KU research helps to restore endangered minnow
Two male shiners fight for control of a nesting spot.
Behind them, a female shiner waits to mate with the victor. The females
produce eggs in small batches all summer, so sparring leaves males ragged
and scarred by the end of the spawning season. Garold Sneegas/Contributed
By Cathy Sherman
Research discoveries by KU biologists are helping state and federal wildlife
officials bring the endangered Topeka shiner minnow back from the brink
One key was confirmation by Scott Campbell, research associate with the
Kansas Biological Survey at KU, and his colleagues that the presence of
sunfish in the right environments increased the minnow’s natural
rate of reproduction.
As a result, KU biologists have been able to propagate thousands of shiners
for use in research from an initial stock of 300 taken from one Kansas
creek. The biologists have provided the shiners for counterparts at Kansas
State University and in the Missouri Department of Conservation for their
own studies of this “little-understood” fish, Campbell said.
The 3-inch Topeka shiner, a member of the minnow family Cyprinidae, lives
about three years and is found in the calmer runs and pools in the headwaters
of certain small streams in Kansas, where it is most common, as well as
in limited places in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Developing techniques to propagate Topeka shiners is important to their
recovery, considering that the Topeka shiner’s range has declined
by nearly 90 percent in the past few decades and it was added to the federal
endangered species list in 1998, Campbell said. It now occurs in only
a small fraction of places where it once was common and even has vanished
from the Topeka creek where the first Topeka shiners to be described by
biologists were identified in 1884.