Cottus kanawhae , C. Richard Robins, 2005

C. Richard Robins, 2005, Cottus kanawhae, a new cottid fish from the New River System of Virginia and West Virginia., Zootaxa 987, pp. 1-6: 1-5

publication ID


publication LSID

persistent identifier

taxon LSID

treatment provided by


scientific name

Cottus kanawhae

new species

Cottus kanawhae  ZBK  , new species

Kanawha sculpin

(Figures 1, Tables 1-2)

Cottus bairdii  ZBK  subspecies, Burton and Odum, 1945 (local distribution in Sinking Creek and neighboring streams in the Kanawha system).

Cottus carolinae  , Lee, et al., 1980: 807 (in part, records from the Kanawha River System). Williams and Howell, 1979 (in part; data labeled New River drainage).

Cottus c. carolinae  , Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994: 666 (Fish 197), 667 (all references to Kanawha sculpin), 669 (Map 133; open circles represent C. kanawhae  ZBK  ).

Holotype: CU 25655, adult male, 80.9 mm SL, Virginia, Giles Co., creek in Tony's Cave, a tributary of Sinking Creek, 24 June 1952. 

Paratypes: Virginia. CU 22832 (13, 17-90 mm SL), taken with the holotype.  CU 21845 (4, 94-112) Craig Co., trib., Sinking Creek, 6.4 mi. NE of Newport on rte. 42, 21 June 1952.  CU 21946 (5, 46-64) Craig Co., Sinking Creek between Simmonsville and Hoffman, 21 April 1952.  CU 22085 (2, 49-80)  and CU 22833 (31, 29-89) Craig Co., Sinking Creek, 11.8 mi. NE of Newport, 24 April and 21 June 1952.  CU 22087 (2, 95- 103) Craig Co., Sinking Creek, 7.5 mi. N of Blacksburg on rte. 42, 21 April 1952.  CU 22835 (1, 87) Giles Co., Little Stony Creek, 2.3 mi. NE of Pembroke, 16 June 1952.  CU 22840 (11,69-110) Craig Co., trib., Sinking Creek, 7.2 mi. NE of Newport on rte. 42 at Huffman Store.  CU 24397 (1, 60) Wythe Co., Reed Creek, 1 mi. SW of Wytheville, 31 March 1940.  USNM 162191 (6, 23-73) Wythe Co., Short's Creek, ca 0.5 mi. NW of Popular Camp, just E of Jackson's Ferry on rte. 52.  West Virginia. CU 12453 (19, 33-87) Monroe Co., Turkey Creek, trib., New River at Willow Bend, 24 Sept. 1947. 

Additional material not designated as types: Virginia. CU 20447 (6, 21-110) Montgomery Co., Tom's Creek, 2.5 mi. NW of Blacksburg on rte. 624.  CU 22081 (2, 48-67) Giles Co., Spruce Run, 3.5 mi. W of Newport, 13 Oct. 1951.  CU 25317 (3, 16-30) Giles Co., mouth of Spruce Run at Goodwin's Ferry, 18 June 1952,  CU 25351 (1, 29) Giles Co., Sinking Creek, 2.7 mi. E of Newport on rte. 700, 13 June 1952.  CU 25786 (30, 39-68) Giles Co., Sinking Creek, 5.2 mi. SE of Pembroke on US 460, 25 Aug. 1953.  USNM 120114 (1, 71) Giles Co., Tom's Cave near Newport, 4 Sept. 1942.  West Virginia. UMMZ 95241 (10, 32-70) Monroe Co., Turkey Creek below dam, 9 Sept. 1928. 

Diagnosis. Pectoral-fin rays usually 17 (15-18). Lateral line incomplete, typically not extending beyond the point of deflection; pores usually 26-29 (24-34). Chin pigmentation reduced, the mottling usually restricted to the rami of the jaws and front of the chin, rarely extending back onto the anterior part of the isthmus. Anterior chin pore double. Dark bands on the body not sharply defined, irregular, extending ventrad only slightly below the lateral line.

Description. Frequency distributions of fin-rays and lateral-line pores are given in Table 1. The area in front of the pelvic fins, most of the isthmus and the branchiostegal membranes are unpigmented or have only a light sprinkling of melanophores. Young and juveniles have the anterior back and sides prominently spotted; this spotting disappearing in specimens longer than 20 mm. Dorsal fin narrowly edged with red in adults. Anal papilla not enlarged in males. The lateral and supratemporal canals consist of 5 pores each, the supratemporal of 3 pores. These are arranged as described for C. girardi  ZBK  by Robins (1961: 309). The infraorbital canal has 9 pores corresponding to pores 2-10 in C. girardi  ZBK  . The preoperulomandibular canal has 11 pores; canals are not connected on the chin.

Selected proportional measurements are given in Table 2. Preopercle with 3-4 spines, the upper one best developed and slightly curving dorsally, the next 2 smaller and projecting ventrally. A fourth spine, if present, is usually a small bony protuberance. Dentition well developed, the palatine tooth patches abutting the vomer and distinctly longer than the greatest dimension of the vomer. Premaxillary and dentary teeth well developed, depressible, and not joined medially. Body prickling variable but always with at least a patch of prickles mesial to the pectoral fin.

Comparisons. Cottus kanawhae  ZBK  is a member of the Cottus carolinae  species group as defined by Robins (1955). The Midlands Race of C. carolinae  was discussed by Williams and Robins (1970), who presented frequency distributions of fin-ray and lateral-line pore counts in Tables 1 and 2. Cottus kanawhae  ZBK  differs in having a distinctly lower lateral-line pore count (mean 28.0 vs. 32.9). Also, the dark bands on the body are darker, sharply defined and extend lower on the body in C. carolinae  . This is easily seen by contrasting Fish 196 and Fish 197 in Jenkins and Burkhead (1994:666). Also, the mottling on the chin is bolder and more extensive in C. carolinae  . C. kanawhae  ZBK  differs from C. girardi  ZBK  in having a more extensive lateral line (mean 28.0 vs. 21.4 pores) and more pectoral rays (mean 16.8 vs. 15.0), and in having the two preoperculomandibular canals separate, not sharing a single median chin pore. Also, the mottling on the chin is more extensive in C. girardi  ZBK  . C. kanawhae  ZBK  occurs with C. b. bairdii  ZBK  in the New River system. Cottus bairdii  ZBK  is more slender throughout, its chin is uniformly pigmented rather than mottled, it has fewer pectoral rays (usually 15), and has fewer pores in the lateral line (usually fewer than 26). Also the preopercular armature is less developed in C. bairdii  ZBK  ; spines other than the main (upper) one are mere rudiments or absent. Williams and Howell (1979) separated data on specimens of C. carolinae  from the New River System from those from Buckeye Creek Cave (also in the New River System). The Buckeye Creek specimens differ strikingly and are not here identified with C. kanawhae  ZBK  . Jenkins and Burkhead (1994: 665) regarded the albino specimen as a different species but did not comment on the other Buckeye Creek material.

Range. Cottus kanawhae  ZBK  is restricted to the New River System of Virginia and West Virginia. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) show the distribution of C. kanawhae  ZBK  as open circles on map 133, labeled C. carolinae  subspecies. The map includes all stations listed above plus additional material not reported on here.

Habitat. Cottus kanawhae  ZBK  prefers the rocky areas of limestone streams and, like C. carolinae  , abounds in cave streams. Restriction of habitat during the breeding season, if any, is unknown. During other seasons, there are no obvious ecological distinctions between C. kanawhae  ZBK  and C. b. bairdii  ZBK  .

Etymology: The species is named for the Kanawha River System.


USA, New York, Ithaca, Cornell University


USA, Washington D.C., National Museum of Natural History, [formerly, United States National Museum]


USA, Michigan, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology