Document Type


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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Forestry and Natural Resources


The western sand darter, Ammocrypta clara, and the eastern sand darter, A. pellucida, are sand-dwelling fishes that have undergone range-wide population declines, presumably owing to habitat loss. Habitat use studies have been conducted for the eastern sand darter, but literature on the western sand darter remains sparse. To evaluate substrate selection and preference, western and eastern sand darters were collected from the Elk River, West Virginia, one of the few remaining rivers where both species occur sympatrically. In the laboratory, individuals were given the choice to bury into five equally available and randomly positioned substrates ranging from fine sand to granule gravel (0.12–4.0 mm). The western sand darter selected for coarse and medium sand, while the eastern sand darter was more of a generalist selecting for fine, medium, and coarse sand. Substrate selection was significantly different (p = 0.02) between species in the same environment, where the western sand darter preferred coarser substrate more often compared to the eastern sand darter. Habitat degradation is often a limiting factor for many species of rare freshwater fish, and results from this study suggest that western and eastern sand darters may respond differently to variations in benthic substrate composition.

Source Citation

Thompson, P. A., Welsh, S. A., Rizzo, A. A., & Smith, D. M. (2017). Effect of substrate size on sympatric sand darter benthic habitat preferences. Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 32(1), 455–465.


© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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