Sabine Shiner

Notropis sabinae
Species of Conservation Concern

Cyprinidae (minnows) in the order Cypriniformes (carps, minnows and loaches)


A slender, silvery minnow with small eyes and a rather large, nearly horizontal mouth. Barbels absent. Front of dorsal fin base much closer to tip of snout than to base of tail fin. Undersurface of head distinctly flattened. Snout bluntly rounded, projecting slightly beyond upper lip. Upper jaw reaching past front of eye. Eyes directed slightly upward, rather than to sides, so lower margin of pupil is visible when fish is viewed from above.

Back pale olive-yellow without a definite streak along midline or dark edgings on scales. Sides silvery. Belly silvery-white. Fins plain. Breeding males without special colors but have small tubercles on snout, cheeks and jaws.


Adult length: about 2 inches; maximum about 2½ inches.

Habitat and conservation

The Black River, in the stretch inhabited by this shiner, is a large, moderately clear river with a predominance of sand and small-gravel substrate. This species was collected near sandbars in slight to moderate current, and it lives on or near the bottom. Commonly found in association with the blacktail shiner, emerald shiner, Mississippi silvery minnow and the bullhead minnow.


Probably feeds on aquatic animals taken from the bottom.

image of Sabine Shiner distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Known only from a 25-mile stretch of the Black River in Butler County, where this stream flows from the Ozark Uplands into the Southeastern Lowlands.


State Endangered; a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri. It occurs in streams from southeastern Missouri to southeastern Texas. Being a lowland species, this fish has probably never been widespread in Missouri, and its continued presence in our state requires us to protect its small amount of current and potential habitat.

Life cycle

This species apparently spawns in the summertime. In Louisiana, the Sabine shiner breeds from early April through September, and females lay their eggs in groups at intervals during the spawning season. Most individuals mature during their second summer of life, and few survive beyond their third summer.

Human connections

You can learn a lot from a name. This minnow was first described from the Sabine River in Texas (suh-BEAN). Spanish explorers called the river “Sabine” because that was their word for the cypress trees lining its banks. The Black River in our state, home of this fish, is a lowland river, too.

Ecosystem connections

The Sabine shiner and its interwoven community of plants and animals are special creatures of a special world, perfectly suited not just to an aquatic environment, but to the peculiar transition zone between Ozark uplands and Bootheel lowlands.