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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Carmine Shiner in Canada


Global Range

The rosyface shiner species complex is distributed widely throughout highland and glaciated regions of eastern North America (Wood et al. 2002). The distributions of species that comprise the complex are shown in Figure 3. It was suggested that only one species of the complex, N. percobromus, occurs west of Lake Michigan and south of Lake Superior, contrary to Wood et al. (2002), who suggested some N. rubellus occur west of Lake Michigan (W. Franzin, pers. comm. 2005). Recent genetic results (C. Wilson, pers. comm. 2005) show that N. rubellus is present in the Lake Michigan watershed in Wisconsin, as is N. percobromus (Little Wolf River). N. rubellus is also present in the Fox River basin – Mississippi River drainage location.

Figure 3: Hypothesized Geographical Distributions of Species in the Notropis rubellus Species Complex Based on Geographical Variation of Allozyme Products

Figure 3: Hypothesized geographical distributions of species in the Notropis rubellus species complex based on geographical variation of allozyme products.

Modified from Wood et al. 2002.

The existence of various distinct forms within N. percobromus supported by morphological and allozyme characters and phylogenetic analyses of allozyme data may eventually warrant taxonomic recognition (Wood et al. 2002). Since populations in the Whitemouth and Winnipeg rivers are apparently disjunct from those in the Red River and elsewhere, and were likely isolated there by isostatic rebound elevations, thereby breaching drainage connections with the Whitemouth watershed and the Red lakes watershed in Minnesota, taxonomic revision could affect Manitoba populations.

When the rosyface shiner was first reviewed for COSEWIC, Canadian representatives of this complex were identified as N. rubellus, and the Manitoba population was thought to be isolated in the Whitemouth River system (Houston 1996). New information suggests that neither of these assessments is valid. Genetic studies have identified the Manitoba fish as N. percobromus, and those to the east of Lake Superior in southwestern Ontario as N. rubellus (Wood et al. 2002; W. Franzin, pers. comm. 2005). Recent collecting efforts have also extended the known distribution of the Manitoba population to include the Old Pinawa Channel, a branch of the Winnipeg River, and the Bird River, a tributary to the Winnipeg River. Both of these, like the Whitemouth River, join the Winnipeg River in the reach bounded by Seven Sisters Falls upstream and MacArthur Falls downstream (Stewart and Watkinson 2004; K. Stewart pers. comm. 2006).

Canadian Range

Within Canada, the carmine shiner has only recently been reported from the Province of Manitoba, where it is at the northwestern limit of the species’ range (Figure 4). The species’ presence in the Winnipeg River upstream of insurmountable barriers, and its apparent absence from the lower Red River and Lake Winnipeg, suggest that colonization may have been via a post-glacial connection with the headwaters of the Red Lake River in Minnesota, a dispersal track that is shared with the hornyhead chub (Nocomis biguttatus) and the fluted shell mussel (Lasmigona costata) (Clarke 1981; K.W. Stewart, pers. comm. 2004). Alternatively, colonization may have been via dispersal into the Rainy River watershed from Upper Mississippi headwaters in northwestern Minnesota, a dispersal track shared by five other fish species in southern Manitoba.

Figure 4: Distribution of the Carmine Shiner in Manitoba

Figure 4: Distribution of the carmine shiner in Manitoba

Courtesy of D. Watkinson, DFO, Winnipeg.

Houston (1996) reported the distribution of the carmine shiner only from the Whitemouth River and its tributary the Birch River (J.J. Keleher ROM 17539; Smart 1979; Houston 1996). More recent sampling (Figure 5) has extended that range with additional specimens collected from the Whitemouth River, from its tributaries the Birch and Little Birch rivers, and from the Winnipeg River immediately below Whitemouth Falls (Clarke 1998; Stewart and Watkinson 2004; D. Watkinson, pers. comm. 2004). Specimens were also collected from the Winnipeg River in the Pinawa Channel immediately below the Old Pinawa Dam, from the Bird River at the first set of rapids upstream from Lac du Bonnet (Winnipeg River mainstem lake) and at the mouth of Peterson Creek, a Bird River tributary. All of these new reports are from reaches of the Winnipeg River system downstream of the Whitemouth River outlet. An historical report of carmine shiners further upstream on the Winnipeg River system, in Lake of the Woods (Evermann and Goldsborough 1907), has not been verified. The nearest known Notropis percobromus population to the Whitemouth River watershed in Manitoba is found in the Lost River tributary of the Red Lakes River watershed (Red River drainage) in northwestern Minnesota.

Stewart and Watkinson (2004) reported carmine shiners from Forbes Creek, a tributary of George Lake, and from Tie Creek, the outlet to George Lake, which discharges into the Winnipeg River upstream from the confluence of the Whitemouth and Winnipeg rivers. On re-examination, these fish proved to be emerald shiners (K.W. Stewart, pers. comm. 2005).

Figure 5: The Distribution of Fish Collection Sites (Circles) and Sites where Carmine Shiners were Captured (Squares) in 2002-2005 in the Whitemouth and Winnipeg River Watersheds within Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario

Figure 5: The distribution of fish collection sites and sites where carmine shiners were captured in 2002-2005 in the Whitemouth and Winnipeg river watersheds within Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

Over 326 locations in the Winnipeg River and Lake of the Woods watersheds have been sampled, not including repeat sampling in the same location at different dates from 2002-2005. A further 36 locations that are Lake Winnipeg watersheds separate from the Winnipeg River have been sampled in an attempt to expand their known distribution with no success (2002-2004). The majority of this sampling has been conducted with boat electroshocker equipment.

The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy of the carmine shiner in Canada are estimated at 120 km2 and 3.4 km2, respectively (Table 1). These area estimates are for the surface of the waterbodies, and are rough approximations sincethere has been very little directed sampling for these fish, and they are difficult to differentiate from emerald shiners.

Table 1: Area of Occupancy
AreaLength (m)Width (m)Area (km2)
Whitemouth River (lower course)21 000561.176
Whitemouth River (middle course)74 000271.998
Birch River19 000140.266
Total:  3.44

Area of Occupancy (based on data in Smart 1979 and Schneider Vieira and MacDonell 1993).


Table 1 (continued): Extent of Occurrence (area integrated on Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives)
AreaAcresArea (km2)
Area of Occupancy 3.44
Winnipeg River (Seven Sisters to PR 313)3 691.514.94
Lac du Bonnet (bounded by PR 313, McArthur Falls, Bird River, Rice Creek, Old Pinawa Dam)25 275.0102.28
Total: 120.66