Noturus elegans

Noturus elegans

Noturus elegans is a native Tennessee Fish.

Elegant Madtom
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Ictaluridae
Genus: Noturus
Species: N. elegans
Binomial name
Noturus elegans
Taylor, 1969



This is a monitoring plan for Noturus elegans. It is to serve as a guide for the current status and future recommended plans of Noturus elegans. Its common name is the Elegant Madtom. It is a rare catfish and does not receive any attention because its status is practically unknown. [1] Until the 1990's and early 2000, Noturus crypticus and Noturus fasciatus, respectively, were thought to be the same species as Noturus elegans however they are now each considered a distinct species. The chucky madtom, Noturus crypticus is the only one of the three currently listed as severely threated.[2] Thus, this article will talk about the Geographic Distribution of Noturus elegans which is found primarily in upper and lower Tennessee Rivers and in Alabama, and those rivers are Roaring River, Green River drainage, Dunn Creek, TN, and Piney Creek, AL. [1] Noturus elegans' prefers habitats with riffles and rocks to nest under. Noturus elegans also has to fight off many potential predators because of its small size and does this with its venom delivery glands. [3] Noturus elegans is a native Tennessee fish and is also located in Alabama and Kentucky. Noturus elegans matures within one year and dies within two years but this will also be talked about more in depth. [4] There currently is no management of Noturus elegans. What is hurting the species, mainly habitat destruction, will be discussed in the current management section. The negative effects of electrofishing on non-game fishes and in particular on Noturus elegans will also be included in the current management section. And finally future management recommendations will be talked about because there are currently not any.[1]

Geographic Distribution of Species

Noturus elegans can be found at the Green river drainage and lower, north-central Tennessee rivers, an example is at Little Chucky Creek, Greene County,TN. [5] Noturus elegans was also found in Alabama and in central Kentucky. [6] However, the status of N. elegans is unknown in Alabama. Places that Noturus elegans has been found include the Roaring River, Little Chucky Creek, Green River Drainage (they have been found in the Green River Drainage in TN and in KY), Dunn Creek, TN, and Piney Creek, Paint Rock River, and Flint River, AL. [7] [1] N. exilis was misidentified at Bear Creek as N. elegans in 1996 in Alabama. [1] This mis-identification could be a reason for a small decrease in the overall population size. According to surveys there are very low numbers of N. elegans in the middle and upper Tennessee river drainage. The survey reports that these low populations there could be because of the lack of available nesting sites. However, the N.elegans is common in the Green river and lower rivers in Tennessee that are close to Alabama. [1]


Noturus elegans from immaturity to adult hood is an invertivore, which means it feeds on invertebrates. [7] Noturus elegans is a species that should be listed as threatened. It is only common in a few places-the Green River Drainage being one of those places. Also Noturus elegans faces a threat from most fish that are larger than it is, such as the Large Mouth Bass or a Larger Catfish. However Noturus elegans does have a defense and that is its venom delivery system. Noturus elegans has a venom delivery gland that is in its pectoral and dorsal spines and the venom is secreted through these spines to hurt potential predators or competition.[8] Competition that N. elegans faces is from salamanders, lizards, and some snakes that eat invertebrates. Noturus elegans prefer to live in small rivers and also like gravel-bottomed creeks. Noturus elegans also prefers for there to only be minor ripples in the stream in which it is inhabiting. There is little known about what abiotic factors influence where Noturus elegans will decide to nest. However if we look at a sister species in the same genus, Noturus baileyi which lives in a similar habitat, then we can project that Noturus elegans will prefer a pH of 6.2 to 7, and a temperature of 14.0 to 22.0°C. [4] Dams, uplands habitats and waterfalls are things that cause barriers for Noturus elegans to disperse. [7] Therefore, humans could negatively influence the distribution of Noturus elegans the most by building dams, which would cut off their way to either move habitats or mate, or by releasing deadly chemicals, or very invasive fish into the stream, both of which could destroy small populations of Noturus elegans. N. elegans can be found most commonly underneath large rocks in rivers and creeks[1].

Life History

Within approximately a year after emerging from it's egg, Noturus elegans will reach sexual maturity. Then after this year of growth a species of Noturus elegans will find a mate and make a nest beneath a rock in a river or stream. Rocks are very important for Noturus elegans because without this substrate to lay their eggs under they will never have the ability to lay an effective nest that they can protect. The average brood size for Noturus elegans is 50 eggs. Not very much is known about when Noturus elegans mates or how often in fact. However, it is estimated, from looking at a sister species, Noturus baileyi again, that mating takes place in the months of may to august and only once a year. [4] The average lifespan for Noturus elegans is 2 years. [3] After this time it will die. Other ways Noturus elegans can die are human induced, these are the construction of dams that can change how a river is structured and also also when rivers are flooded this will ruin the habitat of Noturus elegans because it prefers shallow slow moving freshwater.[9]

Current Management

In order for humans to decrease their negative impacts on Noturus elegans, before dams are built the rivers should be surveyed to see if the dam is within 10 km's of a population of Noturus elegans and if the dam is, then the dam should not be built. [9] Also electrofishing should not be performed anywhere close to where Noturus elegans has been found because Electrofishing kills all fish in the vicinity of the electric current.[10] Currently there is no management concerning Noturus elegans. This is because Noturus elegans is not listed on the endangered or threatened federal or state lists. [11] It is very hard to say what is making the species decline because there has never been any work done to try to estimate the numbers of Noturus elegans alive right now so that we could compare it to a current projection of species. What is known is that it is only common in a few places and is very rare in it's other locations that it can be found. Although the direct causes of its declines aren't fully known, it is estimated that the most important reasons for its decline is the building of dams or destruction of it's habitat; also known as change in habitat. The projected causes of declines in population sizes are habitat destruction or change in habitat, invasive species, sedimentation, and dams. Practices to stop the declines in population sizes could be to stop building dams which would still enable the species to mate and would also allow the species to live in the habitat it was born in because sedimentation, as a result of dams, would cause the water to become inhabitable by Noturus elegans. [12] There are currently no agencies or non-governmental groups/organizations (NGO's) that are protecting the species. Also, there is no refuges or conservation easements that are providing effective areas for the conservation of Noturus elegans. It has been recommended by people who have done surveys on the fish that it should be listed as threatened but it currently is not listed as threatened. [1]

Management Recommendations

As mentioned earlier, surveys done on Noturus elegans say that the species should be listed as threatened because of it's declining populations.[1] Therefore, the species should be pushed to be listed as threatened that way the species can be managed like it should be. Sampling that should be done includes snorkeling when possible, and seining the rest of the time. Therefore, the gear that will be needed is snorkling gear and also sein nets and well bodied people to perform the set and kick method when using the sein nets. Sampling should be done in places where Noturus elegans has been found and also in places that it could be possibly found, which means finding similar habitats to the ones that it normally occupies. Sampling should be performed from May to August which is the projected spawning time for Noturus elegans. [4] I recommend that the sampling be performed during the daytime because they have been found during this time but also during the nighttime because Noturus elegans is a nocturnal species. Although Noturus elegans is not currently listed as endangered or threatened it is highly recommended that Noturus elegans should have land set aside for it because of it's population declines. The perfect land to set aside for it would be the Green River Drainage because this is where the fish can most commonly be found. [1] This river drainage runs from Kentucky to Tennessee thus it would be a good idea to get Kentucky and Tennessee to work together to insure the survival of this species. There are currently no species that serve as invasives to Noturus elegans. If some are found they should be removed with sein nets because they are not harmful to Noturus elegans like electroshocking is.

Literature Cited

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lang, N. J., S. L. Powers, R. L. Mayden 2005. Status of the Noturus elegans Species Complex in the Middle and Upper Tennessee River Drainage. Humboldt Field Research Institute, *4(4):585-596.
  2. ^ Burr, B.M., And Walter W Dimmick. 1981. Nests, Eggs and Larvae of the Elegant Madtom Notorus elegans from Barren River Drainage, Kentucky (Pisces:Ictaluridae). Transmissions Kentucky Academy Science, 42(3-4), 116-118.
  3. ^ a b GoFISHn. 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d PlanetCatfish. 1996-2011.
  5. ^ Myers Enterprises II. 2009 - 2011. Global species.
  6. ^ Taylor 1969. Fishbase.
  7. ^ a b c Taylor 1969. Natureserve.
  8. ^ Egge, J. J. D., and A. M. Simons. 2010. Evolution of venom delivery structures in madtom catfishes (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 102, 115–129.
  9. ^ a b 'Taylor 1969. Florida Museum of Natural History.
  10. ^ Miranda, L. E., and R. H. Kidwell. 2011. Unintended Effects of Electrofishing on Nongame Fishes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 139:5, 1315-1321.
  11. ^ Taylor 1969-2011. Itis report.
  12. ^ Utz, R. M., R. H. Hilderbrand, and R. L. Raesly. 2010. Regional differences in patterns of fish species loss with changing land use. Biological Conservation. 143, 688–699.

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