Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Stuart A. Welsh.


Crystal darters (Crystallaria asprella) and spotted darters (Etheostoma maculatum) have disjunct distributions within the Mississippi River drainage. In West Virginia, both species are restricted to a single drainage (the Elk River). Little information exists on the distribution and habitat use of crystal and spotted darters in the Elk River. I surveyed the Elk River between Sutton and Charleston, West Virginia, and documented distributions of crystal and spotted darters, as well as habitat use and habitat availability data. Two crystal darters were collected during 20 sampling occasions from 2002 to 2004. Spotted darters were documented at 9 sites; habitat use data were collected at 3 sites via snorkeling. Spotted darters primarily used glide habitats (transitional areas between tails of pools and heads of riffles) with large unembedded substrate (>20 cm) and moderate velocities (13 to 51 cm sec-1). My observations support the rarity of crystal darters within the Elk River, but good habitat (based on habitat commonly used by crystal darters in other river systems) is available in the Elk River. Previous studies found large rocks and fast riffles as important spotted darter habitat. Spotted darters in the Elk River were associated with large rocks within glide habitats and were rarely found in riffles. Crystal and spotted darters are benthic habitat specialists; population persistence of these Elk River darters may be linked to stream sedimentation.