Plants and Animals

Fundulus dispar Starhead topminnow

Key Characteristics

This killifish has a prominent black teardrop below and towards back of eye. The dorsal fin has 7-8 rays and its origin is behind the anal fin.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Barry 1 2015
Berrien 1 1976
Branch 7 2021
Cass 3 2017
Hillsdale 2 1996
Van Buren 1 2016

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.


Starhead topminnows occur in quiet vegetated waters.

Specific Habitat Needs

Macrophytes needed in: Inland lake, littoral, midwater; 

Soft substrates and abundant macrophytes needed in: Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run; 

Natural Community Types

  • Inland lake, littoral, midwater
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run

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.

Management Recommendations

This species is found in slow, heavily vegetated waters therefore flow alterations, dredging, and channelization are all threats to this species. Herbicides and manual removal of aquatic vegetation should be limited or not done at all to help protect this species habitat. Michigan is the edge of the starhead topminnows range.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of June to fourth week of July

Survey Methods


Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of September

Minnow traps

Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of September


Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of September


Survey References

  • Murphy, B.R. and D.W. Willis, eds. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. 732pp.

Technical References

  • Bailey, R.M., W.C. Latta, and G.R. Smith. 2004. An Atlas of Michigan Fishes. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 192, Ann Arbor. 215p.
  • Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 1052 pp.
  • Smith, P.W. 1979. The fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Urbana IL. 314pp.