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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

15 Fin-tastic Facts About Snail Darter For Kids

Snail darter facts are quite interesting to read.

The snail darter (Percina tanasi) is a limited species of ray-finned fish. In the past, this species was native to the upper Tennessee River, upstream from the north-central parts of Alabama. Their population was also later discovered in the lower parts of the Hiwassee River, Clinch River, Little Tennessee River, French Broad River, and Holston River. Later on, they were discovered in the linked reservoirs too. This uncommon species was first stumbled upon by David Etnier, a biologist and professor of the University of Tennessee while doing some research on the Little Tennessee River upstream from the controversial project known as Tellico Dam. Snail darters prey on small invertebrates and aquatic animals. The majority of its diet consists of snails, thus justifying the name of this species.

Snail darters became a reason for a critical legal battle between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1978. Environmental Protection Agency appealed to the Supreme Court and invoked the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  This was done to stop the project of Tellico Dam and protect this endangered species. Eventually, the case was won by TVA who was led by the  Congress government, and the Tellico Dam was finished in 1979 for economic development. Before this, the U.S Fish and Wildlife introduced a population of these fish to the Hiwassee River.

Keep reading to know more about this fascinating, rare fish. You can also read our articles on lined seahorse and manta ray.

Snail Darter Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a snail darter?

The snail darter is a type of ray-finned fish that belongs to the Perch family, also known as Percidae.

What class of animal does a snail darter belong to?

The snail darter belongs to the class of fish known as Actinopterygii.

How many snail darters are there in the world?

The exact population of snail darters has not been determined yet. Earlier, this species were listed as Endangered but now their population is quite stable.  

Where does a snail darter live?

Although the exact range of this species cannot be determined, it is assumed that they were native to the north-central parts of Alabama and to the upper Tennessee River upstream. They also could be found in the lower parts of Hiwassee River, Clinch River, Little Tennessee River, French Broad River, and Holston River. Due to the Tellico dam construction, this ray-finned fish were transferred from the Little Tennessee River to the Hiwassee River by the U.S Fish and wildlife service. Later in 1980, these fish were found in south Chickamauga creek, and in 1981 they were discovered in Sequatchie river and Sewee Creek of Tennessee.

What is a snail darter's habitat?

Snail darters (Percina tanasi) thrive in undisturbed streams and rivers with sandy bottoms and a lot of vegetation. They need this kind of habitat to help in preying and depositing eggs. Slow-flowing or undisturbed streams also help the eggs and the larvae to survive. This is the reason why these fish delay their breeding process during a flood. These fish were first discovered in the Little Tennessee River by David Etnier in 1973.

Who do snail darters live with?

Snail darters, like all other ray-finned fish, are social and live in groups called schools.

How long does a snail darter live?

This species has an average life expectancy of two years. Sometimes, they can even live for four years.

How do they reproduce?

This species is oviparous in nature, meaning that females release the eggs and this process is known as spawning. It takes place from January to March. The eggs are fertilized by males externally. Females spawn around 600 eggs in undisturbed and shallow rivers with soft sandy ground. Hereafter, males release their sperm and fertilize the eggs. These eggs hatch after 15 to 20 days. The larvae are preyed on by a variety of animals, including adult snail darters during this period. Young darters or larvae tend to flow downstream with the water. After 15 to 30 days, larvae turn into adults and find their way back upstream.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of a snail darter (Percina tanasi) is Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the past, it was listed as Endangered but the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service created a recovery plan and introduced a population of this fish species to the Hiwassee River. This helped them go from a threatened species to a Vulnerable status.

Snail Darter Fun Facts

What do snail darters look like?

Snail darters are a small species of fish that are approximately 2.2-3.5 in (5.5-9 cm) in length. These fish are brown in color with four dark brown straps on the back. They can camouflage well to protect themselves from enemies.

Snail darters are brown in color with brown straps on the back.

How cute are they?

The snail darter is not a cute fish. The four dark brown straps all over the back make them look quite ugly.

How do they communicate?

Snail darters or Percina tanasi live in shoals and a lateral line system helps them to sense water movements. This is also known as tactile communication. They are also known to communicate with the help of chemical channels.

How big is a snail darter?

These fish range from 2.2- 3.5 in (5.5-9 cm) length. These ray-finned fish are approximately three to four times smaller than sardines, which are about 6-12 in (15.2-30.5 cm) in length.

How fast can a snail darter swim?

The exact speed at which this fish swim is unknown, but they move at a moderate speed.

How much does a snail darter weigh?

There is no data that has been found regarding the weight of this species.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no such specified names for a male and female of this species.

What would you call a baby snail darter?

A young or baby snail darter, like all other baby fish, is known as fry.

What do they eat?

The population of this fish prey on small invertebrates and aquatic animals. The majority of its diet consists of snails, thus justifying the name of this species. Apart from this, they also eat blackflies, midges, and caddisflies.

Are they poisonous?

These fish are not known to be poisonous or harmful in nature.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they are wild fish and they should not be taken away from their natural habitat.

Did you know...

The committee formed by the Congress government is known as 'God Squad'. It is called the 'God Squad' because it has the right to provide exemptions to the Endangered Species Act for the greater economical benefit of society. If the committee feels that a certain species is insignificant in front of the greater growth, it may have the authority to destroy them. This is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lost its case regarding the snail darters against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

What happened to the snail darter?

Snail daters became a reason for a critical legal battle between the EPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1978. The Environmental Protection Agency appealed to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to stop the Tellico Dam construction in the Tennessee river to protect this endangered species. The dam would have destroyed the habitat of this threatened breed of fish and cause their extinction. The Supreme Court eventually favored the EPA and decided to terminate the construction of the dam in the Tennessee River. This is because snail darters were considered a rare species and were already listed as Endangered. The Congress who was determined to complete the Tellico Dam construction created an Endangered Species Committee. This helped Congress win the case and therefore Tellico Dam was exempted from the Endangered Species Act. This remains a historic case of the government who decided to eradicate a particular threatened species from the face of the earth for the sake of economic development.

This threatened species exists today because the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service introduced thousands of these snail darters on an urgent basis to the Hiwassee River. This helped the population of snail darters go from a threatened species to a Vulnerable status.

Is the snail darter a freshwater fish?

Yes, snail darters are rare freshwater fish belonging to the family of Actinopterygii. Their range is across the south-eastern parts of the United States. They live in undisturbed streams and rivers with sandy bottoms and a lot of vegetation. This is because they need this habitat to prey and deposit their eggs. Slow-flowing or undisturbed streams help the eggs and the larvae to survive.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including Chinese paddlefish, or Siamese fighting fish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable snail darter coloring pages.

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