a TL of 91mm (3.6 in), taken from a small tributary of the Pearl River in Marion County. (Ross 2001.).

Species similar to the freckle belly madtom include the. Northern Madtom, Noturus stigmosus, Brindled Madtom, Noturus miurus, Piebald Madtom, Noturus gladiator, Neosho Madtom N. placidus.

Distribution[+] Expand

(Freckle belly Madtom), is distributed in small areas across the southeastern United States. This species displays characteristics of a specialist, in that is only endemic to particular areas of steams and rivers. Unfortunately, because of the species requirements for habitat is so precise there are only a few areas in the south where they display high numbers. (Bennett et al. 2008, Boschung and Mayden 2004, Piller et al. 2004, Shepard 2004).

In addition, this particular threatened species of madtom is on the list protecting them from future extinction. (Bennett et al. 2008, Jelks et al. 2008). (Trauth et al. (1981). In particular the species occurs within the states of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. (M.G. Bennett et al. 2010). Within the states of Georgia up into the state Tennessee the species inhabits the Coosa River Systems. Majority of their habitat in this system resides in the North Georgia Mountains. (M.G. Bennett et al. 2010).

In the state of Alabama the freckle belly madtom can be found wondering the Sipsey River. Crossing over from Alabama to Mississippi along the Buttahatchie River there is a large area of habitat. The largest habitat by far and all other states is in Mississippi in the Pearl River Drainage and the Bogue Chitto River. (M.G. Bennett et al. 2010).

Form & Function[+] Expand

On the fins of the freckle belly madtom the pectoral spines have up to eight notorious, teeth or spikes on the edge, which they can use to sting other predators, which try to disturb them. If familiar with the Family Ictaluridae you know the other spine to get you is the one on the dorsal fin, which has up to 7 rays. There are also rays on the pelvic fins, and anal fins. The anal fin on the fishes is very large and contain up to 15 rays. (Ross 2001.)

The mouth and nasal areas contain barbells for searching for and locating food. Sort of like a sensory system, because they have small eye and very poor eye site.

Ontogeny & Reproduction[+] Expand

There is very little known on the breeding behaviors of the freckle belly madtom. As discussed earlier this species is nocturnal and for the most part is only active during the night. Furthermore, the habitat the species occurs in is generally lotic systems so the waters are flowing and would be hard to study these behaviors during the time periods of spawning. According to (Trauth et al. 1981). Reproduction for this species is said to occur between the months of June and July in their ranges in the state of Mississippi. It is said that the female of this species produces 50-70 eggs, which are all released all at one time in the mid or late summer.

According to (Burr and Stoeckel 1999). The freckle belly madtom matches the reproductive maturity traits associated with other madtoms, which is in the second summer after following birth.

While no nests of Noturus munitus have been found, different sex ratios in summer (2 females to 1 male) versus fall (1:1), as well as lack of adults in summer, may result from males moving to pools (where wading sampling is not possible) to prepare nesting sites while females remain more evenly dispersed among different habitats (Burr and Stoeckel 1999, Clugston and Cooper 1960, Mayden and Burr 1981).

While phylogeny can be used to infer traits of closely related species, there are still gaps in our understanding of the reproductive biology with regard to the evolutionary relationships among the species. For example, nesting biology and habitat has yet to be determined for Noturus munitus, and although these data could potentially be inferred from close relatives Noturus placidus and Noturus stigmosus (Hardman 2004), there is also very little information for these species (Burr and Stoeckel 1999, Holm and Mandrak 2001, Maclnnis 1998).

Ecology[+] Expand

The Freckle belly Madtom preferred habitat is associated with large water systems in lotic streams of flowing waters. They are very particular about their habitat, which needs to consist of various sizes of gravel. Cover and concealment in these systems are also a must for the species. Areas of small pebbles and rumbled are preferred over areas that do not exhibit these features. (Suttkus and Taylor 1965; W. R. Taylor 1969.) So the typical muddy creeks and rivers would not be a desired habitat for this species. The primary habitat of this species prefers fast moving streams often associated with rivers and their tributaries. (Suttkus and Taylor1965; Mettee et al. 1996).

Along with main other species man made structures have lead to the decline of the freckle belly madtom. Production of dams on rivers, and other man made river modifications have left the species imperiled. (Burr and Stoeckel 1999, Jelks et al. 2008). As a result many lotic systems the species once used have been turned lentic. In general the Lotic habitats throughout the southeastern United States have been subjected to numerous human caused modifications over the past 50 years (Craig and Kemper 1987; Brookes 1988; Benke 1990; Richter et al. 1997). Also, the once gravel filled streams have been filled with runoff and sediments from agriculture and other land modifications.

Since the 1950's there has been a lot of economical, agricultural, and industrial development around areas of inhabitation of the species, which has caused significant declines of the species populations.

Behavior[+] Expand

The freckle belly madtom primary food source or diet is aquatic insects. Caddisflies, Mayflies, Blackflies, and midges are some of there primary sources of nutrition. Although they're particular food source stays constant throughout the year. Over the fall months the males typically prefer caddisflies, whereas the females prefer midges. (G. Miller 1984). Seasonal changes along with prey availability and possible breeding behavior may alter the feeding characteristics of the species.(Burr and Stoeckel 1999, Miller 1984).

Genetics[+] Expand

There is no information on the subject at this time

Conservation[+] Expand

There are a lot of efforts put forth to protect this species. It has been place on the threatened with extinction list, which protects their systems from being altered in anyway, and if the rivers are flowing no man made device will threaten their habitat. Furthermore, the Family Ictaluridae is the most threatened fish in the southern United States. (Piller et al. 2004). With that said out of the 29 species from the family more than 50% are at risk. (Burr and Stoeckel 1999, Jelks et al. 2008).

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

Benke, A. C. 1990. A perspective on America's vanishing streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 9:77–88.

Bennett, M.G., B.R. Kuhajda, and J.H. Howell. 2008. Status of the imperiled Frecklebelly Madtom, Noturus munitus (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae): A review of data from field surveys, museum records, and the literature. Southeastern Naturalist 7:459^74.

Boschung, H.T., Jr., and R.L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Press, Washington, DC. 736 pp.

Brookes, A. 1988. Channelized rivers: perspectives for environmental management. Wiley, New York.

Burr, B.M., and J.N. Stoeckel. 1999. The natural history of madtoms (genus Noturus). North America's diminutive catfishes. American Fisheries Society Symposium 24:51-101.

Butler, R.S., and R.L. Mayden. 2003. Cryptic biodiversity. Endangered Species Bulletin 28:24-26.

Clugston, J.P., and E.L. Cooper. 1960. Growth of the Common Eastem Madtom, Noturus insignis, in central Pennsylvania. Copeia 1960:9-16.

Craig, J. F. and J. B. Kemper. 1987. Regulated streams: advances in ecology. Plenum, New York.

Etnier D.A., and Starnes W. C. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Jelks, H.L., S.J. Walsh, N.M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Diaz-Pardo, D.A.Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N.E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J.S. Nelson, S.P. Platania,B.A. Porter, C.B. Renaud, J.J. Schmitter-Soto, E.B. Taylor, and M.L. Warren, Jr. 2008. Conservation status of imperiled North American freshwater and diadromous fishes. Fisheries 33:372-407. (Suttkus and Taylor 1965).

Mettee, M. F., P. E. O'Neil, and J. M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Birmingham, Alabama.

Miller, G.L. 1984. Trophic ecology of the Frecklebelly Madtom Noturus munitus in the Tombigbee River, Mississippi. American Midland Naturalist 111:8-15.

Neely, D.A., P.M. Harris, and R.L. Mayden. 1998. Morphological differentiation in populations of the Frecklebelly Madtom, Noturus munitus. Association of Southeastern Biologists Bulletin 45:128.

Page, L. M. and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America North of Mexico. Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin and Company, Boston.

Piller, K.R., H.L. Bart, Jr., and J.A. Tipton. 2004. Decline of the Frecklebelly Madtom in the Pearl River based on contemporary and historical surveys. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 133:1004-1013.

Richter, B. D., D. P. Braun, M. A. Mendelson, and L.L. Master. 1997. Threats to imperiled freshwater fauna. Conservation Biology 11:1081–1093.

Suttkus, R. D., and W. R. Taylor. 1965. Noturus munitus, a new species of the madtom, family Ictaluridae, from southern United States. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 78:169-178.

Suttkus, R. D., and W. R. Taylor. 1965. Noturus munitus, a new species of madtom, family Ictaluridae, from the southeastern United States. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 78:169–178, 1965.

Trauth, S.E., G.L. Miller, and J.S. Williams. 1981. Seasonal gonadal changes and population structure of Noturus munitus (Pisces: Ictaluridae) in Mississippi. Association of Southeastern Biologists Bulletin 28:66. [abstract].

Warren Jr., M. J., and B. M. Burr. 1994. Status of freshwater fishes of the United States: overview of an imperiled fauna. Fisheries 19(1):6–18.

Order[+] Expand

Siluriformes are a diverse group of ray–finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores (species that eat dead material on the bottom), and even to a tiny parasitic species commonly called the candiru, Vandellia cirrhosa.

Family[+] Expand

The Ictaluridae, sometimes called ictalurids, are a family of catfish native to North America, where they are important food fish and sometimes as a sport fish. They include fish commonly known as bullheads, madtoms, channel catfish, and blue catfish.

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.

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