Noturus miurusBrindled madtom

Geographic Range

Brindled madtoms (Noturus miurus) reside in North America, specifically the continental United States and the lower regions of Ontario. These fish are found natively in major drainages in the eastern and Midwestern United States. Drainages include the basins of the Great Lakes, Illinois River, Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. These fish can be found from Lake Erie to Mississippi, and as far west as Kansas and Oklahoma. (Froese and Ortanez, 2013; Fuller, 2004; Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Osbourn, 1901; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)


Brindled madtoms reside in freshwater streams and lakes and are categorized as warm water fish. Streams, pools, and rivers with brindled madtoms are small to moderately-sized with sand, mud, gravel, or large rocks at the beds. They also inhabit river systems of major drainages. They inhabit the benthic level of streams and rivers; in lakes they are found at shallower depths. Their average depth of occurrence is approximately 1.35 meters (4.4 feet). Areas with rocky or sandy beds are preferred over clay or mud. Their preferred waters are quiet, slow-flowing, and clear with moderate to dense vegetation and clay-like sand at the banks and beds. Vegetation and dense habitats are utilized for nesting or daytime cover. (Froese and Ortanez, 2013; Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Osbourn, 1901; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • benthic
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Average depth
    1.35 m
    4.43 ft

Physical Description

Brindled madtoms are scaleless fishes with eight whisker-like barbels around their mouths used as sensors. Their heads are flattened and round and posses a wide mouth and large eyes. Dorsal and pectoral fins have spinous rays, which are venomous. Small, saw-like notches known as serra are found on the anterior face of the pectoral fins. Larger serrae are found on the posterior face of the pectoral fins. The upper portion of their jaw extends slightly beyond their lower jaw. Brindled madtoms are typically a yellow-brown to gray tone. There are 3 to 5 dark saddles along the length of these fish, extending over their backs. The lateral line and the spaces between the saddles have a light pigmentation. The coloration becomes progressively lighter on the lateral surface. The lightest pigmentation on their body is found on their ventral surface, which is mainly white. Nasal and maxillary barbels are a dusky brown. The pelvic fin and pectoral fin have scattered pigmentation. There is a black spot along the anterior of the dorsal fin. The anal and adipose fins feature a series of small blotches extending to the base of the fin. The caudal fin is wide, dark, and rounded with an un-pigmented band through the center. The adipose fin may be fused with the caudal fin; otherwise, they are separated by a small notch. Mature fish are approximately 50 to 100 mm in length. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Osbourn, 1901; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range length
    50 to 130 mm
    1.97 to 5.12 in
  • Average length
    100 mm
    3.94 in


Brindled madtom eggs are approximately 3.0 mm in diameter and hatch approximately seven to nine days after fertilization. They are born with highly pigmented eyes and rays in their caudal fins. After two weeks growth, they are approximately 14 mm in length and the majority of the yolk sac has been absorbed. Caudal pigmentation and dark blotches arise at two weeks post-fertilization. In the first two months of development, fish grow to half of their mature size. By 13 to 18 months, male and female lengths start to deviate. In most cases, males and females are mature by two years of age. Females can reach maturity as early as one year of age and are born with all of their mature eggs. On average, males tend to be larger in size than females. (Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)


Males in breeding condition have an altered physical appearance; they have thick muscles on the top of their head, protruding lips, and larger genital papillae. Breeding males are drabber than non-breeding males. Breeding females also acquire enlarged genital papillae. Mating occurs in pairs, but females are known to breed with more than one partner during the spawning season. Not much is known about how mate selection occurs. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Menzel and Raney, 1973; Osbourn, 1901; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)

Individual brindled madtoms spawn once in their lifetime and have a moderate clutch size. Spawning occurs in the spring and summer months in warmer water temperatures. Spawning between males and females occurs in the evening and early morning, when light is minimal. Following fertilization, nests are formed in a depression that males guard. Brindled madtoms are able to secrete a temporary adhesive upon fertilization, which allows eggs to be stuck under rocks or other vegetation. Mating couples are together in the nesting area and fertilize the eggs there. Not much is known about their actual spawning process. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)

  • Breeding interval
    Brindled madtoms breed once per lifetime.
  • Breeding season
    Spawning and fertilization occur in the spring or summer months.
  • Range number of offspring
    50 to 100
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range time to hatching
    7 to 9 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Upon completion of fertilization, mated pairs of brindled madtoms guard the nest that contains their young. These areas are under rocks or in depressions with some coverage. The majority of the guarding is done by the male who fertilized the eggs. Male guardianship terminates shortly after the eggs hatch. During the short period after hatching, males give provisional care and supervise their young. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Ross, 2001; Smith, 1979)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male


In the wild, brindled madtoms live approximately three years on average. They are alive long enough to reach maturity, reproduce, and take care of their young. Males live longer on average than females. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Ross, 2001)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 years


Brindled madtoms are nocturnal; daytime is spent under shelter or rocks. Foraging and spawning occurs at night. On occasion they may also reside in cans, bottles, or other debris. In the early stages of their development, brindled madtoms sometimes form schools for protection. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Ross, 2001)

Home Range

There is currently no information available regarding the home range size of brindled madtoms.

Communication and Perception

Not much is known about the communication or perception of brindled madtoms. However, other catfish species are known to possess external taste buds, particularly on their barbels. As bottom feeders, these fish use their barbels to help them forage. (Atema, 1971; Caprio, 1975)

Food Habits

Brindled madtoms forage at night, mostly near the substrate. On occasion they reside near debris, eating the small organisms and larvae near cans, bottles, and other discarded items. Brindled madtoms are omnivorous, eating plants as well as smaller animals. Their diet can vary based on food availability and local resources. Like others members of the catfish family, brindled madtoms are benthic feeders, feeding off aquatic insects, micro-crustaceans, isopods, and vegetation, as well as other small invertebrates. Plant intake makes up only a small fraction of their diet. Sensory barbels around their mouths assist in searching for food. (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004; Ross, 2001)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
    • eats other marine invertebrates
  • omnivore
  • Animal Foods
  • aquatic crustaceans


Brindled madtoms are prey for larger fish in their area including longnose gars. The venomous spikes on their pectoral spines assist in warding off predators. Brindled madtom eggs are also targeted as a food source for predators. (Burr and Mayden, 1982; Osbourn, 1901; Ross, 2001)

Ecosystem Roles

As a predator and prey species, brindled madtoms have a large impact on their ecosystem. In addition, these fish are often parasitized by nematodes, as well as flukes and copepods. (Burr and Mayden, 1982)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Brindled madtoms are intolerant of polluted water and poor water quality, which makes them a good indicator species. (Smith, 1979)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of brindled madtoms on humans. However, these fish have venomous glands at the base of their pectoral fins, although this only causes a problem if they are handled incorrectly. (Froese and Ortanez, 2013; Fuller, 2004)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

Brindled madtoms are not endangered on a national level and there are currently no national conservation efforts in place for the species. The IUCN lists the species as "Least Concern". However, the state of Michigan lists the species as "special concern". ("Noturus miurus", 2013)

Other Comments

Brindled madtoms have interbred with other madtom species, specifically the tadpole madtoms. The larger female hybrids of these two species are thought to be able to produce viable offspring. (Burr and Mayden, 1982; Menzel and Raney, 1973)


Lauren Drayton (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Lauren Sallan (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Jeff Schaeffer (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Leila Siciliano Martina (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


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


seaweed. Algae that are large and photosynthetic.

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


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.


active during the night


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.


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


uses touch to communicate


an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).


2013. "Noturus miurus" (On-line). International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 17, 2013 at

Atema, J. 1971. Structures and Functions of the Sense of Taste in the Catfish (Ameiurus natalis). Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 4: 273-294.

Burr, B., R. Mayden. 1982. Life History of the Brindled Madtom Noturus miurus in Mill Creek, Illinois. American Midland Naturalist, 107: 25-41.

Caprio, J. 1975. High Sensitivity of Catfish Taste Receptor to Amino Acids. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology, 52:1: 247-251.

Coker, G., C. Portt, C. Mins. 1987. Morphological and Ecological Characteristics of Canadian Freshwater Fishes. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2554: iv-89.

Froese, R., A. Ortanez. 2013. "Noturus miurus" (On-line). Fish Base. Accessed October 10, 2013 at

Fuller, P. 2004. "Noturus miurus Jordan, 1877" (On-line). USGS. Accessed October 17, 2013 at

Hubbs, C., K. Lagler. 2004. Fishes of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Menzel, B., E. Raney. 1973. Hybrid Madtom Catfish, Noturus gyrinus x Noturus miurus, from Cayuga Lake, New York. American Midland Naturalist, 90: 165-176.

Osbourn, R. 1901. The fishes of Ohio. Columbus: Spahr & Glen.

Ross, S. 2001. Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Smith, G., J. Taylor, T. Grimshaw. 1981. Ecological Survey of Fishes in the Raisin River Drainage, Michigan. Michigan Acadamician, 13: 275-305.

Smith, P. 1979. The Fishes of Illinois. Illinois: University of Illinois Press.