Natural history, threats, and current research related to Candy Darter (Etheostoma osburni) in Virginia
McBaine, Katie E.
Angermeier, Paul L.
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The candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) is a small riffle-dwelling, non-game fish species endemic to the New River drainage in Virginia and West Virginia. It is narrowly restricted to medium-size streams with cold-cool temperatures, high-velocity riffles, and silt-free substrates. It primarily eats aquatic insects. Candy darter’s distribution has been sharply reduced over the last century, now occurring in only four streams in Virginia. Stony Creek, in Giles County, is thought to support the largest and most stable population in Virginia. It is listed as a species of Special Concern in Virginia and is being reviewed for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. Main threats include fine sediment, warming waters, and introduction of non-native species. Potential management actions to facilitate conservation include improving riparian buffer and excluding cattle from streams. Key knowledge gaps germane to conservation include spatiotemporal distributions, population dynamics, and genetic differentiation of populations. Our research is addressing the following questions: 1) How does detectability of candy darter vary across habitat configurations and seasons? 2) How does the juxtaposition of suitable habitat patches influence movement of candy darter? Answers to these questions could inform management regarding protection and/or enhancement of critical habitats and of connectivity among populations.