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Montana Field Guides

Plains Minnow - Hybognathus placitus

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
The plains minnow is currently ranked an S4 in Montana and is considered a potential species of concern. While this species is apparently secure, it may be quite rare in parts of its range, and/or suspected to be declining.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Plains Minnow (Hybognathus placitus) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 04/08/2010
    Population Size

    ScoreU - Unknown


    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)

    Comment187,315 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreE - 100-500 km squared (about 25,000-125,000 acres)

    Comment412 square kilometers based on Heritage Range Maps and occupancy of 1% of landscape by streams and occupancy of 22% of sites surveyed

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreE - Relatively Stable (±25% change)

    CommentEven though they have been impacted by grazing, exotic species, and some dewatering, prairie streams have probably been pretty stable in terms of water etc. since the arrival of Europeans within +/-25%.

    Short-term Trend

    ScoreE - Stable. Population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences unchanged or remaining within ±10% fluctuation

    CommentSince 1999, prairie fish surveys do not suggest decline as indicated by distribution data although this is not as sensitive to detecting decline as regular monitoring of a network of sites. Recent prairie fish surveys did not detect them in the Marias River basin or the Milk River basin upstream of Frenchman Creek, but it is uncertain whether this means decline or previous issues with identification.


    ScoreF - Widespread, low-severity threat. Threat is of low severity but affects (or would affect) most or a significant portion of the population or area.

    SeverityLow - Low but nontrivial reduction of species population or reversible degradation or reduction of habitat in area affected, with recovery expected in 10-50 years.

    CommentSpecies is capable of recovering quickly if suitable habitat is available. Perhaps the majority of prairie streams affected by intensive agriculture are capable of recovering to the point of supporting populations within 50 years. They do not currently

    ScopeModerate - 20-60% of total population or area affected

    Comment75% of Plains Minnow range overlaps with the range of Northern Pike. Right now there is very little overlap in streams where Plains Minnow and Northern Pike are both detected (only 21% or 6 of 28 streams). It is difficult to ascertain whether Plains Min

    ImmediacyModerate - Threat is likely to be operational within 2-5 years.


    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreC - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).

    CommentLongevity of 3-4 years

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreC - Moderate. Generalist. Broad-scale or diverse (general) habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors are used or required by the species but some key requirements are scarce in the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.

    CommentPresent in a variety of prairie stream sizes and substrates. Seem to handle a variety of turbidities, plant densities, and water temperatures as well.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 3.5 + 0.0 (area occupancy) + 0.0 (environmental specificity) + 0.0 (short-term trend) + (threats) = 3.5

General Description
The plains minnow is similar to the western silvery minnow in many features. It is native, silvery in color, found in the same major drainages and even at the same sites as the western silvery minnow, eats similar foods and attains about the same size. The plains minnow is so similar to the western silvery minnow that the two can only be told apart after making a dissection and examining a certain bone in the head.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Overall, the plains minnow is very silvery; the back is dusky or yellowish-olive, and the underside is white. The plains minnow has 15 to 22 scales across the belly from lateral line to lateral line.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Western Hemisphere Range


Range Comments
Native range includes the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, Brazos, and Colorado River drainages, from Montana and North Dakota south to New Mexico and Texas; Mississippi River from mouth of Missouri River to mouth of Ohio River. In Montana, this species is found east of the continental divide in streams of the Northern Prairies and Northwestern Great Plains Ecoregions.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 591

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Habitat for the plains minnow is probably similar to that for the western silvery minnow. Seventy percent of specimens in a southeast Montana study were taken in the mouths of streams, showing their preference for larger streams.

Food Habits
Food habits are probably very similar to the western silvery minnow.

The ecology of the plains minnow is very similar to H. argyritis. They are distinguishable by the pharyngeal process of the basioccipital.

Reproductive Characteristics
Reproductive biology is probably very similar to the western silvery minnow.

Threats or Limiting Factors
Threats to this minnow species is largely from introduced predatory fishes, such as northern pike and walleye.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Musuem of Natural History. 867 p.
    • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Rainbow trout, Kamloops trout, Steelhead trout Salmo gairdneri Richardson. pp. 184-191. In: Freshwater fishes of Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin 184. 966 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Barfoot, C.A. 1993. Longitudinal distribution of fishes and habitat in Little Beaver Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 66 p.
    • Clancey, C.G. 1978. The fish and aquatic invertebrates in Sarpy Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 54 p.
    • Duncan, M.B. 2019. Distributions, abundances, and movements of small, nongame fishes in a large Great Plains river network. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 255 p.
    • Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
    • Mullen, J.A. 2007. Spatiotemporal variation of fish assemblages in Montana prairie streams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 102 p.
    • Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
    • Stringer, A.L. 2018. Status of Northern Pearl Dace and chrosomid dace in prairie streams of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
    • Wuellner, M.R. 2007. Influence of reach and watershed characteristics on fish distributions in small streams of eastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 80 p.
    • Young, B.A., T.L. Welker, M.L. Wildhaber, C.R. Berry, and D. Scarnecchia (eds). 1997. Population structure and habitat use of benthic fishes along the Missouri and Lower Yellowstone Rivers. 1997 Annual report of Missouri River Benthic Fish Study PD-95-5832 to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 207 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Plains Minnow — Hybognathus placitus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from