Percina shumardi
River darter

Key Characteristics

The river darter is olive-colored above with small indistinct black blotches near the front and rear of the first dorsal fin. It has 8 to 15 dark lateral bars along its sides, a black spot on the caudal fin, and a distinct teardrop mark under the eye. Its anal fin is long, reaching well beyond the dorsal fin to the caudal fin in large males. Soft dorsal rays are 13 or 14 and soft anal rays are 11.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: E
  • State Rank: S1
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Percina shumardi

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The river darter occurs in rivers and large streams, preferring deep, fast-flowing riffles with cobble and boulder substrates. Adults typically occur in shallow areas at night or when turbidity is high. They also occur in nearshore areas of the Great Lakes at depths around 5 m. This species is fairly tolerant to turbidity.

Specific Habitat Needs

Rocky substrates needed in Mainstem Stream (3rd-4th order), Riffle, River (5th-6th order), Riffle, Great Lake, Littoral, Benthic Wind-swept shores needed in Inland Lake, Littoral, Benthic

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.


The abundance of the River darter in the Mississippi River and tributaries indicates that it is not extremely sensitive to turbidity and water pollution. However, the river darter does require deep swift water habitats, which are quickly disappearing with flood control and river impoundment projects. In order to protect the river darter, rivers need to be restored and maintained in their natural state with intact flow regimes.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of May to fourth week of June

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Aug 17, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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