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Photo courtesy of Konrad Schmidt

Hornyhead chub - Common name
Nocomis biguttatus - Scientific name
Family - Cyprinidae (minnows)
Status : S3, G5


IDENTIFICATION: This minnow can reach up to 12 inches (305 mm) in length. It has a dark olive-brown back, iridescent green on yellow-brown side, and white to light yellow belly. It has a barbel at the edge of its mouth, a dark stripe along its side, and a black spot at the base of its tail. Breeding males have a pink belly, pink-orange fins, and tubercles (horn-like structures) on its head. Large males have a bright red spot behind the eye, which is brassy-colored on females.

SIMILAR SPECIES FOUND IN SOUTH DAKOTA: Two similar species in South Dakota that can be found with the hornyhead chub are the creek chub and the central stoneroller. The creek chub does not have a red or brassy colored spot behind the eye. The stoneroller differs from these two species in that it has a sucker-like mouth with a hard ridge on the lower jaw that is unique. It uses this hard ridge to scrape off algae from rocks that it uses for food. Central stonerollers do not have the spot behind the eye, but can have red colored eyes and or a red ring around the eyes, especially when breeding. Central stonerollers also have dark blotches on their backs and sides, whereas the hornyhead chub and creek chub do not.

HABITAT AND HABITS: The hornyhead chub is found in rocky pools and runs of creeks and small to medium sized rivers. In the spring, males construct nests that are 1 to 3 feet in diameter and pile pebbles within the nest to a height of up to 6 inches. The male then digs several shallow pits in the mound where the females lay eggs. Males externally fertilize the eggs then bury them with pebbles.

DISTRIBUTION: Distribution Map The hornyhead chub ranges from Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, east to the Hudson River drainage and south to Oklahoma. In South Dakota, the hornyhead chub is at the western edge of its range. Hornyhead chubs have been found in several water bodies in the Minnesota River Basin including the north and south forks of the Yellowbank River, Monigan Creek, Cobb Creek, Whetstone Creek, the North Fork of Whetstone Creek and Gary Creek in Roberts, Grant and Deuel Counties, as well as in Big Stone Lake in Grant County. In 1952, hornyhead chubs were documented to occur in the Big Sioux River drainage, but the exact location is unknown. The hornyhead chub has not been documented in the Big Sioux River drainage since the finding in 1952, and is likely extirpated from this watershed.

CAUSES OF CONCERN AND CONSERVATION MEASURES: The hornyhead chub is threatened by any activity causing alteration of its habitat, especially siltation or changes in hydrology. The species is rare because it is only found in tributaries to the Minnesota River in South Dakota , but occurs commonly within these tributaries

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