The Beautiful Darters

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Darters are fish from one to eight inches long and are of the perch family. They have this name because of their swift darting movements from one resting place to another. Many live in streams throughout the United States, but their largest numbers are in the Ozark Mountains of the south-central United States. Darters seem to favor those clean mountain streams with the shallow but cold, swift water that races over the rocky bottoms. Most live right in the rapids where they catch insects and other small creatures for food.
There are many species of darters, each with its own distinctive coloring. The stippled darter is one of the prettiest. Throughout most of the year it has transparent blue fins and tail and an olive-brown body with dark stripes on top. But in the spawning months of April and May, the male makes an amazing change. His fins and tail turn bright blue with a fringe of deep orange. The body loses its olive color and turns a pretty mottled blue, silver and gray on the upper half, and the lower half turns a brilliant crimson.
Another good example is the Missouri saddled darter. Again in the spawning season, the male loses its olive-brown coloring and changes to a brilliant green with bright orange bands. When the spawning season is over, he gradually changes back to his original colors until the next year.
While the darters are putting on this brilliant color display, other little fish (about minnow size) sharing the streams go through similar changes. The hornyhead chub turns deep yellow; the bleeding shiner becomes crimson; the redbelly dace turns from silver to bright red with two black stripes.
In many ways these brightly colored fish look like tropical fish seen in aquariums, but they are in no way related. Tropical fish keep their bright colors year-round; these others display their bright colors only in the spring spawning season. Tropicals are rather slow swimmers and used to comfortably warm water; the northern species are active and hardy, since they live in swift waters that are often icy cold. The Creator has made each species to fit in perfectly with its surroundings.
What a lovely display this is of the Creator's purposes in adding beauty and variety to all His creation. We know each creature was a complete work when the Lord God made it, and when He did so, He "saw that it was good" (Gen. 1).
Let us never forget that "all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:33All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)). Nor should we neglect the Bible's good instruction: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Eccl. 12:11Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 12:1)).