Alabama is one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to aquatic biodiversity. In fact, Alabama has the greatest number of freshwater species of mollusks and fish in the United States, which includes 308 species of fish, 203 aquatic snail species, and 182 species of mussels.

Recently, Doug Darr, Aquatic Education Coordinator with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, visited fourth graders at Saint James School in Montgomery to teach them about the relationship between the state’s five geographic regions and the types of freshwater fish that inhabit those regions, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

According to Darr, Alabama’s large diversity of aquatic animals is due to three main factors: an abundance of rainfall; several large river drainages; and the state’s five geographic areas: the Coastal Plain, Highland Rim, Cumberland Plateau, Valley and Ridge, and Piedmont.

During his visit, Darr spoke to the students about some of Alabama’s unique fish. “Some types of fish are unique to a specific region, and some of those fish are only found in the Alabama portion of those regions,” Darr said. “The idea that habitat and fish can vary in different areas helps reinforce the importance of knowing the five regions.”

For example, the endangered Alabama cavefish and the protected spring pygmy sunfish can only be found in the Highland Rim. The Cumberland Plateau is home to the endangered palezone shiner, Tuscaloosa darter, and Warrior darter. The pygmy sculpin, watercress darter, vermilion darter, and the Cahaba shiner can be found in the Valley and Ridge region of the state, while the Piedmont has the lipstick darter and Tallapoosa shiner. Finally, the Coastal Plain is home to fish like the Gulf sturgeon and the skygazer shiner, which is only found in Alabama.

Elaine Boland, a fourth grade teacher at Saint James, invited Darr to speak with her students during their study of Alabama’s geography, rivers, and state symbols.

“The presentation added so much to our lesson by showing the many different types of fish that we have in our state,” Boland said. “The children were enthralled by the presentation. They especially enjoyed the pictures of the unusual fish Doug presented.”

For more information about Alabama’s abundant biodiversity, visit

Image courtesy Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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