Etheostoma maculatum (Spotted Darter) has a disjunct distribution within the Ohio River drainage. Researchers have generalized Spotted Darter habitat as large rocks in swift riffles. In West Virginia, Spotted Darters are known to occur only in the middle section of the Elk River system. Information on habitat use is lacking. Through direct observation (snorkeling), we examined microhabitat use of Spotted Darters in riffle and glide habitats at three sites in the Elk River. Spotted darters in the Elk River were observed primarily in glide habitats near large rocks and in moderate current velocities. In the Elk River, this species is a benthic-habitat specialist, making it highly vulnerable to habitat alterations such as sedimentation and substrate embeddedness. Given its habitat use and restricted distribution, further ecological studies are needed for conservation and management of the Spotted Darter population in the Elk River.
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Habitat use of Etheostoma maculatum (Spotted Darter) in Elk River, West Virginia