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Abstract

The least darter, Etheostoma microperca, has a limited distribution in Arkansas and is designated as a species of greatest conservation need by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The fish was first documented in the state in 1938 in Wildcat Creek west of Springdale with additional discoveries in 1960, 1973, 1981, and 1982. A 1997 study documented the persistence of the species in Healing Spring Run and a spring run tributary of Osage Creek, 2 of the historic streams. Field sampling in 2004-2005 and 2010-2011, provided more concentrated sampling efforts in the basin. This study sought to determine the present status of least darter populations in Arkansas by detecting presence or absence at previously reported locations and locations in the same watersheds having similar habitat. Information on all least darter collections in Arkansas is compiled herein. The species appears to be extirpated from Wildcat Creek, Clear Creek, and Elkhorn Springs. Previously undocumented populations were found in the Clear Creek and Flint Creek watersheds. Least darter has not been collected from Osage Creek since 1973, persists in a spring run tributary to Osage Creek reported first in 1997. The species also persists in Healing Spring Run, and additional populations were found in other nearby tributaries to Little Osage Creek and in vegetated backwaters along the creek itself.

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