Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Missouri
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Missouri Project

Physiology, behavior, and tolerances of Missouri fishes of conservation concern with a focus on Niangua Darter and Topeka Shiner

July 2014 - June 2018


Participating Agencies

  • Missouri Department of Conservation

Managers whose primary objectives are recovering rare and threatened species of Missouri need to understand the capacity of unoccupied environments to support reintroduction or range expansion of target organisms. Further, it is crucial to understand basic physiological preferences, sensitivities, and tolerances of these species given projected changes in environmental conditions throughout the state related to land use and climate change. Unfortunately, the physiological ecology of most small, native fishes is poorly understood and limits conservation management. For example, American Fisheries Society guidelines emphasize that introductions should take place only in sites that fulfill life history requirements for species. In the case of physical habitat, those requirements are easily assessed; however, water quality characteristics such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient concentrations are also critical, as such factors affect all aspects of fish ecology. We propose to use facilities available at the University of Missouri to investigate physiological preferences, capacities, and tolerances related to water temperature, oxygen content, and nutrients of the Topeka Shiner and/or Niangua Darter and associated species. While we initially considered including both Topeka Shiners and Niangua Darters in these experiments, we anticipate the need to select one species, probably Topeka Shiner, along with three or four associated species to keep the work feasible for a Master’s student. If method development and preliminary results are promising, then Niangua Darter and other small, rare native fishes could be included in proposals for similar research. Existing habitat models for these species could be refined or calibrated with this information (e.g. current projects on multi-scale habitat and stream temperature relationships for Niangua Darter by Faulkner and Paukert and species distribution models by Sievert and Paukert, MU) and ongoing and future reintroductions and recovery efforts (e.g. Topeka Shiner reintroductions into secondary and tertiary watersheds) would be better informed. Species associates (darters or minnows as appropriate) would be included for comparison and to test hypotheses about patterns of distribution.