Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Sherry L. Harrel

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences


The blackfin sucker (Thoburnia atripinnis) is a relatively small species of fish (~155mm) endemic to the headwaters of the Barren River System (UBR) in Kentucky and Tennessee. Due to its isolated distribution and relatively small geographic inhabitance, the blackfin sucker is considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in Kentucky by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. In addition, it is included in Tennessee's list of rare wildlife as a Species of Special Concern. This study focused on determining the distribution and abundance of the blackfin sucker in those tributaries that comprise the UBR system, as well as key habitat characteristics that may play a role in their inhabitance of these streams. Fish communities were sampled between August 2011 and September 2012 using backpack electro-fishing techniques at each of 41 sampling sites throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. A species list with abundances of all fish captured was completed for each site. Habitat variables were measured including stream depth, water velocity, stream width, and substrate type. Overall, 328 individual blackfin suckers were captured at 28 of 41 sampling sites; with Tennessee sites having slightly higher abundances than those located in Kentucky. Results show that those sites sampled in Tennessee have more developed riparian zones and less agricultural influence than sites located in Kentucky. In addition, the Tennessee sites sampled in this study tended to have more rocky outcroppings and large bedrock ledges, which are prime habitats for the blackfin sucker. Because of this species endemism to the upper Barren River system, efforts should be made to conserve and maintain its population.

Included in

Biology Commons