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Wild About Illinois Fishes!

Family Amblyopsidae - Cavefish Family

​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Percopsiformes
Family: Amblyopsidae - These small fishes have very small or nonfunctioning eyes, no or very tiny pelvic fins, a flattened head, anal and urogenital openings under and between the gills, embedded cycloid scales and one dorsal fin. They have large sensory bumps on the head, body and caudal fin which help them to compensate for their poor vision.

Shawnee Hills cavefish (Forbesichthys papilliferus)
Photo © Missouri Department of Conservation/Lance Merry

Features and Behaviors

The Shawnee Hills cavefish is a small (less than three and one-half inches), uniformly grey to black fish with small eyes, small scales, and a salamander-like appearance. 

The Shawnee Hills cavefish is troglophilic (occurring within caves, but not exclusively) and inhabits shallow, densely vegetated water in springs and spring-fed streams. They are active primarily after dark and their diet consists mostly of amphipods. It has been suggested their small eyes function only as a light-sensory organ and that they do not see images. In Illinois, they are found in caves near the Mississippi River. 

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Percopsiformes
Family: Amblyopsidae

Illinois Status: common, native