Golden shiners are thin, deep bodied minnows with small, upturned mouths. During the breeding season, males turn a deep golden color. Their curved lateral line helps to distinguish golden shiners from other kinds of minnows. Golden shiners are relatively small, and reach a maximum length of 30 cm
Golden shiners are widely distributed throughout North America. Their native range includes much of eastern North America, the river basins that drain into the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south to southern Texas, the Great Lakes basin, and the Mississipi River drainage basin from Alberta Canada, to Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. (Luna, 2005)
Golden shiners occupy a variety of deep water habitats, including vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps and pools of creeks and small to medium rivers. They can be found as deep as 10 meters. Because they mainly feed on plankton (small algae or animals suspended in the water column), they are typically found in slow moving or stagnant waters.
Golden shiner eggs hatch when the water temperature reaches 20 degrees Celsius. Larvae have a yolk-sac and remain near the bottom until the sac is absorbed. These larvae average 4.2 mm in length. When larvae are from 5 to 10 mm in length, they remain near the water surface and near shore. Larvae from 10 to 30 mm in length organize into schools amd inhabit vegetated areas near shore. Females grow faster than males and reach larger sizes.
Golden shiners typically spawn (lay eggs) from May through August. Groups of golden shiners get together to spawn in the same area, over algae or aquatic plants. Once released, the eggs stick to the vegetation.
The eggs develop for a period of 4 to 7 days before hatching. Females can lay up to 200,000 eggs. Golden shiners are repeat spawners and may spawn 4 to 5 times per season. Young golden shiners will mate in the year after they hatch if they are in warmer waters. In colder waters, it may take 2 years of development before they can mate.
Golden shiners invest no parental care in their eggs or young. After they lay the eggs, the young are on their own.
Adult golden shiners typically reach an age of 3 to 6 years. The maximum age reached by this species is 8 years. (Carlander, 1969)
Golden shiners are social and are found in groups (schools) thougout life. These fish feed in the nearshore zone within one hour of sunset. As the sun sets, schools break up and individuals move into open water.
Golden shiners detect water movement through their lateral line and probably also rely on visual cues to find food and avoid predators. Little is known about other ways they sense their environment or forms of communication.
Golden shiners eat plankton (small algae and animals that float in the water column) and very small crustaceans. They eat by sucking in plankton or small crustaceans one at a time. They may also eat dragongly nymphs sometimes.
Golden shiners form schools as a way to protect themselves from the many larger fish species that prey on them. In schools, each individual's chance of being caught by a predator is lowered.
Golden shiners feed on plankton, which helps to keep the water clear. keeping plankton levels below eutrophication levels. They are also important as prey of larger, predatory fish in the ecosystems in which they live.
Golden shiners have been widely indroduced outside of their native range because they are used as bait and are sometimes released from bait buckets.
Golden shiners are eaten by larger fish that are important in game fishing. They are also used to assess the health of aquatic systems.
Golden shiners are fairly common and are not currently protected by law.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Joshua Sims (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kevin Wehrly (editor, instructor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
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