Typhlichthys eigenmanni

Charlton 1933



Typhlichthys subterraneus  Girard 1859 (in part)

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




12 syntypes as histological preparations (Charlton 1933) and specimens (whereabouts now unknown). Shown to be an available name by Parenti (2006).

The specific name eigenmanni was used by Niemiller et al. (2012) for for Ozark Highland populations that are disjunct from the rest of the distribution of Typhlichthys subterraneus.


Arkansas and Missouri, USA.

Recorded from 35 caves in Missouri (15 confirmed by molecular data) and 5 caves in Arkansas (3 confirmed by molecular data) (Niemiller et al. 2013).


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] NT:3.1:2013 (Niemiller et al. 2013)

Over 1000 Typhlichthys eigenmanni (then thought to be T. subterraneus) were killed after pollution of Meramec Spring, Missouri when ammonium salts caused catastrophic deoxygenation Vandike (1981, 1984), Crunkilton (1985).

Museum Holdings

ASUMZ, AUM, CU, MDC, OKMNH, SIUC, UAFC, UF, UMMZ, USNM (Niemiller et al. 2013).

Key References

Charlton, H.H. Journal Article 1933 The optic tectum and its related fibre tracts in blind fishes. A. Troglichthys rosae and Typhlichthys eigenmanni
Compson, Z.G. Thesis 2004 An isotopic examination of cave, spring and epigean trophic structures in Mammoth Cave National Park
Parenti, L.R. Journal Article 2006 Typhlichthys eigenmanni Charlton, 1933, an available name for a blind cave fish (Teleostei: Amblyopsidae), differentiated on the basis of characters of the central nervous system
Romero, A. and Conner, M. Journal Article 2007 Status report for the southern cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus in Arkansas
Niemiller, M.L., Graening, G.O., Fenolio, D.B., Godwin, J.C., Cooley, J.R., Pearson, W.D., Fitzpatrick, B.M. and Near, T.J. Journal Article 2013 Doomed before they are described? The need for conservation assessments of cryptic species complexes using an amblyopsid cavefish (Amblyopsidae: Typhlichthys) as a case study
Niemiller, M.L., Higgs, D.M. and Soares, D. Journal Article 2013 Evidence for hearing loss in amblyopsid cavefishes
Venarsky, M.P., Huntsman, B.M., Huryn, A.D., Benstead, J.P. and Kuhajda, B.R. Journal Article 2014 Quantitative food web analysis supports the energy‑limitation hypothesis in cave stream ecosystems
Soares, D. Niemiller, M.L. and Higgs, D. Journal Article 2014 Review article. Hearing and acoustic communication in cavefishes
Soares, D., Niemiller, M.L. and Higgs, D.M. Journal Article 2016 Hearing in Cavefishes
Mouser, J. Thesis 2019 Examining occurrence, life history, and ecology of cavefishes and cave crayfishes using both traditional and novel approaches
Hart, P.B., Niemiller, M.L., Burress, E.D., Armbruster, J.W., Ludt, W.B. and Chakrabarty, P. Journal Article 2020 Cave-adapted evolution in the North American Amblyopsid fishes Inferred using phylogenomics and geometric morphometrics
Adams, G.L., Burr, B.M. and Warren, M.L. Book Section 2020 Amblyopsidae: Cavefishes