The Cherokee Darter:
Their dappled backs help them to blendin with the rocks on the bottom. During the spring and summer spawning season,the darters "color up" adding turquoise blue andbrick red to their everyday attire, going from drab to dressy, as they try to get the attention of the females."Darters get their name because they move around the water in short quick bursts," said Freeman. "They can instantly burrow under the rocks when danger is present, or flit out into the open when they see a female coming along."The male courts a female and then she deposits an egg by attaching it to a rock or a little piece of wood.The Cherokee darter helps reduce the population of those pesky black flies by eating their larvae and midges, while the Etowah darters tend to dine on caddisflies and mayflies. All the while, the darters must avoid being eaten by the bigger sport and game fish.That is about as complicated as a darter's life get --hanging out in the stream, looking for food and a mate and trying not to get eaten by the bigger guys.The Etowah darter, however, is an endangered species and the Cherokee darter is threatened. Although both are listed as protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act, their habitats continue to disappear.Two essential attributes of the underwater world are critical to the darters' survival. The water must be moving and it must be clear. Instead, their streams are being degraded by incompatible agricultural practices,urbanization, sedimentation, just to name a few of the human impacts on the habitat.Because darters communicate by sight alone, clearwater is necessary for their survival. When the water becomes cloudy they cannot find insects for a meal,locate a mate, or avoid a predator."They also need flowing water. To dam up their stream or river would be a death sentence for themand their whole local population," Freeman said.