A low tolerance to salt makes the blackchin shiner a good indicator of water quality (Smith 1985; Carlson 1998).
The Blackchin shiner has all but disappeared from the southern New York watersheds. Their numbers are declining in the Susquehanna and Allegheny watersheds. Currently they are frequently found in the lakes and streams of the St. Lawrence watershed and bays of eastern Lake Ontario. More information is needed regarding the ecological requirements of this species (Carlson 1998, 2005; Keeler 2006).
Currently found in at least seven New York watersheds (about 25 waters) including a recent discovery in the Niagara River, the blackchin shiner is most abundant in the streams and lakes of Jefferson County, the St. Lawrence River, and several bays of eastern Lake Ontario. They are declining or absent in southern watersheds where this species was once abundant (Carlson 1998, 2005; Bureau of Fisheries, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2008; New York Natural Heritage Program 2008). More sampling is needed to determine the status of this species in the southern watersheds, since many of these sites have not been surveyed regularly.
Historically found in 11 of 19 watersheds (about 98 waters) including several southern and eastern watersheds where it is currently absent or declining (Lake Erie, Allegheny, and Upper Hudson), as well as the bays and creeks off the southern shore of Lake Ontario (Carlson 1998, 2005).
Possible threats include fluctuating water levels and habitat loss due to increased siltation (Smith 1985; Carlson 1998, 2005). A better understanding of the life history and ecological requirements of the blackchin shiner is needed.
Survey inland lakes and resurvey historical locations to better determine the status of the blackchin shiner in New York and continue to monitor current populations for changes in abundance (Carlson 1998, 2005).
More information is needed regarding life history, behavior, habitat, and ecological requirements of the blackchin shiner, and the reasons why this species is declining or absent from the southern watersheds of New York (Carlson 1998, 2005).
Blackchin shiners can be found in cool, clear, and shallow sections of lakes and slow regions of streams with weedy vegetation, very little siltation, and a sandy substrate (Smith 1985; Page and Burr 1991).
In New York, blackchin shiners have been found in ponds, lakes, and streams scattered across the state, namely the bays of eastern Lake Ontario, lakes and streams of the St. Lawrence watershed, several of the Finger Lakes, the Allegheny watershed including Chautauqua Lake, the Susquehanna watershed including Owego Creek, and the Upper Hudson and Lake Champlain watersheds. It is most often found in the St. Lawrence watershed along the St. Lawrence River (Smith 1985; Carlson 1997, 1998; 2005).
Blackchin shiners occur across the northern region of the United States from Lake Champlain in Vermont west across the northern portion of New York, across the Great Lakes basin including the northwestern tip of Pennsylvania, northern Ohio and Indiana, northeast Illinois, Michigan, eastern and northern Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A disjunct population in Iowa is thought to be extirpated. In Canada the range extends from southern Quebec west to Manitoba (Scott and Crossman 1973; Lee et al 1980; Smith 1985; Page and Burr 1991).
The blackchin shiner is a small minnow, typically five to seven cm in length. A black mid-lateral stripe runs across the body from the base of the tail, through the large eye, to the tip of the pointy snout, lower jaw, and chin. The pores of the lateral line are black, giving the dark line a zigzag pattern. A yellowish stripe runs above the dark stripe. Above the stripe, the body is brown-olive; below the stripe, the belly is pale yellow-white with a few dark speckles. The base of the anal fin is dark and has eight rays. The scales on the back are edged in black. The rays of the fins and forked tail are dark. There is one dorsal fin which is angled posteriorly. The pharyngeal teeth arrangement is 1,4-4,1 (two rows of teeth, four teeth in the inner row and one tooth in the outer row). Males during breeding season become golden yellow and develop tubercles on the top of the head and pectoral fins (Scott and Crossman 1973; Smith 1985; Page and Burr 1991).
The zigzag pattern of the mid-lateral stripe, the stripe extending to the lips and chin, and the pharyngeal teeth arrangement are useful characteristics in distinguishing blackchin shiners from other shiners (Smith 1985; Page and Burr 1991).
Adults exhibit the characters useful in identifying this species properly.
Little is known about the life history and behavior of the blackchin shiner other than spawning times are between May and July (Scott and Crossman 1973; Smith 1985).
Blackchin shiners feed on small crustaceans in the water column and small flying insects at the water's surface (Scott and Crossman 1973; Smith 1985).
Blackchin shiners are present year-round and are spawning from May to the end of July (Scott and Crossman 1973; Smith 1985).
The time of year you would expect to find Blackchin Shiner active and reproducing in New York.
Notropis heterodon (Cope, 1865)
Becker, G. C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 1,052 pp.
Bureau of Fisheries, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, July 3, 2008. Statewide database release # 35. Albany, New York.
Carlson, Douglas M. 1997. Status of the pugnose and blackchin shiners in the St. Lawrence River in New York, 1993-1995. Journal of Freshwater Ecology. 12(1):131-139.
Carlson, Douglas M. 1998. Species Accounts for the rare fishes of New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Bureau of Fisheries, Endangered Fish Project. 95pp.
Carlson, Douglas M. 2005. Species Accounts for the rare fishes of New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Bureau of Fisheries, Endangered Fish Project. 75pp.
George, C.J. 1980. The fishes of the Adirondack Park. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Albany, NY 94 pp.
Herkert, J. R., editor. 1992. Endangered and threatened species of Illinois: status and distribution. Vol. 2: Animals. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. iv + 142 pp.
Keeler, S. 2006. Species group report for blackchin shiner. Pages 12-17 of Appendix A3, Species group reports for freshwater fish in: New York State comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy. New York Department State of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2008. Biotics Database. Albany, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2020. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.
Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.
Scott, W. B., and E. J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin 184. 966 pp.
Smith, C.L. 1985. The Inland Fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 522pp.
Werner, R.G. 1980. Freshwater fishes of New York State. N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 186 pp.
Information for this guide was last updated on: March 4, 2009
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2020. Online Conservation Guide for Notropis heterodon. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/blackchin-shiner/. Accessed March 30, 2020.