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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995


Sicklefin Chub (Macrhybopsis meeki)

JPG -- species photo gif--species map

Official Status: Candidate

Historical Status:
Sicklefin chub were first reported in 1884 from the Missouri River, near St. Joseph, Missouri. Their historic range extended from the upper reaches of the Missouri River in Montana to the mouth near St. Louis, and included the Mississippi River downstream from the Ohio River. They were also rarely collected from the large tributaries of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers including the Yellowstone, Platte, Kansas and Little Missouri Rivers. Collections have always been infrequent. However, catches at a single location have numbered over 100 specimens.

Present Status:
Sicklefin chub are rarely collected of late. They still inhabit some unchannelized and channelized portions of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. A recent collection of 104 specimens was made in Missouri, while in North Dakota, 2 sicklefin chub were collected on the Missouri River in 1991 and 1 in 1990. The 1991 specimens were collected on the Missouri River near Williston and the 1990 specimen was collected in White Earth Bay on Lake Sakakawea. Prior to these collections, the most recent North Dakota collection occurred in 1977.

Habitat:
Sicklefin chub inhabit deep rivers with swift currents and muddy water. The low visibility conditions in the muddy water protect the chub from predators. In addition, sicklefin chub can locate food by feel and taste, where other fish can not. They are primarily collected over fine gravel and sand substrates. One collection of a sicklefin chub in North Dakota occurred over medium-sized rocks in 3-4 feet of water.

Life History:
Little is known about the feeding and reproductive habits of sicklefin club. Their bodies are highly specialized for a turbid environment. Their mouth is located on the underside of the head; and small whiskers and exceptionally small eyes indicate that sicklefin chub likely locate food by taste, while sorting through sediment material. Young sicklefin chub have been collected in the Missouri River, Missouri during July. This suggests a spring spawning period. Related minnow species typically have a life-span of 3-4 years and mature in their second year. Sicklefin chub may be eaten by walleye, pike and other predacious fish and are especially vulnerable in clear water such as in reservoirs and below dams.

Aid to identification:
Sicklefin chub are slender and silvery-colored, with small eyes and long sickle-shaped fins. A key distinguishing characteristic is that the pectoral fins (the fins immediately behind the gills) extend far past the pelvic fin (the middle fins on the bottom of the fish) bases. Sicklefin chub exhibit exceptionally dense concentrations of their external taste buds in portions of the head, lower body and pectoral fins. The sicklefin chub reachs a maximum size of approxhnately 4 inches. Sicklefin chub are similar in appearance to flathead chub, except flathead chub have shorter pectoral tins.

Reasons for decline:
The particular habitat requirements of sicklefin chub make them vulnerable to habitat alterations. Except for a few tributary locations, nearly all of the historic habitat of the chub has been altered by impoundments and channelization, and their associated water quality changes.

Comments:
Sicklefin chub got their name from the shape of the fin. The curved edges of some fins resemble the curve of a sickle blade.

References:
Fishes of South Dakota, by R. M. Bailey and M.O. Allum, 1962. Published as Miscellaneous Publication Number 119 from the University of Michigan.
The Fishes of Missouri, by W. L. Pflieger, 1975. Published by the Missouri Department of Conservation.


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