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The blue sucker, Cycleptus elongatus (Lesueur) (Cypriniformes: Catostomidae) from the transition zone between Upper and Lower White River, Arkansas.

The Blue Sucker, Cycleptus elongatus (Lesueur) is a long, compressed and streamlined catostomid that occurs in the Mississippi River basin from Pennsylvania to central Montana and south to Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico (Page & Burr 2011). In Arkansas, C. elongatus is restricted to swift waters in large riverine habitat of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. There are additional records from the Black, Little Red, Spring, and Red rivers (Buchanan 1974; Robison & Buchanan 1988; Buchanan et al. 2003). Unlike the White River population which is smaller, the Arkansas and Red river populations are relatively stable and large (Buchanan 1976; Buchanan et al. 2003; B. Layher, unpubl. data). Blue Suckers are often caught by commercial fisheries during spring in Arkansas, sometimes as many as 100 individuals/day (Robison & Buchanan 1988). However, its abundance in Arkansas and the United States has declined since 1900, especially at the edges of its range due to reservoir construction which has decreased current velocity and permitted siltation (Robison & Buchanan 1988; Etnier & Starnes 1993; Boschung & Mayden 2004; Page & Burr 2011). Indeed, the Nature Conservancy ranks C. elongatus as S2 (imperiled) in Arkansas (NatureServe 2012). The Blue Sucker has a priority score of 27 for fish species of greatest conservation need in the state (Anderson 2006). In addition, the American Fisheries Society (Jelks et al. 2008) listed C. elongatus as "vulnerable."

The Blue Sucker is morphologically well-adapted for life on the bottom in deep, fast-moving channels of moderate to large rivers (Miller & Robison 2004) and because of this habitat preference it is difficult to capture; hence, its rarity in collections. Adults occupy areas of very swift flow with current speeds of up to 260 cm/s and generally at least 100 cm/s (Ross 2001). Young blue suckers tend to inhabit shallower and less swift water than adults. In the Mississippi River, Adams et al. (2006) found slackwater areas associated with islands were important nursery areas for young individuals.

Adults winter in deep pools in the White and Arkansas rivers (HWR, pers. observation) and move upstream in spring to spawn in riffles (Cross 1967). Males migrate to spawning areas before females (Moss et al. 1983). In Arkansas, spawning occurs in May and June. Spawning in the Mississippi River occurred over a 10-28 day period during the spring and corresponded with rising water temperatures of 14-18 C during mid-late April to mid-May (Adams, et al. 2006). Tuberculate males have been found from April until June in Arkansas.

On 6 July 2011, we collected a subadult (390 mm total length [TL], weight = 1.0 kg) C. elongatus using a boat-mounted electrofisher from the White River below Lock and Dam no. 1 at Batesville, Independence County, Arkansas (35.748585[degrees]N, 91.629045[degrees]W). Habitat was a shallow, nearly flat, sand/gravel bar over a mud/clay and gravel/cobble substrate. Water turbidity was about 2 m. The specimen was fixed in 10% formalin, transferred to 45% isopropanol and deposited in the Henderson State University (HSU) fish collection, Arkadelphia, Arkansas as HSU 3384.

At over 27,000 [km.sup.2], the White River has the largest drainage basin of any river system in Arkansas (Robison & Buchanan 1988). Our specimen of C. elongatus is the first record from the boundary between the upper and lower White River. Robison & Buchanan (1988) showed previous records of C. elongatus from the White River system, including one historical record from the Black River and six records from 1960-1987 from the lower White (n = 4), Little Red (n = 1), and Spring (n = 1) rivers. Since Robison & Buchanan (1988), the nearest unpublished record in the lower White River near Newport is in Jackson County (35.62347[degrees]W, 91.3057[degrees]W), a specimen collected on 1 January 1999 by B. Layher (B. Wagner, unpubl. data). This site is approximately 30 km SE of the present locale. Our new site differs by being an upland river/transition zone with sand and gravel bars and less turbidity compared to those downstream without these structures and with greater turbidity, typical of lowland river.

Other fishes (all common and scientific names follow Nelson et al. [2004]) collected at the new site with C. elongatus included: Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus), Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus), Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense), Central Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum), Blacktail Shiner (Cyprinella venusta), Whitetail Shiner (Cyprinella galacturus), River Carpsucker (Carpiodes carpio), Quillback (Carpiodes cyprinus), Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus). Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), Black Buffalo (Ictiobus niger), Spotted Sucker (Minytrema melanops), Silver Redhorse (Moxostoma anisurum), Golden Redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum), Pealip Redhorse (Moxostoma pisolabrum), Northern Hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans), Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus), Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis), Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophis), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis), Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), Logperch (Percina caprodes), Stargazing Darter (Perrina uranidea), Walleye (Sander vitreum), Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens), and Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus).

In the White River, the Blue Sucker is a rare member of the sucker community which is dominated numerically and by weight by redhorse suckers (Moxostoma spp.), buffalo fishes (Ictiobus spp.), and carpsuckers (Carpiodes spp.). Probably the most abundant members of the White River sucker community is M. erythrurum and the Black Redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei).

In adjacent Tennessee, Etnier & Starnes (1993) mapped 23 historic collection sites of the Blue Sucker but reported recent state records are scarce, and Pflieger (1997) reported 60 collection sites of C. elongatus in neighboring Missouri, including substantial populations in the Missouri, Mississippi, and the lowland St. Francis River. This sucker is apparently still common in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in Missouri, but prior to 1900 it was much more common in the upper Mississippi River (Pflieger 1997). Miller & Robison (2004) reported a spotty distribution for C. elongatus from Oklahoma in Lake Texoma, Grand Lake, and the Poteau River below Lake Wister. In addition, Thomas et al. (2007) noted that Texas considers populations of C. elongatus to be threatened in the state, while Hubbs (2008) suggested the species is of Special Concern.

Little is known of the life history of the C. elongatus in Arkansas. Foods of the Blue Sucker consist of aquatic insects (trichopteran larvae and pupa and mayfly larvae), a variety of small benthic invertebrates (hellgrammites, amphipods, and fingernail clams), and some filamentous algae (Rupprecht & Jahn 1980; Moss et al. 1983). Food items indicate that most feeding takes place over a firm substratum (Cowley & Sublette 1987). In the Mississippi River, young fish feed using diverse feeding modes in the shoreline areas consuming benthic, nektonic, and neustonic forms (Adams et al. 2006). Blue suckers live 10-12 years with males reaching sexual maturity in their fourth year at a minimum size of 503 mm TL and females in their sixth year at a minimum size of 573 mm TL (Ross 2001).

Threats to continued survival of C. elongatus are difficult to alleviate. Some well documented causes of population decline include historical overfishing, poor water quality due to sewage effluent and agricultural runoff, depletion of surface water, siltation from poor farming practices, interruption of migrations by dams, and stranding in irrigation canals (Robison & Buchanan 1988; Sublette et al. 1990; Pflieger 1997; Boschung & Mayden 2004). In addition, where extensive riverine loss has occurred due to impoundments, there have been major losses and fragmentation of Blue Sucker populations.

Management of the C. elongatus includes routine monitoring of populations and habitat protection. The Blue Sucker is considered an indicator species for ecosystem health because of its habitat--specific requirements. In addition, an effort should be made by state fishery personnel to locate spawning and rearing areas of C. elongatus. In Arkansas, C. elongatus is an uncommon resident of our larger rivers and we suggest it should be considered a Species of Special Concern.


We thank Randall Brockman, Shawn Hodges, Stan Todd, and Faron Usery for assistance in collecting. We also thank Dr. Renn Tumlison (HSU) for expert curatorial assistance and technical help, and Bill Layher (Pine Bluff, Arkansas) and Brian Wagner (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission) for sharing some unpublished data.

Literature Cited

Adams, S. R., M. B. Flinn, B. M. Burr, M. R. Whiles & J. E. Garvey. 2006. Ecology of larval Blue Sucker (Cycleptus elongatus) in the Mississippi River. Ecol. Fresh. Fish. 15:292-300.

Anderson, J. E. (Ed.) 2006. Arkansas wildlife action plan. Ark. Game Fish Comm., Little Rock. 2028 pp.

Boschung, H. T. & R. L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smiths. Instit. Press. Washington. D.C., 736 pp.

Buchanan, T. M. 1974. Threatened native fishes of Arkansas. Pp. 67-92, in Arkansas Natural Area Plan (W. M. Shepard, ed.). Ark. Dept. Planning. Little Rock.

Buchanan, T. M. 1976. An evaluation of the effects of dredging within the Arkansas River navigation system. Vol. 5. The effects upon the fish fauna. Ark. Water Resour. Res. Cen. Publ. No. 47. 277 pp.

Buchanan. T. M., D. Wilson. L. G. Claybrook & W. G. Layher. 2003. Fishes of the Red River. J. Ark. Acad. Sci., 57:18-26.

Cowley, D. E. & J. E. Sublette. 1987. Food habits of Moxostoma congestum and Cycleptus elongatus (Catostomidae: Cypriniformes) in the Black River. Eddy County, New Mexico. Southw. Nat. 32:411-413.

Cross, F. B. 1967. Handbook of fishes of Kansas. Mus. Nat. Hist. Univ. Kans. Mise. Publ. 45:1-357.

Etnier, D. A. & W. C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. Univ. Tenn. Press, Knoxville, 689 pp.

Hubbs. C., R. J. Edwards & G. P. Garrett. 2008. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas J. Sci., Suppl., 2nd Ed., 43(4): 1-87.

Jelks, H. L., S. J. Walsh, N. M., Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Diaz-Pardo, D. A. Hendrickson. J. Lyons, N. E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J. S. Nelson, S. P. Platania, B. A. Porter. C. B. Renaud. J. J. Schmitter-Soto, E. B. Taylor & M. L. Warren. Jr. 2008. Conservation status of imperiled North American freshwater and diadromous fishes. Fisheries, 33: 327-407.

Miller. R. J. & H. W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. 2nd Ed. Univ. Okla. Press, Norman. 450 pp.

Moss, R. E., J. W. Scanlan & C. S. Anderson. 1983. Observations on the natural history of the Blue Sucker Cycleptus elongatus Lesueur in the Neosho River. Amer. Midi. Nat., 109:15-22.

NatureServe. 2012. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe. Arlington. Virginia. Available: (Accessed: 24 May 2012).

Nelson, J. S., E. J. Crossman, H. Espinoza-Perez, L. T. Findley, C. R. Gilbert, R. N. Lea & J. D. Williams. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Amer. Fish. Soc., Spec. Publ., Bethesda. Maryland, 29:1-386.

Page, L. M. & B. M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico, 2nd Ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston. 663 pp.

Pflieger, W. L. 1997. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Depart. Conserv., Jefferson City, 372 pp.

Robison. H.W. & T. M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. Univ. Ark. Press, Fayetteville. 536 pp.

Ross. S. T. 2001. The inland fishes of Mississippi. Univ. Press Miss., Jackson, 624 pp. Rupprecht, R. J. & L. A. Jahn. 1980. Biological notes on blue suckers in the Mississippi River. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc., 109:323-326.

Sublette, J. E., M. D. Hatch & M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. University New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 393 pp.

Thomas, C., T. H. Bonner & B. G. Whiteside. 2007. Freshwater fishes of Texas. Texas A&M Univ. Press, College Station, 202 pp.

CTM at:

Kenneth E. Shirley (1), Chris T. McAllister (2), Henry W. Robison (3) and Thomas M. Buchanan (4)

(1) Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, 201 E. 5th Street Mountain Home, Arkansas 72653

(2) Science and Mathematics Division, Eastern Oklahoma State College Idabel, Oklahoma 74745

(3) Department of Biology, Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, Arkansas 71754

(4) Department of Biology, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Fort Smith, Arkansas 72913
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Title Annotation:GENERAL NOTES
Author:Shirley, Kenneth E.; McAllister, Chris T.; Robison, Henry W.; Buchanan, Thomas M.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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