Umatilla Dace

Rhinichthys umatilla

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Umatilla Dace is a freshwater fish from the family Cyprinidae ("minnows"). Taxonomists do not fully understand the species' evolutionary past. Currently, research suggests that the Umatilla Dace originated by historical hybridization between the Speckled Dace and Leopard Dace.

The Umatilla Dace is a small fish, with creamy sides and a dark head and back. The species has irregular dark spots on its sides and back. The Umatilla Dace's snout goes beyond its upper lip and its upper lip is separated from its snout by a groove. The species is distinguished by the short and rounded barbels found at each corner of its mouth. Breeding males develop orange to red pelvic fins. Adults grow up to 12 centimetres in length.

Habitat

The Umatilla Dace is endemic to the Columbia River Basin. The species exists in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. Umatilla Dace are found in two geographically distinct groups in Canada. These groups are the Similkameen River group, and the Columbia River group. In Canada, the known distribution of the Umatilla Dace is within the Columbia River, Kootenay River, Slocan River, Similkameen River, and Kettle River.

Umatilla Dace appear to favour relatively productive and low elevation areas. These areas are warmer and food is more abundant. The fish are usually found less than one metre deep along river banks. The species prefers cobble and stone substrate in areas with current fast enough to prevent siltation. Both the Kootenay River and Columbia River have long stretches of large, rounded, and polished stones. Sediment washed away by currents during spring floods clear spaces between the rocks that provide shelter. Young-of-the-year Umatilla Dace can be found in shallow areas with no current.

The species may or may not persist in modified environments. For example, it is unclear if Umatilla Dace are still found in Pend d'Oreille River after several hydroelectric dams were built.

Threats

The Columbia River Basin has a long history of hydroelectric and water storage development. These projects convert riverine to reservoir habitat, decreasing flushing flows, and increasing siltation. This large–scale habitat modification is thought to have affected the species' distribution. The ongoing operation, maintenance and expansion of these facilities are the greatest threats to the species. In particular, flows of the Columbia and Kootenay River systems may be altered daily, weekly and seasonally. These changes can result in de–watering events that can strand fish living in shallow habitats.

In the Similkameen River, the greatest ongoing threat is water diversion to agricultural irrigation and community use. Additional threats are the potential development of another dam on the Similkameen River mainstem. One development option will flood most of the habitat for the Umatilla Dace in the lower Similkameen River in British Columbia.

Other threats throughout the range of the species include climate change resulting in warmer and drier conditions. Impacts on habitat from factors associated with forestry, mining and agriculture, such as pollution and siltation, are also a concern. The presence of aquatic invasive species may also threaten the species through predation, competition, or habitat modification.

Further Information

The South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program has developed a multi-species and multi-scale approach. This approach is designed to protect and restore natural habitat in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region. It includes increasing landowner awareness of practices that protect habitat for species at risk, including that of Umatilla Dace. A habitat use and life history assessment on the species was also completed by BC Hydro in 2010. The Columbia Water Use Plan required studies on how the species would be influenced by daily and seasonal operation of Keenleyside Dam. The results are considered when water management decisions are made.

This species is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is under consideration for relisting as Threatened. More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

To find out if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' website.

Umatilla Dace

Photo Credit: National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.

Photo Credit: National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.

Scientific Name: Rhinichthys umatilla
SARA Status: Schedule 3, Special Concern
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (April 2010)
Region: British Columbia

Region map

Region map, British Columbia

Did You Know?

The Umatilla Dace is thought to have evolved from hybridization between the Speckled Dace and Leopard Dace. Some uncertainty still exists in the species origin. It is unclear if a single, or multiple and independent hybridization events occurred. This brings up the debate of whether a single or multiple biological species exists.

Related information