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Distribution of Fishes in the Red River of the North Basin on Multivariate Environmental Gradients



Seventy-seven native and seven introduced fish species were reported during surveys of streams and lakes in the Red River basin during 1892-1994. Crossman and McAllister (1986) listed 75 species for the Red River basin, and Underhill (1989) listed 80 species. Crossman and McAllister (1986) did not include bowfin, rainbow trout, brown trout, northern hogsucker, largescale stoneroller, common carp, yellow bullhead, central mudminnow, largemouth bass, or rainbow darter. The logperch and bigmouth buffalo were listed, but only for the Canadian reaches of the Red River. The brook trout, pugnose shiner, green sunfish, and mottled sculpin were listed for other drainage basins in Canada, but not the Red River basin.

Crossman and McAllister (1986) listed the northern brook lamprey (Ichthyomyzon fossor), bullhead minnow (Pimephales vigilax), and longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) for the Red River in the United States. No records of these species were found during the present study, and verification of records listed by Crossman and McAllister (1986) could not be obtained (Crossman, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, pers. comm. 1994). The northern brook lamprey is present in the Hudson Bay drainage in Manitoba, the Great Lakes drainage of Ontario and Quebec, and in drainages in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri in the United States (Lanteigne 1992). The northernmost distribution of the bullhead minnow is the Mississippi River drainage in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin (Becker 1983). Its range extends south through Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. The longear sunfish has been reported from the Hudson Bay drainage in Canada (Scott and Crossman 1973) and the upper Mississippi and Rainy river drainages (Underhill 1989), but the species is primarily distributed through the east-central and south-central United States (Becker 1983). Also included by Crossman and McAllister (1986) for the Red River in the United States were two species with a question mark. The silvery minnow (Hybognathus nuchalis) and longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus) were listed, but results of the present study did not include them in the system.

Underhill (1989) listed 80 fish species for the Red River, including 75 native and five introduced. Records of all these species were found during the present study. However, Underhill (1989) did not include the yellow bullhead, muskellunge, orangespotted sunfish, and mottled sculpin. The yellow bullhead is a native species which has occurred primarily in the lakes of the Otter Tail and Pelican River drainages. Its distribution is restricted entirely to the eastern reaches of the Red River basin. The muskellunge is an introduced species found primarily in lakes of the Otter Tail and Pelican River drainages, although it has also been stocked in the Sheyenne River (Van Eeckhout, NDGF, Spiritwood, pers. comm. 1994). The orangespotted sunfish has occurred primarily in the Sheyenne River, although it has been taken near the mouth of the Otter Tail River and at Lake Traverse. The mottled sculpin was reported by MDNR FISH (1994) in unpublished records from sites on the Otter Tail River and the Clearwater River. I resampled sites on the Clearwater River during the summer of 1994 and confirmed its presence at the outlet of Big Buzzle Lake, a tributary to the Clearwater River. Specimens from this collection have been deposited at the BMNH.

Compared with other large streams in the region, diversity of fishes in the Red River basin is high. The upper Mississippi River (above St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis) has 69 species (Underhill 1989) of which 62 (72% of species present in the Red River drainage) are shared with the Red River. The Minnesota River has 88 species of which 72 (84%) are shared, and the Missouri River in North Dakota has 65 species (Ryckman 1981) of which 46 (54%) are shared. The fauna appears to be most closely related to that of the Minnesota River to the south and the upper Mississippi River to the east, quite possibly due to post-glacial dispersal patterns of fishes (Underhill 1989, Radke 1992). The low faunal similarity between the Red and Missouri Rivers may indicate a lack of any significant postglacial dispersal route between the two basins, or it may simply be due to differences in habitat that are available to fishes. Studies have noted that habitat heterogeneity increases species richness of streams (Gorman and Karr 1978, Meffe and Sheldon 1988). It is possible that the Red River basin overall has a greater diversity of fish habitats than the Missouri River system in North Dakota.

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