Amblyopsis hoosieri

Niemiller, Prejean and Chakrabarty 2014 in Chakrabarty, Prejean and Niemiller 2014

Amblyopsis hoosieri
Illustration by Nathan Coussou, from Chakraberty, Prejean and Niemiller 2014. With permission


Typhlichthys wyandotte  Eigenmann 1905

Amblyopsis spelaea “N”  Niemiller et al. 2013

Amblyopsis spelaea  Woods and Inger 1957 (in part)

The common name is Hoosier Cavefish (Page et al. 2013, Adams et al. 2020)




Holotype: INHS 106675 75.1mm SL. Paratypes: INHS 40424 (12), INHS 60574 (1), INHS 102504 (4), LSUMZ 17419 (1), LSUMZ 17420 (1), UMMZ 90379 (2), UMMZ 113550 (1), UMMZ 114890 (2), UMMZ 144604 (1), UMMZ 146992 (1), UMMZ 146994 (3), UMMZ 157174 (1), UMMZ 157175 (1), UMMZ 160944 (1), YPM 25304 (2), YPM 25305 (1).


Indiana, USA

Type locailty: Bronson’s Cave (White River Dr.) Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County, Indiana, USA, 38°44'N, 86°25'W. Also recorded from: Twin Caves, near Mitchell, Lawrence County; Sibert’s Well Cave, beside Wyandotte Cave; Lost River, ca. 2 mi NE of Orangeville; Donaldson’s Cave, Spring Mills State Park, Lawrence County; Stream in Sibert’s Well Cave, Wyandotte, Crawford County; Stream in Sheep Cave, near Wyandotte, Crawford County; Stream in Bronson Cave, Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County; “possibly” Donaldson farm caves near Indiana University; Twin Cave, Mitchell, Lawrence County; Donaldson Cave, Spring Mill State Park, Lawrence County; Blue Springs Caverns, Lawrence County.

Keith (1988, 1989) surveyed caves and springs in Indiana. He found populations in 45 sites in Indiana. Eleven of the 45 sites in Indiana recorded by Keith were springs (i.e. resurgences) which suggests that this species may exist also in the phreatic zone. Welch and Keith (1974) surveyed caves in the Hoosier natinal Fprest. A study of the ecology of Amblyopsis hoosieri (as A. spelaea) in Blue Spring Cave, Indiana was conducted by Welch (1972). [Romero ansd Bennis (1998) noted that "this species is known from about 1800 caves in Indiana”. This figure is clearly in error].


Inhabits cool (8-17oC) hypogean streams which have mixed mud/rock substrates in shoals, and mixed sand/silt substrates in pools (Burr and Warren 1986:219). Eleven of the 45 sites in Indiana recorded by Keith (1988, 1989) were springs (i.e. resurgences) which suggests that this species may exist also in the phreatic zone. A study of the ecology of A. hoosieri (as A. spelaea) in Blue Spring Cave, Indiana was conducted by Welch (1972).


Until recently all populations of the Northern Cavefish, distributed in southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky, were considered to be Amblyopsis spelaea. However, genetic, morphological and geographical evidence show that the populations north (Indiana) and south (Kentucky) of the Ohio River are two separate species with Amblyopsis spelaea confined to Kentucky and with Amblyopsis hoosieri confined to Indiana (Chakrabarty et al. 2014).

There are nine known and named taxa in the Family Amblyopsidae. Of these six are subterranean fishes with the usual troglomorphic characters of reduced eyes and pigment and permanent subterranean existence, and three are epigean fishes with normal eyes and pigment. Recent molecular and morphological evidence produced by Hart et al. (2020) demonstrates that the relationship between these hypogean and epigean fishes is not simple. There are four major clades within the Family:

1. Typhlichthys subterraneus and Typhlichthys eigenmanni are sister species and sister to this pair is Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni.  However, T. subterraneus is quite clearly divided into two subgroups, one of which is closer to T. eigenmanni than it is to the other group of T. subterraneus. The only way to read the cladogram for this group is that it consists of three taxa, one of which is currently un-named. This clade are all subterranean fishes.

2. Two of the epigean fishes, Forbesichthys papilliferus and Forbesichthys agassizii, are sister to each other and their sister is the hypogean species Amblyopsis spelaea.

The two remaining clades contain one species each but their relationships to the other six species is ambiguous:

3a. Sister to the above groups is epigean Chologaster cornuta with hypogean Troglichthys rosae sister to all other taxa.

3b. Sister to the above groups is hypogean Troglichthys rosae with epigean Chologaster cornuta sister to all other taxa.

Given the fact that the distribution of Chologaster cornuta is very far from the distributions of the other taxa 3b seems the most parsimonious explanation. Amblyopsis hoosieri is not included in the paper of Hart et al. (in press) but one would expect it to be in group 2 above based on geography.

This analysis does not take into account the ten possible cryptic taxa, currently subsumed within Typhlichthys subterraneus, identified by Graening, Fenolio and Slay (2011), Niemiller et al. (2013) and Hart, Burress and Armbruster (2016).

Conservation Status

MuG [NE]

Museum Holdings

Because Amblyopsis hoosieri was, for most of the time since 1842, thought to be Amblyopsis spelaea it is likely that there are numerous specimens in various museums in the USA that are actually Amblyopsis hoosieri.

Key References

Packard, A. S. and Putnam, F. W. Book 1872 The Mammoth Cave and its inhabitants, a description of the fishes, insects and crustaceans found in the caves, etc
Packard, A. S. Book 1888 The cave fauna of North America, with remarks on the anatomy of the brain and origin of the blind species
Packard, A.S. Journal Article 1894 On the origin of the subterranean fauna of North America
Eigenmann, C.H. Book 1909 Cave vertebrates of America, a study in degenerative evolution
Poulson, T.L. Thesis 1961 Cave adaptation in Amblyopsid fishes
Clay, W.M. Book 1962 A field manual of Kentucky fishes
Poulson, T.L. Journal Article 1963 Cave adaptation in Amblyopsid fishes
Poulson, T. L. Journal Article 1964 Life history and the control of population size in Amblyopsid fishes
Mohr, C.E. and Poulson, T.L. Book 1966 The life of the cave
Welch, N. M. Thesis 1972 Movement and ecology of the blind cave fish Amblyopsis spelaea
Welch, N.M. and Keith, J.H. Journal Article 1974 Report on the occurence of the blindfish Amblyopsis spelaea DeKay in selected caves of the Hoosier National Forest
Clay, W.M. Book 1975 The fishes of Kentucky
Kalayil, P.K. and Clay, W.M. Journal Article 1976 Immumological characteristics and relationships of tissue antigens in Amblyopsid fishes
Keith, J.H. Journal Article 1977 The "broken back syndrome"
Keith, J.H. and Gray, L.M. Journal Article 1979 A preliminary study of the occurence of broken-back syndrome in the northern cave-fish (Amblyopsis spelaea) at Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana
Keith, J.H. and Poulson, T.L. Journal Article 1981 Broken-back syndrome in Amblyopsis spelaea, Donaldson-Twin Cave, Indiana
Keith, J.H. and Powell, R.L. Journal Article 1981 Evaluation of Mayfields Cave, Monroe County, Indiana, for eligability as a National landmark
Keith, J.H. Journal Article 1988 Distribution of Northern Cavefish, Amblyopsis spelaea DeKay, in Indiana and Kentucky and reccommendations for its protection
Keith, J.H. Journal Article 1989 A report on a field survey to determine the status of the Northern Cavefish (Amblyopsis spelaea DeKay) in Indiana
Keith, J.H. Report 1992 A report on the possible impacts of State Road 37 construction activities on cave fauna and karst features
Keith, J.H., Bassett, J.L. and Duwelius, J.A. Book Section 1996 INDOT implementation of a memorandum of understanding to reduce the impacts of highway construction in Indiana karst
Poulson, T.L. Book Section 1997 Biodiversity in the Mammoth Cave region
Poulson, T. L. Journal Article 1998 Biology of cave fishes: A retrospective and prospective with emphasis on the Amblyopdidae
Niemiller, M.L. and Poulson, T.L. Book Section 2010 Subterranean fishes of North America: Amblyopsidae
Niemiller, M.L., Higgs, D.M. and Soares, D. Journal Article 2013 Evidence for hearing loss in amblyopsid cavefishes
Chakrabarty, P., Prejean, J.A. and Niemiller, M.L. Journal Article 2014 The Hoosier cavefish, a new and endangered species (Amblyopsidae, Amblyopsis) from the caves of southern Indiana
Soares, D. Niemiller, M.L. and Higgs, D. Journal Article 2014 Review article. Hearing and acoustic communication in cavefishes
Armbruster, J., Niemiller, M.L. and Hart, P.B. Journal Article 2016 Morphological evolution of the cave-, spring-, and swampfishes of the Amblyopsidae
Soares, D., Niemiller, M.L. and Higgs, D.M. Journal Article 2016 Hearing in Cavefishes
Helf, K. and Olson, R.A. Book Section 2017 Subsurface aquatic ecology of Mammoth Cave
Niemiller, M.L., Taylor, S.J., Slay, M.E. and Hobbs, H.H. III Book Section 2019 Biodiversity in the United States and Canada
Soares, D., and Niemiller, M.L. Journal Article 2019 Variation in cephalic neuromasts surface and cave-dwelling fishes of the family Amblyopsidae (Teleostei: Percopsiformes)
Groves, C., White, W. ,White, B., Palmer, A. and Palmer, P. Web Page 2020 Karst hydrogeology of Mammoth Cave National Park: Why is the world’s longest known cave here?
Helf, K., Olson, R. and Toomey, R. Web Page 2020 Mammoth Cave Ecology
White, W.B. Web Page 2020 A blueprint for the assessment of inorganic carbon flow paths in the Great Onyx groundwater basin, Mammoth Cave National Park
Williams, J., Groves, C. and Bledsoe, L.A. Web Page 2020 In-cave tracing to measure discharge in the Great Onyx flow system, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Adams, G.L., Burr, B.M. and Warren, M.L. Book Section 2020 Amblyopsidae: Cavefishes
Soares, D., and Niemiller, M.L. Journal Article 2020 Variation in cephalic neuromasts surface and cave-dwelling fishes of the family Amblyopsidae (Teleostei: Percopsiformes)
Bledsoe, L.A., Groves, C. and Toomey, R. Journal Article 2021 The Mammoth Cave National Park world heritage site
Distribution of Amblyopsis spp., Amblyopsis spelaea and A. hoosieri, in the Mitchell Plain and Crawford-Mammoth Uplands of Indiana and Kentucky. From Chakrabarty, Prejean and Niemiller (2014). With permission
Phylogeny of Amblyopsidae. Amblyopsis n is A. hoosieri Modified from Niemiller et al. (2013). From Chakrabarty, Prejean and Niemiller (2014). With permission
Photograph of a paratype of Amblyopsis hoosieri in life, YPM ICH 25304, 60.7 mm SL. Photograph by M.L. Niemiller. From Chakrabarty, Prejean and Niemiller (2014). With permission