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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Banded Killifish, Newfoundland population in Canada


Global Range

Fundulus diaphanus occurs in North America from South Carolina in the southern United States northward to the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland in Canada, west through the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and southern Canada in the Great Lakes region as far west as the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana (Scott and Crossman 1973; Houston 1990). Figure 2 shows the distribution of Fundulus diaphanus in North America.

Canadian Range

Fundulus diaphanus is widely distributed in the Maritimes and also in suitable habitat of the St. Lawrence River valley of Quebec. In the Great Lakes watershed, Gilbert and Shute (1980) indicate records in all areas surrounding Lake Michigan, with most concentrated in the area northeast of the lake, numerous records along the western side of Lake Huron, few records (<10) on the eastern side, at least three records from southeastern Lake Superior, and records in both the northern and southern regions surrounding Lake Erie. In Ontario, the species was also reported from the Lake of the Woods in the northwestern portion of that province in 1986 (K. Stewart, pers. comm.). Gilbert and Shute (1980) describe the St. Lawrence River and the western New York and eastern Ontario drainages of Lake Ontario as the area of integradation between the diaphanus (eastern) and menona (western) subspecies. The western extent of the range of this species in Canada is Manitoba, where two specimens were collected from the Red River, near Winnipeg in 1954 (Stewart-Hay 1954), and one other from the southwest arm of Crowduck Lake (50°05' N, 95°08' W) in the Winnipeg River system in 1985 (Stewart et al. 1985; K. Stewart pers. comm.). The most easterly population record is from the Indian Bay watershed on the northeast coast of Newfoundland (49°04’N, 54°06’W) (M. van Zyll de Jong, pers. comm.).

Figure 2: North American Distribution of Banded Killifish

Figure 2: North American distribution of Banded Killifish.

Range taken from Scott and Crossman 1973 and Gilbert and Shute 1980; Actual population records from ROM data;Newfoundland additions from Chippett In prep.

The status of this species in Canada was first considered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1989. Newfoundland populations were considered to be biogeographically isolated from mainland populations and were assigned a status of Special Concern due to the limited area of occupancy, limitation of potential for range expansion and potential threats from logging and other activities leading to habitat degradation. Populations elsewhere in Canada were deemed to be not at risk at that time.

Newfoundland Range

The eastern Banded Killifish, Fundulus diaphanus diaphanus was known from only four localities in southwestern insular Newfoundland (ROM data; Scott and Crossman 1973). F. d. diaphanus was first reported from specimens taken in brackish water at the head of St. George’s Bay, near Stephenville Crossing in 1951 (Templeman 1951). The distribution was then extended to include a freshwater lake, Loch Leven (48°10’N., 58°53’W.), 50 km to the south of Stephenville Crossing (Gibson et al. 1984) and Ramea Island located 7 km off the south coast of Newfoundland (Day 1993). The known range in Newfoundland was extended east to Freshwater Pond (47°06’N., 55°16’ W.) on the Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland, when four specimens were taken in 1984 (Gibson et. al 1984).

Throughout the 1990's F. d. diaphanus was reported in several freshwater lakes in the Indian Bay watershed on the north side of Bonavista Bay in northeastern Newfoundland. The first record of the eastern Banded Killifish from this area was July 1993 when a single specimen was taken from an open area over a rocky outcrop in Second Pond (Indian Bay Big Pond) (49°04’N, 54°06’W) (M. van Zyll de Jong, pers. comm.). No additional specimens were taken until July-August 1997 when 9 killifish were captured in experimental fyke nets in Backup (49°05’N, 54°11’W) and Third ponds (49°03’N, 54°12’W) in the same watershed (personal observations). This population is further east than the Freshwater Pond population reported by Gibson et al. (1984). An angler caught a large Banded Killifish in June 1999 in a pond in the town of Winterland (J. Yetman, pers. comm.), just a few kilometers from the Freshwater Pond population referenced by Gibson et al. (1984). An additional population at First Pond (47°35’N, 59°10’W) was discovered during an aquatic plant study by researchers of the Sir Wilfred Grenfell Campus of Memorial University in lakes on the west coast of Newfoundland in the Grand Bay West area (H. Mann, pers. comm.). Figure 3 indicates known Newfoundland populations of Banded Killifish and the years when these populations were discovered or recorded.

While there may be unrecorded populations in close proximity to existing records on the southwest coast, it is extremely unlikely, given the exploratory netting and observation performed in both National parks, the Great Northern Peninsula, Central Newfoundland, the Avalon Peninsula and areas surrounding the Indian Bay population, any new population records will be reported in these areas. Therefore, the extent of the distribution is likely a cluster of populations in the southwestern region with an outlier population in the Indian Bay watershed in the Bonavista North region.

Figure 3: Newfoundland Distribution of Banded Killifish

Newfoundland distribution of Banded Killifish.

Year of record in parentheses (Chippett In prep.

Other areas surveyed where Banded Killifish were not observed or caught included Notre Dame provincial park and Beothuk park (formerly provincial), Trinity Bay near Winterton, Mint Brook in the Gambo area, and all other lakes in the Indian Bay watershed. Other unsuccessful preliminary surveys were performed in various lakes in the Gros Morne National Park area in conjunction with Parks Canada and the Memorial University Bonne Bay Field Station (T. Knight, pers. comm.) and by Parks Canada staff and the author in the Terra Nova National Park area (D. Cote, pers. comm.). Inland Fish (provincial department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation) fyke netting programs on the Avalon Peninsula, the Millertown area in central Newfoundland, and on the Northern Peninsula in the Main Brook area have also failed to produce any new records of this species.

There is no conclusive information regarding the origin of the species on the island. Underhill (1986) provides an uncorroborated statement that the Banded Killifish have a marine origin from the Atlantic Provinces. However, he does not indicate by this, if this was a recent phenomenon, or if it related to population of the island following the last ice-age. Glaciation had a large impact on fish assemblages on the eastern coast of Canada due to glacial lakes/corridors etc., but the lineages of most species have yet to be determined. Researchers at the University of New Brunswick have recently begun to look at this issue and have hypothesized that the Banded Killifish may have evolved here after following the retreating ice sheets across the Gulf. They were then trapped in the freshwater lakes during uplift as the glaciers melted (A. Curry, pers. comm.). Underhill (1986) provides no evidence of migrations and there are no other occurrences in the literature to suggest or substantiate a supposition that such a small fish would be able to regularly migrate a passage of nearly 200 km across the Cabot Strait.