Habitat Use by the Eastern Sand Darter, Ammocrypta pellucida, in Two Lake Champlain Tributaries

Shannon M. O'Brien, Douglas E. Facey


The Eastern Sand Darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) is endangered or threatened throughout much of its range, which includes the St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario drainage of southern Ontario and Quebec and several Vermont tributaries of Lake Champlain. The species is known for its tendency to burrow, and field observations have suggested that habitat use may depend on substrate particle size. To determine whether Eastern Sand Darter densities were correlated with substrate particle size, fish and substrates were sampled in 156 plots in two Vermont rivers during the summers of 2001 and 2002. The Eastern Sand Darter occurred mainly in areas in which substrate composition was over 45% fine to medium sand (0.24-0.54 mm); they were much less abundant in areas in which substrate composition exceeded 25% particles greater than 1.9 mm. Substrate preference was tested by allowing 49 fish kept in aquaria to choose among four different substrates. The fish showed a significant preference (P < 0.005) for the finer substrate categories (0.24-0.54 mm, 0.55-1.0 mm), and mostly avoided the coarser substrates (1.0-1.9 mm, 2.0-4.1 mm). This suggests that the Eastern Sand Darter is selective regarding substrate composition, and therefore might be affected by fluctuations or changes in substrate composition within its habitat, such as those caused by changes in flow.


Eastern Sand Darter; Ammocrypta pellucida; habitat; substrate choice; Poultney River; Winooski River; New York; Vermont

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22621/cfn.v122i3.606

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