Yellow Shiner

Yellow Shiner, Notropis calientis

The Yellow Shiner, Notropis calientis, whose common Spanish name is carpita amarilla, is a species in the Carps and Minnows or Cyprinidae Family, known collectively as carpas and carpitas in Mexico. Globally, there are 88 species in the genus Notropis, with more than 20 species being widespread throughout Mexico’s freshwater systems.

The Yellow Shiners are small fish with deep and wide bodies; they are deepest anterior to their dorsal fin origin. They are brown dorsally and transition abruptly to silvery ventrally. They are sexually dimorphic with females having deeper bodies and being darker than males. They have a white chin and a subtle dark band that extends from the tip of their snout to the end of their caudal fin base and is more prominent at both ends. Their caudal and dorsal fins are dusky and their other fins are lighter. When breeding, they change to a brilliant golden yellow color. Their head has a rounded blunt snout, small eyes, and an oblique terminal mouth equipped with a limited number of small hooked teeth. Their anal fin has seven or eight rays; their caudal peduncle is elongated and slender being about twice as long as it is deep; their caudal fin is forked with rounded lobes; their dorsal fin has nine rays, with the second, third, and fourth being the longest. All their fins are rounded. They have nine short blunt gill rakers. Their lateral line is incomplete ending at the posterior margin of the pectoral fins. They are covered with large scales.

The Yellow Shiners are a small freshwater species found in small mountain streams, springs, and small spring-fed lakes. They reach a maximum length of 5.0 cm (2.0 inches) with females being larger than males. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

The Yellow Shiners are fairly widespread being found in the Rio Lerma, Rio Grande de Santiago, Rio Pánuco, and Lake Cuitzeo drainages within the Mexican Plateau in west-central Mexico.

The Yellow Shiner resides in habitats that include numerous similar appearing small fish but is straightforward to identify as it is the only fish with small eyes, a short rounded snout, a deep body, a short lateral line, and rounded fins.

The Yellow Shiners are very small and of limited interest to most. They have not been assessed from a conservation perspective but should be considered Near Threatened as the water habitat in some parts of their range has experienced a staggering amount of degradation during the 20th century and they are heavily preyed upon by various birds and recently introduced non-native fish including Black Bass, Guppies, Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, and Tilapia.

Yellow Shiner, Notropis calientis. Fish caught in a small lake within the Mexican Plateau in west-central Mexico, Michoacán, February 2017. Length: 5.0 cm (2.0 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ryan Crutchfield, Tampa, FL.