Photo courtesy of Konrad Schmidt

Topeka shiner - Common name
Notropis topeka - Scientific name
Family - Cyprinidae (minnows)
Status : FE, S3, G3

IDENTIFICATION: This prairie minnow generally ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 inches long (38-63 mm) and lives up to three years in age. The Topeka shiner has a stout body and a small eye. A dark or dusky stripe runs the length of the body ending in a black, chevron-shaped spot at the base of the tail. The scales on the top half of the fish are outlined in black. The scales behind the head are irregularly shaped and appear crowded at the base of the head. Topeka shiners are olive in color with a white belly. During the breeding season, males have bright orange-red fins, are orange on the belly and side of the head, and have tubercles (small, bony structures) on the head. Large breeding males can also appear bluish-green or bluish-silver in color and the chevron spot broadens becoming less distinguishable. Small, black markings extend along the side of the body, appearing like a trail of "mouse tracks".

SIMILAR SPECIES IN SOUTH DAKOTA: The Topeka shiner most closely resembles a more common species, the sand shiner . The sand shiner has "mouse tracks" like the Topeka shiner, but is more slender, has larger eyes, does not have a dark stripe on the side of the body, and has a purplish-blue hue to the body when reflected in the sunlight. The scales behind the head of the sand shiner are not crowded and more regularly shaped in a diamond-like pattern.

HABITAT AND HABITS: The Topeka shiner prefers small prairie streams that have good water quality, sandy or gravelly bottoms, and groundwater input. They can also occupy backwater areas and sites with relatively poor water quality and intensive surrounding land use, although it is unknown whether such populations can sustain themselves. Topeka shiners have even been found in dugouts, where in some instances they appear to be healthy and thriving. Topeka shiners spawn from late May to mid-August, depending on water temperature, over patches of clean gravel or hardpan clay, and frequently over the nests of green sunfish and orange-spotted sunfish. Their diverse diet includes aquatic plants and insects.

DISTRIBUTION: Distribution Map This species ranges from eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota south through portions of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. In South Dakota, the Topeka shiner is widespread in the Vermillion River, Big Sioux River, and James River watersheds, found in tributaries to these rivers. The Topeka shiner has also been found frequently in the Vermillion River and occasionally in the Big Sioux River. The Vermillion River likely supports a population of Topeka shiners, but those found in the Big Sioux River are not likely an established population of that river, but "strays" from tributary populations. The Topeka shiner was listed as a federal endangered species in 1999 because of dramatic reductions in its distribution, although surveys indicate that the Topeka shiner is abundant in South Dakota.

CAUSES OF CONCERN AND CONSERVATION MEASURES: Topeka shiners have suffered from a variety of changes to their prairie stream habitat, including conversion for development or intensive agriculture, stream channelization and impoundment, introduction of predatory fish, and increased siltation and erosion. Grassland habitat conversion has occurred at a lower rate in South Dakota than in other parts of the Topeka shiner's range. Livestock grazing at low levels, for example in a rotational grazing pattern, is a compatible land use, and efforts that encourage continuation of these practices will help sustain this species. Large-scale dams on Topeka shiner drainages will receive serious scrutiny because of potential cumulative impacts to this species and its habitat. Such cumulative effects may include changes to hydrology, geomorphology, potential introduction of predatory game fish and the likelihood of blocking fish passage. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has written its own state management plan for this species, which has precluded the designation of critical habitat in South Dakota. Because of the relatively high abundance of this species in South Dakota compared to other states within its range, the State's goal is to down list the species within South Dakota. The state continues to monitor Topeka shiner populations and habitat, as well as support research efforts to accomplish this goal.