The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Celebrating Forty Years of the Endangered Species Act: Okaloosa Darter

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scientific Name:
   Etheostoma okaloosae

Year Listed on the Endangered Species List:  1973

Endangered Species Listing Status:  Threatened

The Okaloosa darter was originally listed as endangered in 1973, with only 1,500 left, but was delisted as threatened in 2011 as a result of successful habitat improvement efforts and population monitoring.

Conservation Efforts and Partners:  

Joint efforts between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force have restored 534 acres at clay pit sites that were causing sedimentation of the darter habitat. In addition, road crossing structures were replaced or removed to allow proper movement of creeks and streams.  These efforts came with the assistance of scientists from Loyola University New Orleans, University of Florida and the University of West Florida. Along the way, other organizations also assisted including the Nature Conservancy, base personnel and local citizen volunteers.

Where Okaloosa Darters Live:   

In a restricted habitat composed of six adjacent stream systems draining into ChoctawhatcheeBay in Okaloosa and Walton counties, Florida. Its entire range totals only 243 stream miles and ninety percent of the Okaloosa darter range is within Eglin Air Force Base.

The main threats to the Okaloosa darter are the introduction of the brown darter (Etheostoma edwini) to its habitat as well as sedimentation and pollution of streams.  Brown darters out-compete the Okaloosa darter for food and other resources while sediments can cover sites where eggs are laid, preventing their development.  

Okaloosa darter range map courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.

Okaloosa darter range map courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.

What Okaloosa Darters Eat:   

Immature insect larvae for midges, mayflies and caddisflies.  

How Long Okaloosa Darters Live:  2- 4 years

How We Can All Help Okaloosa Darters: 

“Like” the Facebook page for Panama City Field Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and post a big “Thank you for saving the Okaloosa darter” on their wall.

The Nature Conservancy provides several hints for securing water for people and nature.  While you may not live in the Okaloosa darter’s neighborhood, your actions can protect fish species in your region.

We often think of the military protecting humans, but this video demonstrates the full breadth of the U.S. military commitment to protect everything about the United States of America, right down to tiny fishes and the tiny streams they live in.

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