Photo Ark: Okaloosa Darter

Photo Ark: Okaloosa Darter

The Okaloosa Darter: A Tiny Fish with a Big Impact


4 - 9


Biology, Conservation, Geography

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The Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) is a small yet important fish that lives in just six streams in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Florida. Reaching an adult size of only 5.1 centimeters (two inches), these brown-spotted fish live in streambeds. They hide in roots or plants, only darting out to catch young insects. The Okaloosa darter is crucial to the stream ecosystem as both predator and prey. Darters eat small insects and larvae; they are also an important source of food for larger fish and animals.

Uniquely, 98 percent of Okaloosa darters live in an area managed by an Air Force base. The clean, clear streams these tiny fish live in are threatened by sedimentation (the settling of dirt and rocks). The extra dirt covers the places where the fish lay eggs. They are also threatened by pollution and competition with other fish. A large team has been working hard to protect these fish by monitoring and keeping the streams clean, and it's working! Okaloosa darter numbers have grown from 1,500 in 1973 to over 600,000 in 2023. This little fish has a big future thanks to the conservation efforts of many people.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Corinne Rucker, National Geographic Society
Sara Nachtigal, Ph.D., Educurious
Hanna Jaramillo, M.S. Ed., Educurious
Latia White, Ed.D., Inclusive Innovation Researcher, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

March 5, 2024

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