Plants and Animals

Ammocrypta pellucida Eastern sand darter

species photo
Rob Criswell
species photo
species photo
Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Key Characteristics

The eastern sand darter is a long (average of 6 cm), slender, pale, translucent darter. The dorsal fins are separated by a space about the size of the eye. The breast and belly are scaleless and the lateral line is complete. The upper part of the opercle is a sharply pointed spine.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S1S2 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from critically imperiled to imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Hillsdale 1 1921
Lenawee 1 1927
Livingston 9 1996
Macomb 1 1994
Monroe 1 1929
Oakland 1 1938
Sanilac 1 2009
St. Clair 4 2010
Wayne 1 1936

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 Eastern sand darter is found in streams and rivers with sandy substrates and lakes with sandy shoals. They are often found in slow moving waters where fine sand is deposited, often immediately downstream of a bend but can be found in faster waters (Daniels 1993).

Specific Habitat Needs

Sandy substrate needed in: Inland lake, littoral, benthic; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run; River (5th-6th order), pool; River (5th-6th order), run.

Natural Community Types

  • Inland lake, littoral, benthic
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run
  • River (5th-6th order), pool
  • River (5th-6th 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

Siltation is a major threat to this species and has been a major factor in their decline. This species relies on shifting sand bars that naturally change over time and as such are reliant on natural sediment processes. Maintenance or establishment of vegetated riparian areas, natural flow regimes, and natural nutrient and sediment transport are critical to the protection of this species habitat.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of April to fourth week of June

Survey Methods

Sampling effort should be focused on sandy substrate habitats and areas should be worked slowly and thoroughly because this species spends much of its time burrowed in the sand.


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


Survey Period: From first week of June 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.
  • Daniels, R.A. 1993. Habitat of the eastern sand darter, Ammocrypta pellucida. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 8(4): 287-295.
  • Derosier, A.L. 2004. Special Animal Abstract for Ammocrypta pellucida (eastern sand darter). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Holm, E. and N.E. Mandrak. 1996. The status of the eastern sand darter, Ammocrypta pellucida, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 110(3): 462-469.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966pp.
  • Simon, T.P. 1993. Assessment of the range of the threatened darter, Ammocrypta pellucida (Putnam), from the Maumee River basin, Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 102:139-145.
  • Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany. 522pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.