Merry Christmas (Darter)!

Happy Holidays from the one and only Christmas Darter, Etheostoma hopkinsi!

Most of the darter species in GA are beautifully colored, but I must say one of the most surprising colorations comes on the Christmas Darter, Etheostoma hopkinsi. I like to describe them as surprising because we found them in creeks that I wouldn’t have expected to find darters in, sandy substrate with little gravel. The Christmas Darter is a southern staple only found natively in GA and SC. They inhabit the eastern portion of GA and are distributed throughout the river basins within the center of the state above the Fall Line. They prefer a gravely substrate, but I’ve found them to be more resistant to sediment deposition than other Darter species. This might be more to their lack in preference in a stronger water current.

The males, when in full breeding colors, will have large red and green vertical stripes along their body- hence the name Christmas Darter! The green and blue hues are always first to fade after breeding season so all of my field pictures lack the full coloration. Males will also have a very prominent red stripe along the top of their dorsal fin which can be useful in identification of the species.

This Christmas Darter lost his caudal fin at some point, but was still surviving perfectly fine without it.

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