Cape Fear Shiner

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Cape Fear Shiner

Notropis mekistocholas

ListedSeptember 25, 1987
FamilyCyprinidae (Minnow)
DescriptionSmall, silvery-yellow minnow with a dark lateral stripe.
HabitatPools, slow riffles, and runs.
FoodPlant matter.
ThreatsDam construction.
RangeNorth Carolina


Cape Fear shiner (Notropis mekistocholas ) is a pale metallic-yellow minnow that rarely exceeds 2 in (5.1 cm) in length. A black lateral stripe runs the length of the side. The fins are yellow and pointed, the upper lip is black, and the lower lip bears a thin black bar along its margin.


This shiner, unlike most other members of the large genus Notropis, feeds extensively on plant matter, and its digestive tract has a long, convoluted intestine. Nothing is known of its breeding biology.


Cape Fear shiner is usually found in pools, riffles, and runs over gravel, cobble, or boulder bottoms. It is frequently associated with schools of related species but is never the most numerous. Juveniles are often found in slack water, among midstream rock outcrops, and in side channels and pools.


Cape Fear shiner has been documented from nine rivers and streams in central North Carolina: Bear and Robeson Creeks and Rocky River (Chatham County); Fork Creek (Randolph County); Deep River (Moore, Randolph, Chatham, and Lee Counties); and Cape Fear River and Kenneth, Neals, and Parkers Creeks (Hartnett County). This shiner is now restricted to only four North Carolina populations. The largest and most stable population is located near the confluence of the Rocky and Deep Rivers in Chatham and Lee Counties. A second population center is found in Chatham County above the Rocky River hydroelectric dam, and a third inhabits the Deep River system in Randolph and Moore Counties above the Highfalls hydroelectric reservoir. In 1987 a viable population was discovered in Neals Creek in Harnett County.


Cape Fear shiner may always have been rare, but there is no doubt that the population has suffered a sharp decline. Construction of dams along the Cape Fear River system has inundated portions of the shiner's riverine habitat and fragmented the population. Potential future threats could come from road construction, channel modification, additional damming, and waste water discharges, with proposed dam projects in the area posing further threats to the shiner's habitat.

Conservation and Recovery

Because "critical habitat status" has been designated for Cape Fear shiner, certain options are available for habitat management. The recovery plan recommends 1) searching for additional populations and habitat suitable for reintroducing species; 2) reintroducing captive bred individuals back into the original habitat; and 3) monitoring population and habitat conditions. The habitat is also somewhat protected by state and federal laws from disturbance by construction activities.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
(404) 679-4000

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, North Carolina 28801-1082
Telephone: (828) 258-3939
Fax: (828) 258-5330


Pottern, G. B., and M. T. Hulsh. 1985, 1986, 1987."Status Surveys of the Cape Fear Shiner (Notropis mekistocholas )." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.

Snelson, F. F. 1971. "Notropis mekistocholas, a New Cyprinid Fish Endemic to the Cape Fear River Basin, North Carolina." Copeia 1971: 449-462.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Determination of Endangered Status and Critical Habitat for the Cape Fear Shiner." Federal Register 52: 36034-36039.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. "Cape Fear Shiner Recovery Plan." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.

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Cape Fear Shiner

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