Off-campus South Dakota State University users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your South Dakota State University ID and password.

Non-South Dakota State University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.


Eli Felts

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Katie Bertrand


sandhills, glacial relict fishes, fish, south dakota, habitat, ecology


Native stream fish zoogeography has changed substantially across North America during the last century as habitat degradation, stream fragmentation and introductions of nonnative species have led to numerous extinctions, extirpations and altered distributions. Insufficient information regarding imperiled species often results in reactive, rather than proactive, management, and knowledge of species status and ecology is critical in identifying conservation priorities. South Dakota populations of three dace species (northern redbelly dace Chrosomus eos, finescale dace Chrosomus neogaeus, and pearl dace Margariscus margarita) are relict of Pleistocene Glaciation and are isolated from the northern core of their distribution, but little information exists regarding their distribution or abundance in South Dakota. We used previous and current fish collection records along with a current habitat assessment to assess the status and co-occurrence of these three dace species and to assess the status of two other state listed species (blacknose shiner Notropis heterolepis, plains topminnow Fundulus sciadicus). We also quantitatively described fish assemblage patterns throughout southwestern South Dakota. Finally, we investigated regional variability of pearl dace population characteristics. We sampled fish and habitat in 42 stream reaches within the White, Little White, and Keya Paha river basins during 2010-2012 and compiled previous collections from South Dakota and Nebraska. Additionally, we re-sampled four pearl dace populations in order to estimate ages and quantify population demographics. We detected four of five target species and found that each target species was limited to two Major Land Resource Areas in South Dakota, both of which contain springfed streams that are not present in neighboring drainages. Fish assemblages were primarily structured by stream size and habitats that support relict dace species tended to have higher species richness and diversity than other sample reaches. We documented regional variation in pearl dace growth and condition. This study updates the distribution and status of conservation listed species, identifies landscape level habitat filters, and provides insight into fish assemblage patterns in springfed Great Plains streams. Furthermore, our results were used to identify specific tributary streams as conservation priorities and as candidates for continued research efforts.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Fishes -- South Dakota
Fishes -- Conservation -- South Dakota
Pearl dace -- South Dakota
Finescale dace -- South Dakota





Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2013 Eli Felts