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Biological Sciences


The southeastern United States represents one of the richest collections of aquatic biodiversity worldwide; however, many of these taxa are under an increasing threat of imperilment, local extirpation, or extinction. The pearl darter Percina aurora is a small-bodied freshwater fish endemic to the Pearl and Pascagoula river systems of Mississippi and Louisiana (USA). The last collected specimen from the Pearl River drainage was taken in 1973, and it now appears that populations in this system are likely extirpated. This reduced the historical range of this species by approximately 50%, ultimately resulting in federal protection under the US Endangered Species Act in 2017. To better understand the current distribution and general biology of extant populations, we analyzed data collected from a series of surveys conducted in the Pascagoula River drainage from 2000 to 2016. Pearl darters were captured at relatively low abundance (2.4 ± 4.0 ind. per collection) from 57% of 308 collections. We identified strong relationships between local habitat variables and occurrence and catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) of pearl darters. Pearl darters were frequently encountered and in greater abundance in depositional areas characterized by low-velocity habitats and finer substrates. Patterns of occurrence and CPUE were spatiotemporally variable across years; however, repeated collections from a subset of localities collected across a decade or more indicated long-term persistence and stability, suggesting population resilience throughout the Pascagoula River drainage.


Published by 'Endangered Species Research' at 10.3354/esr00897.

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Endangered Species Research



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