Fish Friday with… the Starhead Topminnow

The Starhead Topminnow has a flat head with an iridescent gold spot. The back is olive-tan, the sides yellow flecked with colors.

Starhead Topminnow (Fundulus dispar)

At just three inches long, the Starhead Topminnow invites predation. But as they say at the Charles Darwin School of Business, predation spurs innovation. “Starhead Topminnows are known to jump from the water onto land or large leaves of water lilies and other plants to escape predators, then return to the water,” says the Atlas of Illinois Fishes.

A large iridescent gold spot atop the head gives this species its whimsical name. The Starhead Topminnow also resembles other fish with amusing monikers. As the authors of the Atlas note, it shares similarities with the Banded Killifish and the Northern Studfish. Pollution drove Fundulus dispar out of the Wabash River years ago. But it still makes its home in northeastern Illinois and a few of the state’s larger rivers.

An Atlas of Illinois Fishes: 150 Years of Change

Part nature guide and part natural history, An Atlas of Illinois Fishes is the authoritative resource on the topic. The 259 color photographs and 227 maps guide readers to up-to-date scientific information on Illinois’s 217 current and extirpated fish species.