Blackchin shiner (Notropis heterodon)

Blackchin shiner
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • The blackchin shiner has a distinctive black line that zig-zags along the entire length of its body.
  • The blackchin shiner is named for the black patch on the tip of the lower jaw.
  • Increased siltation as a result of human disturbance can destroy suitable habitat and lead to a decline in populations of the blackchin shiner.
  • The blackchin shiner prefers still or slow-moving water, in cool, clear lakes or streams.
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Blackchin shiner fact file

Blackchin shiner description

GenusNotropis (1)

The blackchin shiner (Notropis heterodon) is a small fish with a distinctive dark stripe that runs laterally along either side of the body, from the tail fin through the large eye and over the nose (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). This stripe is distinguishable from that of other shiners with similar dark stripes, as it appears to zig-zag around the scales (2) (3) (4). The tail fin is forked, and has eight dark rays (2) (4) (5). The blackchin shiner has a distinctive arrangement of teeth located at the back of the throat in two rows, with one tooth in the outer row and four in the inner row (2) (5) (6).

The blackchin shiner is straw-yellow in colour above the stripe, grading to silvery-white below (2) (3) (4) (5). The common name of this species refers to the black pigment present on the tip of the lower jaw (3) (4) (5).

During the breeding season, the male blackchin shiner can become golden-yellow and may develop wart-like nodules on the top of its head and pectoral fins (2).

Alburnops heterodon.
Average adult length: 50 - 70 mm (2)

Blackchin shiner biology

There is very little known about the life history of the blackchin shiner (2) (4) (6). Female blackchin shiners collected during July and August in Manitoba are often reported to have mature eggs in their ovaries (6). It is thought to be likely that spawning starts as early as May (2).

The blackchin shiner is reported to feed primarily on small crustaceans, as well as on worms, insects and some plant material (2) (5) (6). It is thought to feed from the middle level of the water column rather than the bottom (4) (6). Midges have been found in the guts of blackchin shiners, which indicates that this species can feed on small flying insects at the water’s surface (2) (4).

Thanks to its high abundance and small size, the blackchin shiner is thought to be an important food source for juvenile northern pike (Esox lucius) and yellow perch (Perca flavescens), both of which are found in the same habitat in Manitoba (6).

It is suggested that the blackchin shiner, along with other black-striped shiners, may be tolerant to low levels of oxygen due to its presence in oxbow lakes of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba (6).


Blackchin shiner range

The blackchin shiner is abundant throughout the Great Lakes region of North America (2) (3) (4). It is found as far west as North Dakota and Manitoba, and east through Illinois to New York, Vermont and southern Quebec (2) (3).


Blackchin shiner habitat

The blackchin shiner favours cool, clear, weedy, protected waters, and can often be found in glacial lakes (3) (5) (6). It has also been seen in slow-moving streams connected to lakes (3) (5). Individuals of this species have been observed swimming above weedbeds in Manitoba during the summer months, and are quick to take cover in the weeds when disturbed (6). The blackchin shiner prefers water with very little siltation and a sandy floor (2).


Blackchin shiner status

The blackchin shiner is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Blackchin shiner threats

Loss of suitable habitat is thought to be responsible for a decline in the distribution and abundance of the blackchin shiner throughout the United States (6). Increased siltation can cause a habitat to become unsuitable for this species, and fluctuating water levels may also pose a threat (2).

Once present in many glacial lakes in Illinois, the blackchin shiner is now only common in a few as a result of human disturbance and modification of its habitat (5).


Blackchin shiner conservation

The blackchin shiner has been placed in the special category in Vermont, and populations from inland lakes in New York are thought to be in decline (4).

Due to the limited information about the life history of the blackchin shiner, it is difficult to determine and propose conservation measures. Many of the southern watershed sites where the blackchin shiner was once abundant have not been regularly surveyed (2).


Find out more

Find out more about the blackchin shiner:



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Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
The female reproductive organ that produces ova, or eggs.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2014)
  2. New York Natural Heritage Program - Blackchin shiner (January, 2014)
  3. Phillips, G.L. (1982) Fishes of the Minnesota Region. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  4. Werner, R.G. (2004) Freshwater Fishes of the Northeastern United States: A Field Guide. Syracuse University Press, New York.
  5. Smith, P.W. (2009) The Fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Champaign, Illinois.
  6. Stewart, K. and Watkinson, D. (2004) Freshwater Fishes of Manitoba. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Image credit

Blackchin shiner  
Blackchin shiner

© Konrad P. Schmidt

Konrad P. Schmidt


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