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Mission: to unite as citizens and actively engage in the preservation of the Spring Creek Watershed.


Stonerollers scrape algae off rocks with their cartilaginous bottom lip. ©Brandon Brown

Stonerollers scrape algae off rocks with their cartilaginous bottom lip. ©Brandon Brown

A close-up of the Stonerollers' cartilaginous bottom lip. ©Brandon Brown

A close-up of the Stonerollers' cartilaginous bottom lip. ©Brandon Brown

 

Local Stonerollers Featured in Upcoming Documentary

By Brandon Brown

Walk up to the bank just about anywhere on Spring Creek and you probably won’t have to look very hard to find a big school of stonerollers. They’re one of our most common Ozark stream fish and spend most of their lives more or less unnoticed. Pay attention, though, and you’ll see large schools of them roaming the shallow rifles and runs with head down using their chisel-like cartilaginous bottom lip to scrape and feed on algae and bacterial mats growing on the streambed.

Because they’re so common and plain looking, it’s easy to take them for granted, but stonerollers are actually a keystone species. They are to streams what buffalo were to the Great Plains and play a vital role in maintaining the health of Ozark streams. Stoneroller research done on an Oklahoma stream in the early 1980’s by Dr. Mary Powers and Dr. Bill Matthews has been recognized by ecologists around the world for demonstrating the positive effects of stonerollers on stream communities. In fact, it’s become so well known, that Dr. Powers and her research are being featured in an upcoming documentary on pioneers in the field of ecology.

A United Kingdom producer, who has worked with such ecological celebrities as Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, was in Oklahoma in July to film footage for this documentary. His crew filmed in Spring, Snake and other northeast Oklahoma streams, spending five days in Ottawa, Delaware, Cherokee and Mayes counties.

Dr. Powers’ research revealed that when stonerollers are excluded from a reach of stream, green filamentous algae will very quickly begin growing and can completely cover the streambed. Eventually, the habitat is altered to the point that it becomes unsuitable for some species.

The producer emphasized the importance of the research and added, “The work done by Dr. Powers in Oklahoma not only demonstrated the importance of stonerollers, but contributed to the larger concept of community ecology and predator-prey relationships, which has had implications in other systems around the world.”

The producer and film crew admitted they didn’t know what to expect when they heard they were going to Oklahoma, but ended up ranking the water quality, fish abundance, and overall beauty among the best kept secrets and top places they’ve worked. Powers is just one of several well-known ecologists that will be highlighted in the documentary, which should be released in 2018.

Brandon Brown is the Manager of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Paddlefish Division. He was instrumental in locationg film sites for the crew.