Cottus specus

Adams and Burr 2013



Cottus carolinae species group  [Burr, Adams, Krejca and Warren 2001]




Holotype: SIUC 88001 ♂ 80.2mm SL. Paratypes: SIUC 88002 58.0mm SL and 60.6mm SL, USNM 409781 65.3mm SL and 86.7mm SL.


Hypogean populations have been found in seven large base level caves and six resurgenses in Perry County, Missouri, USA (37o35’N, 90o05’W). These are in two separate karst basins. The extensive Mystery Cave may contain up to 2000 individuals (Burr, Adams, Krejca, Paul and Warren 2001).


Location Type of site
Tom Moore Cave Cave
Crevice Cave Cave
Crevice-Mertz Cave Cave
Mystery Cave Cave
Running Bull Cave Cave
Rimstone River Cave Cave
Hot Caverns Cave
Blue Spring Resurgence
Cinque Hommes Creek Resurgence
Mystery Resurgence Resurgence
Thunderhole Resurgence Resurgence
Greasy Creak Resurgence
Gerler Spring Resurgence
Details from Day et al. (2014)  



Grotto Sculpin live in running water in base level streams. They are found in pools and riffles and over a variety of substrates (Burr, Adams, Krejca, Paul and Warren 2001).


There are remarkable differences between Grotto Sculpin and surface C. carolinea. They show apparent cave modifications including: reduced pigment, reduced eye size, reduced number of pelvic fin rays, a gap between the dorsal fins, a modified cephalic lateral line system and a longer caudal peduncle. Burr, Warren and Paul (1992), Paul, Burr and Warren (1993) and Burr, Adams, Krejca, Paul and Warren (2001) analysed 10 meristic and 28 morphometric variables in epigean and hypogean specimens. A Principal Component Analysis showed there to be a total separation of the epi- and hypogean populations in eye length vs. standard length, pelvic fin ray number and details of the cephalic lateral line system. It seems possible that this is an example of a troglophile/troglobite transition.

Conservation Status


Endangered (USFWS 2013)


Museum Holdings

SIUC 19279 (20, 66–103 mm SL) Cinque Hommes Creek, 1992.

SIUC 18916 (3) Sculpin Stream, Mystery Cave, 21 April 1991.

SIUC 19904 (3) Mystery Cave, 7 March 1992.

SIUC 18923 (20, 52–80 mm SL), Mystery Cave, 1 October 1991.

SIUC 21258 (4, 57–88 mm SL) Hot Caverns, 4 October 1992.

SIUC 19839 (23, 51–95 mm SL) Flaming River Cave, 3 July 1992.

SIUC 21260 (8, 34–56 mm SL) Running Bull Cave, 25 October 1992.

SIUC 20916 (9, 31–80 mm SL) Tom Moore Cave, 25 October 1992.

Internet Resources

US Fish and Wildlife Service Grotto Sculpin web page


Grotto Sculpin fact sheet


Grotto Sculpin fact sheet pdf


NatureServe conservation account


A brief account

Key References

Robins, C.R. Thesis 1954 A taxonomic revision of the Cottus bairdi and Cottus carolinae species group in eastern North American (Pisces, Cottidae)
Williams, J. D. and Howell, W. M. Journal Article 1979 An albino sculpin from a cave in the New River drainage of West Virginia (Pisces: Cottidae)
Burr, B.M., Warren, M.L. and Paul, R.J. Journal Article 1992 Cavernicolous sculpins of the Cottus carolinae species group from Mystery Cave, Missouri
Paul, R.J., Burr, B.M. and Warren, M.L. Journal Article 1993 Cavernicolous sculpins of the Cottus carolinae species group from Perry County, Missouri: Cave-life phenomena or speciation ?
Krejca, J., Burr, B.M., Warren, M.L. and Paul, R.J. Journal Article 1994 Cavernicolous sculpins of the Cottus carolinae species group (Pisces, Cottidae) from Perry County, Missouri
Krejca, J.K., Burr, B.M., Paul, R.J. and Warren, M.L. Journal Article 1994 Cavernicolous sculpins of the Cottus carolinae species group (Pisces: Cottidae) from Perry County, Missouri
Coombs, S. Journal Article 1999 Signal detection theory, lateral‐line excitation patterns and prey capture behaviour of mottled sculpin
Coombs, S., Finneran, J.J. and Conley, R.A. Journal Article 2000 Hydrodynamic image formation by the peripheral lateral line system of the Lake Michigan mottled sculpin, Cottus bairdi.
Burr, B.M., Adams, G.L., Krejca, J., Paul, R.J. and Warren, M.L. Journal Article 2001 Troglomorphic sculpins of the Cottus carolinae species group in Perry County, Missouri: Distribution, external morphology and conservation status
Coombs, S, Braun, CB and Donovan, B Journal Article 2001 The orienting response of Lake Michigan mottled sculpin is mediated by canal neuromasts.
Brison, L.L. Thesis 2001 Experimental analysis of metabolic adaptation of Cottus carolinae in response to photoperiod and food availability
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 Mssouri's cave life
Kanter, MJ and Coombs, S Journal Article 2003 Rheotaxis and prey detection in uniform currents by Lake Michigan mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi)
Adams, G. Thesis 2005 Morphology, genetics and physiology of a troglomorphic sculpin, Cottus carolinae
Kinziger, AP, Wood, RM and Neely, DA Journal Article 2005 Molecular systematics of the genus Cottus (Scorpaeniformes: Cottidae)
Robins, CR Journal Article 2005 Cottus kanawhae, a new cottid fish from the New River System of Virginia and West Virginia
Niemiller, M.L., Glorioso, B.M. and Miller, B.T. Journal Article 2006 An eastern and subterranean maximum size record of the banded sculpin, Cottus carolinae, from Tennessee
Kerfoot, JR and Schaefer, JF Journal Article 2006 Ecomorphology and habitat utilization of Cottus species
Kinziger, AP, Goodman, DH and Studebaker, RS Journal Article 2007 Mitochondrial DNA variation in the Ozark Highland members of the Banded Sculpin Cottus carolinae complex
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
Johnson, C.R., Day, J.L. and Adams, G. Journal Article 2008 Life history characteristics of Grotto Sculpin (Cottus carolinae) in cave and surface streams of Perry County, Missouri
Gerken, J.E. and Adams, G. Journal Article 2008 Habitat use by Grotto Sculpin (Cottus carolinae), a troglomorphic fish in Perry County, Missouri
Day, JL, Johnson, CR, Gerken, JE and Adams, G Journal Article 2008 Population ecology of Grotto Sculpin (Cottus carolinae) in cave and resurgence streams
Fox, J.T., Adams, G.L., Steelman, K. and Sharum, M. Journal Article 2010 Environmental assessment of bioavailable organic chemicals in Perry County, Missouri cave stream using passive samplers
Adams, G., Burr, B.M., Day, J. and Starkey, D.E. Journal Article 2013 Cottus specus, a new troglomophic species of Sculpin (Cottidae) from southeastern Missouri
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Report 2013 Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: Determination of endangered species status for the Grotto Sculpin (Cottus specus) throughout its range
Moss, P. Journal Article 2013 Recharge area delineations and hazard and vulnerability mapping in Perry County, Missouri
Day, J., Starkey, David E. and Gerken, J. E. Journal Article 2014 Prevalence of parasitism in the Grotto Sculpin (Cottus specus), a new species of cave-adapted fish from southeastern Missouri, USA
Day, J., Gerken, J. E. and Adams, G Journal Article 2014 Population ecology and seasonal demography of endangered grotto sculpin (Cottus specus)
Day, J., Starkey, D.E., Adams, G., Brummett, S. and Keeney, D. Journal Article 2014 Population genetics of grotto sculpin (Cottus specus), a new cave-adapted fish species
Fernholz, J and Phelps, QE Journal Article 2016 Influence of PIT tags on growth and survival of Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae): Implications for endangered Grotto Sculpin (Cottus specus)
Ruppert, J.L.W., James, P.M.A., Taylor, E.B., Rudlofsem, T., Veillard, M., Davis, C.S., Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. Journal Article 2017 Riverscape genetic structure of a threatened and dispersal limited freshwater species, the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.)
Gebhard, A.E and Perkin, J.S. Journal Article 2017 Assessing riverscape-scale variation in fish life history using banded sculpin (Cottus carolinae)
Baek, S.Y., Kang, J.H., Jo, S.H., Jang, J.E., Byeon, S.Y., Wang, J.H., Lee, H.G., Choi, J.K. and Lee, H.J. Journal Article 2018 Contrasting life histories contribute to divergent patterns of genetic diversity and population connectivity in freshwater sculpin fishes
Wells, W.G., Johnson, T.C., Gebhard, A.E., Paine, R.T.R., Hix, L.A., Ferrell, H.N., Engle, A.N. and Perkin, J.S. Journal Article 2018 March of the sculpin : measuring and predicting short‐term movement of banded sculpin cottus carolinae