Species Profile

Cutlip Minnow

Scientific Name: Exoglossum maxillingua
Other/Previous Names: Cutlips Minnow
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: Ontario, Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

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Image of Cutlip Minnow

Cutlip Minnow Photo 1



The Cutlip Minnow is a small freshwater fish in the Cyprinidea family (minnow). It can reach a length of about 160 mm. It can be distinguished from all other fish species by its stout body, silvery sides with a greenish purple sheen and tri-lobed lower lip.


Distribution and Population

In Canada, the Cutlip Minnow is found in the St. Lawrence River watershed, from Ivy Lea, Ontario to Saint-Pascal, Quebec. In Ontario, the species is now found in only three of the seven waterbodies where it was historically present. The species is more widespread in Quebec. Since 2002, the species has been collected in only 79 of 206 waterbodies where it was historically present. It is difficult to determine if this is the result of a decline in the species, a lack of sampling in more recent times, or a combination thereof.



The Cutlip Minnow is found primarily in clear rivers and streams with little current, channel substrate composed of cobbles, gravel, sand, mud and aquatic vegetation. It is a bottom feeder, consuming a variety of aquatic invertebrates.



During the spawning period, in spring or early summer, the male builds a nest by moving small stones one by one. When the nest is ready, he lets one female lay her eggs, which he simultaneously fertilizes. After spawning, he maintains the nest and defends his eggs and fry. The Cutlip Minnow is a bottom feeder, consuming a variety of aquatic invertebrates. It is also known to attack and consume the eyes of other species of fish, which is the source of its slang common name "eye picker."



Little is known about threats that are specific to the Cutlip Minnow. The species may be intolerant of persistent turbidity and excessive siltation, both potential consequences of some agricultural and urban activities. The Round Goby and the Tench, two invasive species known to negatively impact native fishes, may also have adverse effects on the Cutlip Minnow.



Federal Protection

The Cutlip Minnow was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as a species of special concern. Consultations regarding the addition of this species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk are expected to begin in fall 2014.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Team

Quebec cyprinids and small percids recovery team

  • Marthe Bérubé - Chair/Contact -
    Phone: 877-775-0848  Send Email
  • Alain Kemp - Chair/Contact -
    Phone: 877-775-0848  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement – Cutlip Minnow (2015)

    This small-bodied freshwater fish occurs across a relatively small area in eastern Ontario and Québec where it has been lost from two watersheds over the last 10 years. Much of the current range of this species is subject to threats from widespread habitat degradation and multiple invasive species.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Cutlip Minnow Consultations on listing under the Species at Risk Act (2014)

    Warning : The "Save File" and "Submit" functions of the PDF questionnaire are only active for users of Internet Explorer. If you are using another browser, here are the instructions: 1- save the empty PDF questionnaire on your computer; 2- close your browser; 3- open the PDF with Acrobat Reader and fill it out; 4- click on the "Submit" button or attach the filled out PDF questionnaire to an email. You can also submit your comments by using the "Comment form" below, by sending us your answers directly in an email or by printing your completed form and mailing it (see contact information below). Before deciding whether this species will be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like your opinion, comments and suggestions regarding the possible environmental, cultural and economic impacts of listing or not listing this species. The purposes of SARA are to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct, to provide for their recovery and to conserve biological diversity.