White River Spinedace

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White River Spinedace

Lepidomeda albivallis

ListedSeptember 12, 1985
DescriptionA colorful, medium-sized minnow.
HabitatCool, spring-fed creeks and streams.
FoodSmall invertebrates and organic detritus.
ReproductionLays eggs in gravel.
ThreatsHabitat loss and predation and competition with introduced fishes.


The White River spinedace is a medium-sized minnow, which can attain a total length of 6 in (15 cm). The males are brightly colored, with bright brassy-green to olive above, silvery with sooty blotches on the sides, and silvery white below. The dorsal and caudal fins are pale olive-brown to pinkish-brown, with deep-olive rays and membranes flushed with rose. The pectorals are yellowish with orange-red axils. The anal and pelvic fins are bright orange-red. The lower edge of the caudal peduncle (or fin) is speckled with orange-red. There is some coppery red to red on the sides of the face, and the lateral line is strongly gilt-colored. The coloration of females is similar, but less intense.


The breeding characteristics of the White River spinedace have not been studied, but it probably spawns over fine gravel, from early spring to summer. It probably becomes sexually mature at about one year of age. It is an omnivorous feeder, eating a variety of bottom-dwelling and drifting animals and plant matter.


The White River spinedace occurs in cool freshwater springs and small outflows.


The White River spinedace historically occurred in the White River Valley, in White Pine and Nye Counties, Nevada. It was also reported from the lower Colorado River, California, and from Railroad Valley, Nevada. However, these were non-indigenous occurences, resulting from the use of the rare fish as bait. These extralimital populations no longer exist.


The White River spinedace has been extirpated from most of its original natural range. Its only surviving population is at Flag Springs in Nye County, northeastern Nevada. A study in 1993 found only about 50 individuals in this critically endangered population. The White River spinedace is highly vulnerable to the effects of habitat alterations and the introduction of exotic, predatory and competing fishes. Prominent among the latter threats are brown trout (Salmo trutta ), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis ), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ), cutthroat trout (O. clarki ), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides ), guppy (Poecilia reticulata ), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis ), and goldfish (Carassius auratus ).

Conservation and Recovery

The only surviving critical habitat of the White River spinedace is located in the Kirch Wildlife Area, owned and controlled by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. It is crucial that this habitat be fully protected from any potentially damaging influences. Predatory largemouth bass have been released into downstream reservoirs and have spread upstream to threaten the endangered spinedace. Fish barriers have been erected and initial habitat improvements completed to improve survivorship of the rare fish. A captive-breeding program will be necessary to produce stock for release into other suitable habitats, once the non-native fishes have been eradicated from the critical habitat.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
Eastside Federal Complex
911 N. E. 11th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97232-4181
(503) 231-6121

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Snake River Basin Office
1387 South Vinnell Way, Suite 368
Boise, Idaho 83709-1657
Telephone: (208) 378-5243
Fax: (208) 378-5262


Biological Resources Research Center. 1997. "Lepidomeda albivallis: White River spinedace." Biological Resources Research Center at University of Nevada, Reno. (http://www.brrc.unr.edu/data/fish/lepialbi.html).

Conservation Management Institute. 14 March 1996.White River Spinedace. Virginia Tech, Endangered Species Information System. (http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/WWW/esis/lists/e251019.html). Date Accessed: July 6, 2000.