Pteronotropis welakaBluenose Shiner

Geographic Range

Bluenose shiners, Pteronotropis welaka were first discovered in the St. Johns River near the town of Welaka, Florida. Their range currently extends from the St. Johns River system in eastern Florida to the Pearl River drainage basin in Louisiana, encompassing parts of Mississippi and Alabama. This distribution, however, is very fragmented. Isolated populations also occur in the lower Flint River system in Georgia. (Albanese, et al., 2007; Evermann and Kendall, 1898; Ross, et al., 2001)


Bluenose shiners are most commonly found in small, clear headwater streams with high turbidity. They prefer deep muddy-bottom areas of vegetated streams that include the broad leave plant genera Sagittaria, Potamogeton, and g. Utricularia. Because of their dependence on deep pools and aquatic vegetation, viable habitat is becoming increasingly limited due to human development and stream alteration. (Albanese, et al., 2007; Cook, 1959)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Bluenose shiners are smaller than other cyprinids, and the longest recorded individual was 53 mm in length. They are slender, compressed, and cylindrical in shape. They have a pointed snout and an oblique terminal to subterminal mouth. Their snout becomes slightly swollen during the breeding season. Bluenose shiners have a lateral line which runs the entire length of the fish and covers only about 6 anterior scales. They have 11 to 13 scales above the lateral line and 9 to 11 below. Scales are large and completely cover their ventral side. Bluenose shiners have 8 dorsal-fin rays, 8 to 9 anal-fin rays, 14 to 15 pectoral-fin rays, and 8 pelvic-fin rays. They do not have spines. Their dorsal fin is located posterior to the pelvic fin and is equally spaced between the snout and caudal fin. They have a homocercal caudal fin, meaning the upper and bottom lobes are the same length. (Cook, 1959; Ross, et al., 2001)

Male and female bluenose shiners vary in physical characteristics and coloration. When breeding, males develop tubercles on their upper and lower jaws, head, and pectoral fin rays. Males also change in color while mating: their snout and head turn royal blue, and gold flecks develop on the side of the body. The male’s larger dorsal fin turns black, while the anal, pelvic, and pectoral fins turn yellow and white. In older males, dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins increase in length. Females have a more prominent black lateral band. Females occasionally develop a blue snout when mature, although they usually lack most of the vibrant coloration of males. (Ross, et al., 2001)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    53 (high) mm
    2.09 (high) in


In the protolarval stage, which occurs around 4.4 to 5.7 mm of length, bluenose shiners develop a mouth and large round eyes, and the gut area begins to darken. They develop into mesolarve at 7 mm in length. During this stage, eyes enlarge and pigmentation increases throughout the body, especially in the lips. As metalarvae, at 12 to 18 mm of length, bluenose shiners develop a two-chambered air bladder. Pectoral and pelvic fins continue to develop, and their anal rays are fully formed. Pigmentation is visible in a caudal spot, lips, gut, a midlateral band on the caudal peduncle, a lateral band, and a band on the opercle. In juvenlie fish, the lateral band, caudal spot, and a pale band on each side of the dark lateral band are easily visible. As body size of males increases, so does fin length, pigmentation, and relative weight of testes. (Johnston and Knight, 1999; Ross, et al., 2001)


Little information is available regarding the mating system of bluenose shiners.

Spawning of bluenose shiners peaks between May and July, and females usually spawn more than once in a season. Bluenose shiners are a nest associate of various North American sunfish, and juveniles spend their early developmental stages with the juvenile sunfish they nest with. Bluenose shiners also nest in vegetation. Males are aggressive during spawning season and chase away other bluenose shiners from the nest. Several males usually remain near a single nest. (Goldstein, 2001; Johnston and Knight, 1999; Johnston, 1999; Simons, et al., 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    Bluenose shiners may spawn multiple times in one season.
  • Breeding season
    Spawning of bluenose shiners peaks between May and July.

Little information is available regarding parental investment of bluenose shiners. Males, however, aggressively chase away other bluenose shiners from the nest. Several males usually remain near a single nest. (Johnston and Knight, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male


Most bluenose shiners only survive a couple of years. Most die during the summer of their second year directly after their first spawning season. (Johnston and Knight, 1999)


Bluenose shiners generally reside in the bottom third of the water column, where they school. During floods, they often spread over the floodplain, likely because of their preference for vegetated habitat. (Ross, et al., 2001)

Home Range

Little is known regarding the home range of bluefin shiners.

Communication and Perception

Little is known regarding communication or perception of bluenose shiners. They travel in schools and have large eyes, which may be indicative of communication of some form and visual perception respectively.

Food Habits

Bluenose shiners are primarily herbivorous, mostly consuming filamentous algae. However, they also eat eggs and fry during the spawning season. They often nest with sunfish and, when the sunfish guarding the nest leaves, male bluenose shiners often prey on sunfish eggs. Bluenose shiners may also eat their own eggs, though the larger sunfish eggs are preferred. (Johnston and Knight, 1999; Ross, et al., 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • Plant Foods
  • algae


Bluenose shiners live in small headwater streams and occasionally in isolated pools in close proximity to predators. Some other cyprinids, such as creek chub, are piscivorous and eat other cyprinids, such as bluenose shiners. Bluenose shiners often swim in schools, perhaps to reduce predation. (Fraser and Cerri, 1982)

Ecosystem Roles

Bluenose shiners consume algae and act as prey to other fish. They also are a nest associate with sunfish, and male bluenose shiners help protect the nest, cashing off other fish that may pose a treat. Males bluenose shiners, however, are also known to eat sunfish eggs if the adult sunfish leave the nest. (Johnston and Knight, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Male bluenose shiners are very colorful and have elongated fins, making them popular aquarium fish. Several cyprinid species are raised for bait, and the baitfish industry has grown considerably and is now worth millions of dollars. (Johnston and Knight, 1999; Phillip and Hoy, 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of bluenose shiners on humans.

Conservation Status

The states of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi list bluenose shiner as a species of special concern, and in Georgia they are considered threatened. They are at risk primarily because they are short lived, populations are isolated, and because of human factors. Human clearing of vegetation along stream banks as well as sediment runoff from agriculture practices and urban development are particularly harmful to bluenose shiners. Populations are often small and isolated, and a population can easily be destroyed by harvesting for the aquarium trade. Conservation efforts must also take into consideration the importance of other fish and plant species to the survival of bluenose shiners. (Albanese, et al., 2007; Johnston, 1999; Ross, et al., 2001)


Zach Herrington (author), Louisiana State University, Prosanta Chakrabarty (editor), Louisiana State University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Albanese, B., J. Peterson, B. Freeman, D. Weiler. 2007. Accounting for Incomplete Detection when Estimating Site Occupancy of Bluenose Shiner (Pteronotropis welaka) in Southwest Georgia. Southeastern Naturalist, 6(4): 657-668.

Cook, F. 1959. Freshwater Fishes in Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Game and Fish Commision.

Evermann, B., W. Kendall. 1898. Descriptions of new or little-known genera and species of fishes from the United States. Bulletin of the U.S. Fish Commision, 17: 125-133.

Fraser, D., R. Cerri. 1982. Experimental Evaluation of Predator-Prey Relationships in a Patchy Environment: Consequences For Habitat Use Patterns In Minnows. Ecology, 63(2): 307-313.

Goldstein, R. 2001. Corrections and Updates to American Aquarium Fishes. American Currents, Winter: 22-26.

Johnston, C. 1999. The Relationship of Spawning Mode to Conservation of North American Minnows (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 55: 21-30.

Johnston, C., C. Knight. 1999. Life-History Traits of the Bluenose Shiner, Pteronotropis welaka (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae). Copeia, 1: 200-205.

Mayden, R. 1989. Phylogenetic Studies of North American Minnows, with Emphasis on the Genus Cyprinella (Teleostei: Cypriniformes). Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History.

Nelson, J. 1994. Fishes of the World 3rd Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Phillip, C., M. Hoy. 1997. Lesser Scaup Depredation and Economic Impact at Baitfish Facilities in Arkansas. Thirteenth Great Plains Wildlife Damage Control Workshop Proceedings, 6: 156-161.

Ross, S., W. Brenneman, W. Slack, M. O'Connell, T. Peterson. 2001. Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Singapore: University Press of Mississippi.

Simons, A., E. Knott, R. Mayden. 2000. Assessment of Monophyly of the Minnow Genus Pteronotropis (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Copeia, 4: 1068-1075.