This habitat dives beneath a river boardwalk...a family strolls above and a paddler eases her kayak alongside the pier and log snags. Below, an entire world of fish and other animals goes about the daily routine. The waters here are indicative of the coastal plain rivers and streams that supply the Chesapeake with its freshwater component. The diversity of these habitats rivals that of the brackish waters of the bay itself, and are under the influence of the same tides - though the ocean's salty input does not reach here, and the rise and fall of the tides can often be measured in fractions of inches.

On the land, human development is heavy in this area - huge cities dot the landscape while farms and subdivisions fill most of the gaps between. A web of highways and neighborhood streets, sidewalks, roof tops and other hardscape reduce the surface area for the earth to absorb the rain, much of which rushes to the nearest storm drain and directly into the bay. The very water cycle we come to depend on for drinking water is interrupted.

In streams, creeks and reservoirs, water levels continue to drop leaving less habitat for the minnows, the wide variety of fish lumped together based on size. True minnows, or cyprinids, are equally affected. Biodiversity in our tidal freshwater shrinks with the retreating waters.

Only a select few of these species are on exhibit at any time, though all are representative of Minnows habitats.

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Blackbanded sunfish

Scientific name: 
Enneacanthus chaetodon

Distribution: North America: Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from New Jersey to central Florida, west to Flint River in Georgia in the USA.

Habitat: Inhabits vegetated lakes, ponds, quiet sand and mud-bottomed pools and backwaters of creeks and small to medium rivers.

Key characteristics for distinction: Compressed, deep body with small mouth. Six black bars on each side.

Coloration: Six black bars on each side, the first running through the eye and the sixth on the caudal peduncle. Fins are black-mottled.

Feeding habits/specializations: Larvae; zooplankton; aquatic insects; crustaceans.

Reproduction: Nest prepared by male. Spawning occurs in the spring and there is no parental care of the eggs. Although deposited in a nest, the eggs are buoyant and can be carried away by water currents.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, naturalheritage.state.pa.us


Bluespotted sunfish

Scientific name: 
Enneacanthus gloriosus

Distribution: North America: occurs only in the USA in Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages below Fall Line from southern New York to lower Tombigbee River in Alabama, and south to southern Florida; and above Fall Line in New York and Pennsylvania.

Habitat: Inhabits vegetated lakes, ponds, quiet sand and mud-bottomed pools and backwaters of creeks and small to medium rivers.

Key characteristics for distinction: This small, dark sunfish is distinguished by nine or 10 dorsal spines and 10 to 13 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine or 10 rays. Lateral line scales number from 30 to 32; 16 to 18 rows of scales surround the caudal peduncle. The maximum depth is equal to or less than half the total length. Males have rows of blue or silver spots along their dark sides; females have lighter sides with fewer spots. Small individuals have faint vertical bars that fade with age. Vertical fins exhibit scattered dark blue spots on a pale gray background. The black spot on the ear flap is about two-thirds to three-quarters the diameter of the eye. A dark bar extends downward from the eye.

Coloration: Side of body dark-colored with gold, silver, green or blue spots on side; fins dark with whitish spots.

Feeding habits/specializations: insects and other invertebrates

Reproduction: Males build nests; spawning occurs May-September

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 3.7 in

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: least concern

Sources: fishbase.org

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Bridle shiner

Scientific name: 
Notropis bifrenatus

Distribution: North America: St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario drainage in Quebec and Ontario in Canada, and New York in the USA; Atlantic Slope drainages from southern Maine, USA to Roanoke River system in southern Virginia, USA; isolated population in lower Neuse River drainage in eastern North Carolina, USA.

Habitat: Adults occur in pond, lakes and sluggish mud-bottomed pools of creeks and small to medium rivers. Often found in vegetation.

Key characteristics for distinction: Small, slender body, large scales, lateral line incomplete.

Coloration: Straw-colored, silvery dorsal side with green-blue iridescence and silvery-white on ventral side. Prominent black lateral band from tail to snout.

Feeding habits/specializations: benthic crustaceans, insects, plants

Reproduction: open water egg scatterers, nonguarders

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 2.5 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: near threatened

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org

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Caddisfly spp.

Scientific name: 
Tricoptera spp.

Distribution: common worldwide

Habitat: Adults are commonly found near lights at night or on foliage near water. Immatures are found in water, usually in flowing water.

Key characteristics for distinction: Adult caddisflies resemble small moths with wings held tent-like over their back when at rest. They have long hair-like antennae. Most species are small and are dull colored. However, some species are more brightly colored.

Coloration: Dull in color (some species) but other species may be brightly colored.

Feeding habits/specializations: Adults do not feed and have vestigial mouth parts; larval stages have chewing mouthparts. Larvae are scavengers, herbivores or predaceous. They can spin silk and use it to form nets to strain material from the water to eat or to form cases in which to hide.

Reproduction: Adult caddisflies are short lived and spend most of their time mating or laying eggs. Females lay eggs on the edge of the water or by females dipping their abdomen into the surface of the water. Caddisfly larvae develop through four stages (instars) over several months or even a year. Pupation is almost always aquatic. There is usually one generation per year.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): varies between species

Predators: fish

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun facts: There are 12,000 described species.

Sources: insects.tamu.edu, Wikipedia.org


Crayfish spp.

Scientific name: 
Cambarus spp.

Crayfish spp.

Scientific name: 
Orconectes spp.

Distribution: throughout North America in freshwater areas

Habitat: streams, rivers, lakes, ponds; freshwater; usually hiding under rocks

Key characteristics for distinction: freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters; made up of twenty body segments grouped into two main body parts; each segment may have one pair of appendages but this can vary.

Coloration: varies from species to species; usually tan, olive-colored, brown

Feeding habits/specializations: nocturnal feeders; use claws to attack prey; omnivores and scavengers; worms, insects, larvae, eggs of fish and frogs.

Reproduction: After mating, female carries a cluster of eggs attached to her swimmerets (under the abdomen). After hatching, young will stay on mother’s body for protection.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): size and growth rate vary depending on water quality, temperature and food availability. Range from 2-6 in.

Predators: use claws to defend against other crayfish and predators; raccoons, opossums, snakes, muskrats, fish, birds

Importance to humans: food item; bait; ecologically important as they help clean up dead animal and plant matter and control insect populations

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: When threatened, crayfish will escape by flipping its abdomen and swimming backwards. The rusty crayfish is an invasive species in North America.

Sources: fcps.edu, Wikipedia.org


Creek chub

Scientific name: 
Semotilus atromaculatus

Distribution: North America: most of eastern USA and southeastern Canada in Atlantic, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, Mississippi and Gulf basins as far as Manitoba, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas, but absent from southern Georgia and peninsular Florida; upper Pecos and Canadian River systems, New Mexico. 

Habitat: Inhabits rocky and sandy pools of headwaters, creeks and small rivers; mostly found in tiny, intermittent streams.

Key characteristics for distinction: round, cylindrical body with a compressed posterior; can be identified from other common minnow species by the black "moustache" on their upper lips, along with a black dot on their dorsal fins

Coloration: greenish-brown back, cream-colored sides interrupted by horizontal black stripes running from the nose to the tail, and a white belly

Feeding habits/specializations: Young feed on small aquatic invertebrates. Adults consume small fish, crayfish and other large invertebrates.

Reproduction: Nonguarders, brood hiders. Male digs a pit in the stream bottom by removing mouthful of gravel, guards the pit and attempts to attract females. Spawning occurs over the pit. Male guards the nest from intruders. As eggs are deposited in the pit, the male covers them with stones and excavates another pit immediately downstream. As spawning continues and the male covers the eggs, a long ridge of gravel develops.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 12 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org

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Damselfly spp.

Scientific name: 
Zygoptera spp.

Distribution: highly variable distribution; some widespread while others are highly localized.

Habitat: Adults are commonly found near water. Aquatic immature stages are not strong swimmers. They occur on aquatic vegetation and on the bottom of streams and ponds.

Key characteristics for distinction: Damselflies have four large membranous wings of nearly equal size which are held together over their back when they are at rest except for the Lestidae, which hold them slightly open. Wings are usually clear except for a spot at the end of the wing called a stigma. Some species have black or red coloration in the wings. They have oblong heads with bulging eyes and very short antennae.

Coloration: often brightly colored with green, blue, red, yellow, black or brown

Feeding habits/specializations: They feed on aquatic insects and other arthropods that are found in the water. Damselfly adults use their hind legs which are covered with hairs to capture prey as they fly. They hold the prey in their legs and devour it by chewing.

Reproduction: Mating is unusual: males deposit sperm in a secondary genitalia structure on the second and third abdominal segment by bending the abdomen forward. The male then clasps the female behind the head with claspers on the tip of his abdomen and mating pairs can be seen flying in tandem. The female then loops her abdomen forward and picks up the sperm from the male. Eggs are deposited in emergent plants or floating vegetation or directly into the water.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 2 in

Predators: beetles, fish, larger damselflies (prey on young); spiders, frogs, fish, lizards, rodents, other tiny mammals (prey on adults)

Importance to humans: Presence of damselflies indicate good ecosystem quality.

Fun fact: There are about 2,838 named species of damselflies worldwide. Damselflies are not dragonflies.

Sources: insects.tamu.edu, bioweb.uwlax.edu

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Dragonfly spp.

Scientific name: 
Anisoptera spp.

Distribution: worldwide

Habitat: marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, wetlands

Key characteristics for distinction: large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, elongated body. Different from damselflies: dragonflies hold their wings away from and perpendicular to the body when at rest.

Coloration: some species change in color as they mature; vary in color but typically all start out with hardly any color when young

Feeding habits/specializations: mosquitoes and other small insects (bees, flies, wasps, ants)

Reproduction: Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants. When laying eggs, some species will submerge themselves completely in order to lay their eggs on a good surface. The eggs then hatch into naiads.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 1-6 in depending on species

Predators: birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, fish, other dragonflies

Sources: Wikipedia.org, dragonflies.org


Eastern mosquitofish

Scientific name: 
Gambusia holbrooki

Distribution: North America: Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from New Jersey south to Alabama in USA. Introduced to many countries for mosquito control, but had rare to non-existing effects on mosquitoes, and negative to perhaps neutral impact on native fishes. Established throughout southern Europe; introduced worldwide in tropical and subtropical countries.

Habitat: Occurs in standing to slow-flowing water, mostly in vegetated ponds and lakes, backwaters and quiet pools of steams. Frequents brackish water. Observed to inhabit warm, still waters, typically seen shoaling at the edges of streams and lakes.

Key characteristics for distinction: small, light colored fish with semi-transparent fins; the females usually have a black stripe near their eye area and light spots can be seen on the caudal and dorsal fins of both sexes

Coloration: light-colored, semi-transparent fins

Feeding habits/specializations: Feeds on small terrestrial insects usually in the drift and amongst aquatic plants, actively selecting very small prey. Feeds also on mosquito larvae. Very aggressive.

Reproduction: This species is also known to give birth to live young instead of laying a clutch of eggs. The breeding season for Gambusia holbrooki is between mid-spring and mid-autumn, with the peak breeding time being around summer.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 1.4 in

Importance to humans: Introduced worldwide. Introductions to Europe have seriously threatened many endemic species. It is now widely accepted that their effect has been minimal and even may have exacerbated the problem due to their voracious appetite for natural invertebrate predators of mosquito larvae.

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: Feeds also on mosquito larvae – obviously!

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org


Eastern mudminnow

Scientific name: 
Umbra pygmaea

Distribution: North America: Atlantic and Gulf slopes from southeastern New York (including Long Island) to St.Johns River drainage in Florida and west to Aucilla River drainage in Florida and Georgia, USA. Introduced (but very localized) to central and western Europe.

Habitat: Inhabits quiet streams, sloughs, swamps and other wetlands over sand, mud and debris, often among dense vegetation. Juveniles also found among aquatic vegetation, often forming schools of 10-12 individuals

Key characteristics for distinction: Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 14-15; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 8 - 11. Body robust, thick, little compressed; head bluntly conic; snout short, equal to diameter of eye; mouth moderate, jaws short, mandible protrudes slightly beyond tip of upper jaw, premaxillaries not protractile. Gill rakers short and numerous. Dorsal inserted near pectoral than caudal base; pelvic inserted just before origin of dorsal , rays of depressed fin reaching to about 3rd anal ray. Caudal fin rounded, with 18-20 rays

Coloration: yellowish green with 10-12 narrow lateral dark stripes; a dark stripe through eye; a black basicaudal bar; lower jaw pale; fins plain

Feeding habits/specializations: Feeds on insect larvae, worms, mollusks, crustaceans.

Reproduction: Oviparous, larvae remain in algal nest for about 6 days. Spawning takes place in April and May. Guarders/nesters.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4.5 in

Predators: burrow into sediment to hide from predators;

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, nwf.org

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Eastern silvery minnow

Scientific name: 
Hybognathus regius

Distribution: North America: Atlantic Slope from St. Lawrence River drainage in Quebec, Canada to Altamaha River drainage in Georgia, USA; Lake Ontario drainage in Ontario in Canada and New York in USA.

Habitat: Adults occur in pools and backwaters of low-gradient creeks and small to large rivers.

Key characteristics for distinction: small, slightly subterminal mouth; lower jaw has fleshy knob at tip

Coloration: silvery in color, lack distinctive color patterns

Feeding habits/specializations: algae and detritus

Reproduction: Oviparous, open substratum spawners.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4.7 in

Predators: larger fish

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, state.nj.us

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Giant water bug

Scientific name: 
Hemiptera spp.

Distribution: found throughout the northern United States and Canada

Habitat: freshwater streams and ponds

Key characteristics for distinction: piercing, sucking mouth parts and short, pointed beak on underside of the head; wings overlap at the hind end of the abdomen forming an X like pattern.

Coloration: dark brown, dead leaf color

Feeding habits/specializations: stalk, capture and feed on aquatic crustaceans, fish and amphibians; sometimes lie motionless at bottom of water attached to various objects where they wait for prey to come closer; inject a powerful digestive saliva with rostrum and then suck out liquefied remains.

Reproduction: show paternal care and the eggs of many species are laid on the male's wings and carried until they hatch. The male cannot mate during this period. The males invest considerable time and energy in reproduction and females take the role of actively finding males to mate.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): largest species 4.75 in

Predators: known to play dead and emit fluid from anus so assumed dead by predators

Importance to humans: food item in some cultures

Fun fact: largest insects in the order Hemiptera

Sources: Wikipedia.org, eduwebs.org


Golden shiner

Scientific name: 
Notemigonus crysoleucas

Distribution: North America: Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from Nova Scotia, Canada to southern Texas, USA; Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River) and Mississippi River basins west to Alberta in Canada, Montana, Wyoming and western Oklahoma, USA. 

Habitat: Adults inhabit vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps, backwaters and pools of creeks and small to medium rivers

Key characteristics for distinction: The body is laterally compressed (deep-bodied). There can be a faint dusky stripe along the sides. The anal fin is large and has 8-19 rays, while the dorsal fin comprises almost always 8 rays. Scales are relatively large and easily lost when the fish is handled.

Coloration: The back is dark green or olive, and the belly is a silvery white. The sides are silver in smaller individuals, but golden in larger ones.

Feeding habits/specializations: insects, algae, benthic crustaceans

Reproduction: open water, egg scatterers, nonguarders.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 11.8 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: minor commercial, aquaculture, aquarium use, bait

Conservation status: least concern

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org

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Mayfly spp.

Scientific name: 
Ephemeroptera spp.

Habitat: Prefer flowing or highly oxegenated water; a few species develop in lakes or ponds.

Key characteristics for distinction: large triangular front wings with many cross veins with the wings held upright and together over the thorax; hind wings much smaller than fore wings (may be absent in a few species); thorax and abdomen bare and shiny

Coloration: varies with species; yellow, green, white, black.

Feeding habits/specializations: Immature stages have chewing mouthparts but adult mayflies do not feed and have non-functional mouthparts. Immatures scavenge for small pieces of organic matter (plant material or algae and debris).

Reproduction: Mate in swarms in the air; eggs deposited while flying low over water or by dipping the abdomen on the water surface or some may even submerge themselves and lay eggs underwater.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): varies on species, longest 1 in

Predators: food source for fish

Conservation status: most not evaluated; one species listed as vulnerable = Tasmanophlebi lacus-coerulei (native to Australia)

Fun fact: Adult mayflies live only one or two nights.

Sources: insects.tamu.edu, Wikipedia.org


Painted turtle

Scientific name: 
Chrysemys picta

Habitat: painted turtles need fresh waters with soft bottoms, basking sites, and aquatic vegetation; creeks, marshes, ponds, and the shores of lakes

Key characteristics for distinction: face has only yellow stripes with large yellow spot and streak behind each eye; eastern subspecies has straight-aligned top shell segments; midland subspecies large gray mark on bottom of shell; southern has red line on top of shell; western has a red pattern on the bottom of shell

Coloration: Skin is olive to black with red, orange or yellow stripes on extremities.

Feeding habits/specializations: aquatic vegetation, algae, insects, crustaceans and fish

Reproduction: The painted turtles mate in spring and fall. Males start producing sperm in early spring, when they can bask to an internal temperature of 17 °C (63 °F). Females begin their reproductive cycles in mid-summer, and ovulate the following spring. Courtship begins when a male follows a female until he meets her face-to-face.[45] He then strokes her face and neck with his elongated front claws, a gesture returned by a receptive female. The pair repeat the process several times, with the male retreating from and then returning to the female until she swims to the bottom, where they copulate. As the male is smaller than the female, he is not dominant. The female stores sperm, to be used for up to three clutches, in her oviducts; the sperm may remain viable for up to three years. A single clutch may have multiple fathers

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 10 in female; males are smaller

Predators: eggs eaten by rodents, canines and snakes; adults have protective shell, predators include alligators, ospreys, crows, raccoons

Conservation status: least concern rating according to IUCN

Fun fact: Courtship begins when a male follows a female until he meets her face-to-face. He then strokes her face and neck with his elongated front claws, a gesture returned by a receptive female.

Sources: Wikipedia.org

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Red spotted newt

Scientific name: 
Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

Distribution: In North America, however, there are only two genera of newts, and only one of them, Notophthalmus, is found east of the Mississippi River.

Habitat: Adults are found in permanent water bodies including ponds, marshes, and shallow lakes. The terrestrial efts can be found out in the open on moist forest floors after rainfall. They also hide under logs, bark, stones, and leaf litter.

Key characteristics for distinction: Aquatic adults range in color from olive to brownish-green and have red spots on their back. The belly is yellow. During the immature terrestrial “red eft” stage, the body is completely bright orange or red. They develop a fin on top of the tail to aid in movement when they transition from juveniles to adults (water)

Coloration: range in color from olive to brownish-green and have red spots on their back; adults have numerous black spots on belly and legs.

Feeding habits/specializations: insects, small mollusks and crustaceans, young amphibians, worms, frog eggs

Reproduction: Up to 400 eggs are attached singly to submerged vegetation in ponds, lakes, or swamps. Larvae are aquatic.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 5 in

Predators: Leaches (preying on larvae), frogs, turtles, birds, fish; newt defends itself by secreting a toxin which predators find distasteful and could be potentially deadly.

Importance to humans: They help reduce mosquito populations by feeding on larvae.

Conservation status: least concern

Fun fact: A newt is just a specific type of salamander. They can use gills to breathe and live in water.

Sources: wildlife.state.nh.us, srelherp.uga.edu (species photo credit above), Wikipedia.org, dec.ny.gov, academics.skidmore.edu

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Spotfin shiner

Scientific name: 
Cyprinella spiloptera

Distribution: North America: Atlantic Slope from St. Lawrence drainage in Canada to Potomac River drainage in Virginia, USA; Great Lakes (except Lake Superior), Hudson Bay (Red River) and Mississippi River basins from Ontario, Canada and New York to North Dakota and south to Alabama and eastern Oklahoma; in Ozarks, USA.

Habitat: Inhabit sand and gravel runs and pools of creeks, and small to medium (sometimes large) rivers

Key characteristics for distinction: Deep body, pointed or slightly rounded snout, subterminal mouth

Coloration: top of body olive, silver sides, white belly, fins pale yellow (breeding males)

Feeding habits/specializations: Adults feed on surface insects and aquatic immatures.

Reproduction: spawning occurs mid-June to mid-August; eggs deposited in crevices around logs and tree roots

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4.7 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, vt.edu


Spottail shiner

Scientific name: 
Notropis hudsonius

Distribution: North America: St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada to Altamaha and upper Chattahoochee River in Georgia, USA; Hudson Bay, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River basins from Ontario, Canada to Mackenzie River drainage in Canada and south to northern Ohio, southern Illinois and northeastern Montana, USA.

Habitat: Inhabit sandy and rocky pools and runs of small to large rivers. Also found in sandy and rocky shores of lakes and in creeks on Atlantic Slope.

Key characteristics for distinction: One of the defining features of a spottail shiner is the black spot found at the base of the caudal fin. One of the defining features of a spottail shiner is the black spot found at the base of the caudal fin.

Coloration: The dorsal side of this shiner can range from a silvery to pale green or olive color, where the ventral side is white.

Feeding habits/specializations: omnivorous fish that feed on plants, aquatic invertebrate, and zoobenthos; said to feed on green algae, plant debris, vascular plants, water fleas, caddis flies, mayflies, nematocerans, and the remains of macroinvertabrates.

Reproduction: Spottail shiners breeding season usually occurs in the summertime during the months of June and July. They are thought to spawn in the sandy bottoms and shorelines of the rivers, lakes, and creeks where they live. Females are thought to produce anywhere from 100 to 2,600 eggs per spawning event.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 6 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use, bait

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org

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Spotted turtle

Scientific name: 
Clemmys guttata

Distribution: Clemmys guttata inhabits the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States, occurring from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the St. Lawrence valley, as well as the upper reaches of the Ohio River system. It also occurs in the Atlantic coastal lowlands and foothills from New Hampshire (possibly southern Maine), southwards to northern Florida

Habitat: marshy meadows, bogs, swamps, ponds, ditches, or other small bodies of still water

Key characteristics for distinction: Male spotted turtles have dark pigment on the hard portions of both jaws; females have yellowish coloration there. Yellow spots on the head, neck, legs and shell.

Coloration: yellow spots on the head, neck, legs, and upper shell or carapace

Feeding habits/specializations: omnivorous; eats exclusively in the water; aquatic vegetation, green algae, insect larvae, worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, crustaceans, tadpoles, salamanders, fish

Reproduction: The breeding season extends from March to May. During this time, males are in an active, almost frantic pursuit of females; several males may be seen simultaneously chasing one female. When the female is ready, she lets one male catch her and allows him to climb onto her back. He grasps her shell with all four feet, positions his tail next to hers, and mates with her. In May, at the end of breeding season, females leave the breeding pools in search of nesting areas. Only 3-4 eggs are laid. The female then covers the eggs, as most turtles do, but goes one step further in disguising the nest.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 5 in

Predators: raccoons and muskrats; will dive into water and bury themselves in mud when startled.

Conservation status: endangered (due mostly to habitat loss) according to IUCN

Sources: iucnredlist.org, dec.ny.gov, Wikipedia.org, Chesapeakebay.net

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Stinkpot turtle

Scientific name: 
Sternotherus odoratus

Distribution: The common musk turtle ranges in southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and in the Eastern United States from southern Maine in the north, south through to Florida, and west to central Texas, with a disjunct population located in central Wisconsin.

Habitat: This turtle is found in a variety of wetland habitats and littoral zones, particularly shallow watercourses with a slow current and muddy bottom. Although they are more aquatic than some turtles, they are also capable of climbing, and may be seen basking on fallen trees and woody debris.

Key characteristics for distinction: small black, grey or brown turtles with highly domed shells. Yellow lines on neck are good field marker. The head is vaguely triangular in shape, with a pointed snout and sharp beak, and yellow-green striping from the tip of the nose to the neck. Barbels are present on the chin and the throat. Their plastrons are relatively small, offering little protection for the legs.

Coloration: small black, grey or brown turtles with highly domed shells; yellow lines on neck.

Feeding habits/specializations: They are carnivorous, consuming a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates including crayfish, freshwater clams, snails, aquatic larvae, tadpoles and various insects. They will also eat fish and carrion.

Reproduction: Breeding occurs in the spring, and females lay two to 9 elliptical, hard-shelled eggs in a shallow burrow or under shoreline debris. An unusual behavior is the tendency to share nesting sites; in one case there were 16 nests under a single log. The eggs hatch in late summer or early fall.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 5.5 in

Predators: large fish, bullfrogs, kingsnakes, alligators, hawks, skunks, raccoons

Conservation status: least threatened

Fun fact: Also known as the common musk turtle due to its ability to release a foul musky odor from scent glands on the edge of its shell.

Sources: Wikipedia.org, texasturtles.org

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Stonefly spp.

Scientific name: 
Plecoptera spp.

Distribution: Stoneflies are found worldwide, except Antarctica.

Habitat: nymphs occur primarily under stones in cool unpolluted streams; some species occur along rocky shores of cold lakes, in cracks of submerged logs, and debris that accumulates around stones, branches, and water diversion grills; spring and summer adults may be found resting on stones and logs in the water, or on leaves and trunks of trees and shrubs near water; winter stoneflies are often attracted to concrete bridges over streams, and some species are commonly found on snow or resting on fence posts during the warmer days of late winter

Key characteristics for distinction: They have simple mouthparts with chewing mandibles, long, multiple-segmented antennae, large compound eyes, and two or three ocelli. The legs are robust, with each ending in two claws. The abdomen is relatively soft, and may include remnants of the nymphal gills even in the adult. Both nymphs and adults have long, paired cerci projecting from the tip of their abdomens.

Feeding habits/specializations: nymphs feed on algae, diatoms, mosses, and immature aquatic invertebrates, including mayflies and midges; most spring and summer adults do not feed, and are nocturnal; winter stoneflies are day-flying, and feed on blue-green algae and foliage

Reproduction: females deposit several egg masses, which together may total more than 1,000 eggs, by flying over water or occasionally by crawling up to the water; some nymphs are known to molt 12-36 times, and require one to three years to mature; full-grown nymphs leave the water, cling to shoreline vegetation and debris, and molt into the adult stage

Predators: fish

Fun fact: Some 3,500 species are described worldwide, with new species still being discovered. Stoneflies are found worldwide, except Antarctica.

Sources: bugguide.net, Wikipedia.org

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Tadpole madtom catfish

Scientific name: 
Noturus gyrinus

Distribution: North America: Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from New Hampshire to Nueces River in Texas, USA; St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River), and Mississippi River basins from Quebec to Saskatchewan in Canada and south to Gulf of Mexico in USA.

Habitat: Inhabits lakes, rock-, mud-bottomed or detritus-bottomed pools and backwaters of lowland creeks and small to large rivers.

Key characteristics for distinction: Chin barbels vary from white to being lightly covered with melanophores. The tadpole madtom possess dark nasal and maxillary barbels and white mandibular barbels. Their adipose fin is completely connected to their large and round caudal fin,[4] and their pectoral fin is not serrated. They possess 6-7 gill rakers; 6-7 dorsal rays; 15-18 anal rays; 7-9 pectoral rays; and 8-10 pelvic rays. The anal fin is of moderate length, but decreases with increasing body length. The Tadpole Madtoms also possess two pectoral spines through which an anti-predatory venom is transmitted. They have a terminal mouth with numerous small and sharp cardiform teeth. The teeth exist in numerous broad bands across the upper and lower jaw.

Coloration: The tadpole madtom has a dark brown back with a lighter brown color on their sides and a yellow or white stomach. The pelvic and pectoral fins of adults are heavily covered in melanophores responsible for pigmentation, and the dorsal and anal fins contain fewer melanophores.

Feeding habits/specializations: Feeds on midge, isopods, amphipods, mayfly and caddis larvae.

Reproduction: little is known of their spawning habits; spawn in June or July; males exhibit swelling of the lips and genital papillae as well as enlarged muscles on top of the head; do not build nests, but instead rely on any present solid substrate with which to attach their eggs. The male then guards the eggs until they hatch to ensure their safety.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 5.2 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org, hatch.cehd.umn.edu


Tessellated darter

Scientific name: 
Etheostoma olmstedi

Distribution: North America: St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Ontario (absent in Maine, USA) in Canada to Altamaha River in Georgia, USA; in St. Johns River drainage in Florida and in Lake Ontario drainage in New York in the USA.

Habitat: Inhabits sandy and muddy pools of headwaters, creeks and small to medium rivers; and shores of lakes.

Key characteristics for distinction: slender body, eyes set close together, short snout, dorsal/caudal/pectoral fins spotted and barred with black.

Coloration: olive-colored body

Feeding habits/specializations: Jerks quickly along stream bottoms from one spot to next searching for food. Feeds on small crustaceans, insects, insect larvae, snails and algae.

Reproduction: Spawns in spring. Eggs are found clustered on underside of stone and guarded by males.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4.3 in

Predators: larger fish, turtles, birds

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fshbase.org, chesapeakebay.net

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Water boatman

Scientific name: 
Hemiptera spp.

Habitat: Water boatmen often swim in open water. They can be seen in groups or clusters swimming through a pond.

Key characteristics for distinction: Water boatmen are somewhat flattened and elongate in shape. They have the hind two pairs of legs fitted with hairs and the tarsi of the hind legs is scoop or oar-shaped which allows them to swim.

Coloration: usually dull colored and often mottled

Feeding habits/specializations: Their sucking mouthparts are modified to allow some chewing. They feed on plant material, including algae.

Reproduction: three stages of development: egg, nymph, adult. Eggs are attached to underwater plants and rocks.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 3/8 in

Predators: fish

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: insects.tamu.edu

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Waterlily leafcutter

Scientific name: 
Nymphulinae spp.

Distribution: This common moth occurs throughout Florida, westward to Texas and northward to western Nova Scotia and southern Manitoba.

Key characteristics for distinction: Females have a 15 to 19 mm wingspan, and the female's wings are paler in color appearing grayish-brown with orange-brown markings. The wingspan of the male is only about 11 to 13 mm, and the male's wings are grayish-brown interspersed with brownish and white markings.

Reproduction: The eggs are whitish in color, and appear domelike (oval and flattened). They are deposited singly or in overlapping, ribbon-like masses near the edges of submersed leaf surfaces. Upon hatching, the larvae enclose themselves inside cut leaf pieces. Cases made by young larvae are water-filled and oxygen uptake occurs cutaneously (presumably via the epidermal papillae) whereas cases of older larvae are air filled. Larvae abandon smaller cases as they mature and construct larger cases from new leaves. The case may consist of two entire leaves, parts of leaves, or of parts of many plants tied together with silk. Prior to pupation, the larvae attach their cases to petioles or leaf blades of their host plants above or below the water surface, and spin their cocoons inside their cases.

Importance to humans: considered a pest in aquatic plant nurseries

Sources: entnemdept.ufl.edu

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Scientific name: 
Dystiscidae spp.

Key characteristics for distinction: diving beetle with short, sharp mandibles

Coloration: Most are dark brown, blackish or dark olive in color with golden highlights in some subfamilies.

Feeding habits/specializations: They have short, but sharp mandibles. Immediately upon biting they deliver digestive enzymes. Feeds on a variety of aquatic animals.

Reproduction: When it is time to reproduce, female diving beetles enter the water and lay eggs on the stems of aquatic plants and macroalgae. When the eggs hatch, the larvae (known commonly as water tigers) enter the water column.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): most 1in but some species up to 1.75 in

Predators: birds, mammals, humans; larvae safer due to camouflage and ability to escape by water jet

Importance to humans: consumed in some cultures

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: Wikipedia.org, arthropoda.wordpress.com

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Whirligig beetle

Scientific name: 
Gyrinidae spp.

Habitat: usually swim on the surface of the water if undisturbed, though they swim actively underwater when threatened; ponds, lakes, streams

Key characteristics for distinction: They get their common name from their habit of swimming rapidly in circles when alarmed, and are also notable for their divided eyes which are believed to enable them to see both above and below water. They tend to be flattened and rounded in cross section, in plan view as seen from above, and in longitudinal section. In fact their shape is a good first approximation to an ellipsoid, with legs and other appendages fitting closely into a streamlined surface.

Coloration: their coloration is not showy and commonly they can be quite hard to see

Feeding habits/specializations: front legs are long and adapted for grasping food or prey; carnivorous; insects and larvae

Reproduction: In males the front tarsi have suckers, which they need for holding onto slippery females during mating; lay their eggs under water, attached to water plants, typically in rows

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 0.7 in

Predators: fish (eat larvae mostly)

Importance to humans: help control populations of other aquatic invertebrates; scavengers clean water of dead or dying insects

Sources: Wikipedia.org, mdc.mo.gov


White sucker

Scientific name: 
Catostomus commersonii

Distribution: North America: throughout most of Canada to the Atlantic Coast, south through North Carolina to New Mexico in the USA, becoming less common in the southern High Plains.

Habitat: Inhabits a wide range of habitats, from rocky pools and riffles of headwaters to large lakes. Usually occurs in small, clear, cool creeks and small to medium rivers.

Key characteristics for distinction: long, round-bodied fish; fish's suckermouth with its fleshy lips are located in the inferior position at the bottom of its head, as the fish obtains its food from bottom surfaces

Coloration: dark green, grey, copper, brown, or black back and sides and a light underbelly

Feeding habits/specializations: bottom feeder; phytoplankton, detritus, algae, diatoms, insects, invertebrates

Reproduction: Adults home to certain gravelly spawning streams. Two to four males will crowd around a female and press against her with their fins. Eggs are scattered and adhere to the gravel or are carried downstream and adhere to the substrate when the water is calmer. The spawning act lasts for 3-4 seconds and may occur 6-40 times an hour. Spent adults return to the lake 10-14 days after spawning began. Most females return to the lake during the first half of the downstream migration followed by most males in the latter half. Downstream fry migration occurs between dusk and dawn

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 26 in

Predators: larger fish

Importance to humans: minor commercial/aquaculture/gamefish/bait

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources: fishbase.org, Wikipedia.org