Troglichthys rosae

Eigenmann 1898

Troglichthys rosae
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Woods and Inger (1957)


Typhlichthys rosae  Eigenmann 1898

Amblyopsis rosae  (Eigenmann, 1898) Woods and Inger 1957

Amblyopsis rosae whitae  Romero 1998 nomen nudum

Amblyopsis rosae arkansasus  Romero 1998 nomen nudum

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




The accounts of Eigenmann (1898, 1899) make no mention of individual specimens, nor do they mention the number of animals available to him. The description is thus based on an unknown number of syntypes whose location is not known. The most important definition of the species is given by Woods and Inger (1957:245).


Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, USA.

Type locality: Sarcoxie, Jasper County, Missouri, USA (37o05’N, 94o10’W) (?, see note below). Willis and Brown (1985) made a thorough search of known locations and found the species in only 13 caves of 180 examined. United States Fish and Wildlie Service (1989, 1996) records that this species is “presently” known from 21 caves. The distribution is limited to the Springfield Plateau of the Ozark Highlands Province in northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. This species is nowhere sympatric with Typhlichthys subterraneus as was previously thought (Jones and Taber 1985).

Mouser et al. (2023) record this specie from 83 locations within the Ozark Highlands ecoregion.

(Note: Willis and Brown (1985:311) state that this species "was first collected in Sarcoxie Cave, Jasper County, Missouri by Garman (1889)" and in their reference list give page 232 of this source. In fact no mention is made anywhere in Garman (1889) of this cave. Woods and Inger (1957:245) give the type locality as "Sarcoxie, Missouri" and in their list of the range say "Jasper County: caves in or near Sarcoxie (Days Cave, Downers Cave.....)". Willis and Brown (1985:315, Table 1) synonymise Days Cave and Downers Cave with Sarcoxie Cave. Whether the type locality really is "Sarcoxie Cave" or whether it is Days Cave or Downers Cave, or indeed some other cave "in or near Sarcoxie" is not known to me.)


This species is usually found in small cave streams where there is an upwelling of groundwater from the underlying aquifer.


A DNA study by Bergstrom, Noltie and Holtsford (1995, 1997, 1998) and Bergstrom (1997) suggests that all of the populations studied cluster together and that they lie some distance from any other populations of amblyopsids. These preliminary data indicate that rosae is a monophyletic clade with some considerable divergence within it.

Mouser et al. (2023) recorded this species from a new location: "Troglichthys (= Amblyopsis) rosae (Ozark Cavefish) is currently known from 83 locations within the Ozark Highlands ecoregion. We found a cavefish at a new location in the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees on the western side of the Neosho River (Delaware County, OK), which is on the northwest periphery of the Ozark Cavefish range. Examination of the mitochondrial ND2 gene supports that the specimen is an Ozark Cavefish, but distinct (4.6–9.2% pairwise distance) from other specimens that have been genetically sampled, and could represent a unique population. Future research should focus on expanding sampling efforts and conducting a range-wide genetic analysis of the Ozark Cavefish" (from their Abstract).

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

MG [NT:3.1:2014]

(NatureServe. 2014. Amblyopsis rosae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: Downloaded on 10 July 2017).

V (Miller 1977), Seriously threatened (Willis and Brown 1985:316), Threatened (Williams, Johnson, Hendrickson, Contreras-Balderas, Williams., Navarro-Mendoza, McAllister and Deacon 1989),V (IUCN1988, 1990, 1993),  Threatened (United States Fish and  Wildlife Service 1989 1994a,b), VU D1+2 (IUCN 1996, 2000), G2/G3 (NatureServe 2002).

Museum Holdings

KU 3210, 14007, 14169; OSUMZ 7105, 7106, 7271, 7848 (Tafanelli and Russell, 1972; Mayden and Cross, 1983; Moore, 1972); Also specimens at FMNH, MU, UMMZ, and USNM (Woods and Inger, 1957:245); BMNH.

Key References

Cox, U.O. Journal Article 1905 A revision of the cave fishes of North America
Eigenmann, C.H. Book 1909 Cave vertebrates of America, a study in degenerative evolution
Woods, L.P. and Inger, R.F. Journal Article 1957 The cave, spring and swamp fishes of the family Amblyopsidae of central and eastern United States
Poulson, T.L. Thesis 1961 Cave adaptation in Amblyopsid fishes
Rosen, D.E. Journal Article 1962 Comments on the relationships of the North American cave fishes of the family Amblyopsidae
Poulson, T.L. Journal Article 1963 Cave adaptation in Amblyopsid fishes
Poulson, T.L. Journal Article 1969 Population size, density and regulation in cave fishes
Moore, G. Journal Article 1972 [Untitled note relating to the Whitewater Creek flood control dam record of Amblyopsis rosae]
Tafanelli, R. and Russell, J. E. Journal Article 1972 An extension of the range of the blind cave fish Amblyopsis rosae
Kalayil, P.K. and Clay, W.M. Journal Article 1976 Immumological characteristics and relationships of tissue antigens in Amblyopsid fishes
Swofford, D.L. Thesis 1976 Genetic variability, population differentiation and biochemical relationships in the family Amblyopsidae
Cooper, J. E. Book Section 1980 Amblyopsis rosae (Eigenmann), Ozark cavefish
Swofford, D.L., Branson, B.A. and Sievert, G.A. Journal Article 1980 Genetic differentiation of cavefish populations (Amblyopsidae)
Bechler, D.L. Thesis 1980 The evolution of agonistic behaviour in amblyopsid fishes
Bechler, D.L. Journal Article 1981 Agonistic behaviour in the Amblyopsidae; the cave, spring and swamp fishes
Bechler, D.L. Journal Article 1981 Behavioral studies on the Amblyopsidae; the cave, spring and swamp fish
Brown, A.V., Brown, K.B., Willis, L.D., Jackson, D.C. and Brussock, P.P. Journal Article 1982 Distribution and abundance of the Ozark cave fish Amblyopsis rosae (Eigenmann), in Missouri
Bechler, D.L. Journal Article 1983 The evolution of agonistic behaviour in Amblyopsid fishes
Mayden, R. L. and Cross, F. B. Journal Article 1983 Reevaluation of the Oklahoma records of the southern cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus (Amblyopsidae)
Brown, A. V. and Willis, L. D. Journal Article 1984 Cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) in Arkansas: Populations, incidence, habitat requirements and mortality factors
Willis, L. D. Thesis 1984 Distribution and habitat requirements of the Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae
Willis, L.D. and Brown, A.V. Journal Article 1985 Distribution and habitat requirements of the Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae
Poulson, T.L. Journal Article 1985 Evolutionary reduction by neutral mutations: Plausibility arguments and data from Amblyopsid fishes and Linyphiid spiders
Brown, A. V. and Todd, C. S. Journal Article 1987 Status review of the threated Ozark cavefish Amblyosis rosae
Brown, A.V., Graening, G.O. and Vendrell, P. Report 1988 Monitoring cavefish populations and environmental quality in Cave Springs Cave, Arkansas
Palunas, M.J. Journal Article 1989 Life histories of the Amblyopsidae with an emphasis on reproductive cycles
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Book 1989 Ozark cavefish recovery plan
Willis, L.D. and Stewart, J.H. Report 1989 A recovery plan for Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae)
Means, M.L. Thesis 1993 Population dynamics and movement of Ozark cavefish in Logan Cave NWR, Benton County, Arkansas, with additional baseline water quality information
Means, M. and Johnson, J.E. Journal Article 1995 Movement of threatened Ozark cavefish in Logan Cave national wildlife refuge, Arkansas
Bergstrom, D.E., Noltie, D.B. and Holtsford, T.P. Journal Article 1995 Ozark cavefish genetics: The phylogeny of Missouri's Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) and southern cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus)
Brown, J.Z. Thesis 1996 Population dynamics and movement of Ozark cavefish in Logan Cave national wildlife refuge, Benton County, Arkansas
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Journal Article 1996 Amblyopsis rosae
Canaday, B. D. and Vitello, C. B. Journal Article 1996 Ozark cavefish public outreach and habitat management project
Brown, J.Z., Boyd, G.L. and Johnson, J.E. Book Section 1997 Ozark cavefish in Logan Cave National Wildlife Refuge: A five year perspective
Boyd, G.L. Thesis 1997 Metabolic rates and life history of aquatic organisms inhabiting Logan Cave stream in northwest Arkansas
Bergstrom, D.E., Noltie, D.B. and Holtsford, T.P. Book Section 1997 Molecular phylogenetics and historical biogeography of the family Amblyopsidae
Romero, A. Journal Article 1998 Threatened fishes of the world: Amblyopsis rosae (Eigenmann, 1898) (Amblyopsidae)
Graening, G.O. Journal Article 1998 Biospeleology as the basis of groundwater management
Elliott, W.R. Book Section 1998 Conservation of the North American cave and karst biota
Bergstrom, D.E., Noltie, D.B. and Holtsford, T.P. Journal Article 1998 The phylogeny, historical biogeography, and evolution of troglobitism in Amblyopsis rosae (Ozark cavefish) and Typhlichthys subterraneus (southern cavefish)
Graening, G.O. and Brown, A.V. Report 2000 Trophic dynamics and pollution effects in Cave Springs Cave, Arkansas.
Graening, G.O. Journal Article 2000 Ecosystem dynamics of an Ozark cave
Adams, G.L. and Johnson, J.E. Journal Article 2001 Metabolic rate and natural history of Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae, in Logan Cave, Arkansas
Brown, J. Z. and Johnson, J. E. Journal Article 2001 Population biology and growth of Ozark cavefishes in Logan Cave National Wildlife refuge, Arkansas
Poulson, T. Journal Article 2001 Morphological and physiological correlates of evolutionary reduction of metabolic rate among amblyopsid cave fishes
Noltie, D. B. and Wicks, C.M. Journal Article 2001 How hydrogeology has shaped the ecology of Missouri's Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae, and southern cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus: Insights on the sightless from understanding the underground
Aley, T., Ashley, D.C., Elliott, W.R., McGlimsey, M., Weaver, D. and Beard, J. Book 2002 Conserving Missouri's caves and karst
Elliott, W.R. Book 2003 A guide to Missouri's cave life
Poly, WJ and Wetzel, JE Journal Article 2003 Transbrachioral spawning: novel reproductive strategy observed for the pirate perch Aphredodereus sayanus (Aphredoderidae)
Graening, G.O. and Brown, A.V. Journal Article 2003 Ecosystem dynamics and pollution effects in an Ozark cave stream
Poly, W.J. and Proudlove, G.S. Journal Article 2004 Family Amblyopsdae Bonaparte 1846
Graening, G.O. Journal Article 2005 Trophic structure of Ozark cave streams containing endangered species
Graening, G.O. and Fenolio, D.B. Journal Article 2005 Status update of the Delaware County cave crayfish, Cambarus subterraneus (Decapoda: Cambaridae)
Elliott, W.R. Journal Article 2007 Zoogeography and biodiversity of Missouri cave and karst
Aley, T., Aley, C., Moss, P. and Hertzler, T. Journal Article 2008 Hydrogeological characteristics of delineated recharge areas for 40 biologically significant cave and spring systems in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Illinois
Graening, G.O., Fenolio, D.B., Niemiller, M.L., Brown, A.V. and Beard, J.B. Journal Article 2010 The 30-year recovery effort for the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae): analysis of current distribution, population trends, and conservation status of this threatened species
Niemiller, M. L., Near, T. J. and Fitzpatrick, B. M. Journal Article 2011 Delimiting species using multilocus data: Diagnosing cryptic diversity in the Southern Cavefish, Typhlichthys Subterraneus (Teleostei: Amblyopsidae)
Niemiller, M.L. Thesis 2011 Evolution, speciation, and conservation of amblyopsid cavefishes
Graening, G.O., Fenolio, D.B. and Slay, M.E. Book 2011 Cave life of Oklahoma and Arkansas: exploration and conservation of subterranean biodiversity
Mouser, J. Thesis 2019 Examining occurrence, life history, and ecology of cavefishes and cave crayfishes using both traditional and novel approaches
Niemiller, M.L., Taylor, S.J., Slay, M.E. and Hobbs, H.H. III Book Section 2019 Biodiversity in the United States and Canada
Adams, G.L., Burr, B.M. and Warren, M.L. Book Section 2020 Amblyopsidae: Cavefishes
Mouser, J.B., Brewer, S.K., Niemiller, M.L., Mollenhauer, R. and Van Den Bussche, R.A. Journal Article 2021 Refining sampling protocols for cavefishes and cave crayfishes to account for environmental variation
Mouser, J. Journal Article 2022 Lithology and disturbance drive cavefish and cave crayfish occurrence in the Ozark Highlands ecoregion
Mouser, J.B., Brewer, S.K., Niemiller, M.L., Mollenhauer, R. and Van Den Bussche, R.A. Journal Article 2022 Lithology and disturbance drive cavefish and cave crayfish occurrence in the Ozark Highlands ecoregion
Mouser, J.B., Johnston, J., Niemiller, M.L., and Brewer, S.K. Journal Article 2023 A Fisherman's Tale: An unusual observation of the Ozark Cavefish, Troglichthys (= Amblyopsis) rosae (Eigenmann)
McAllister, C.T., Fenolio, D.B., Slay, M.E., and Cloutman, D.G. Journal Article 2023 First Parasites (Cnidaria: Myxobolidae; Trematoda:Digenea: Clinostomidae) Reported from the Threatened Ozark Cavefish, Troglichthys rosae (Percopsiformes:Amblyopsidae), from Arkansas, U.S.A., with a Summary of the Parasites of North American Cavefishes