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This article is about the North American freshwater fish family. For other fish known as "sunfish", see Sunfish (disambiguation).
Temporal range: Middle Miocene to Recent
Centrarchus macropterus (1).jpg
Flier (Centrarchus macropterus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Percoidei
Family: Centrarchidae
Bleeker, 1859

See text

Centrarchidae dis.png
Sunfish range

The sunfish are a family (Centrarchidae) of freshwater ray-finned fish belonging to the order Perciformes. The type genus is Centrarchus (consisting solely of the flier, C. macropterus). The family's 37 species include many fish familiar to North Americans, including the rock bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappies. All are native only to North America.

Family members are distinguished by having at least three anal spines. The dorsal spines are five to 13 in number, but most species have 10–12. The pseudobranch is small and concealed. Sizes of most are in the 20 to 30 cm (7.9 to 11.8 in) range. However, some are much smaller, with the black-banded sunfish at just 8 cm (3.1 in) in length, while the largemouth bass is reported to reach almost 1 m (3.3 ft) in extreme cases.[1]

The male of most species builds a nest by hollowing out a depression using his tail, then guards the eggs.[1]

Most sunfish are valued for sports fishing, and have been introduced in many areas outside their original ranges, sometimes becoming invasive species. While edible, they are not commercially marketed as a food fish.

Fossil record[edit]

The earliest fossils of Centrarchidae are from Middle Miocene Nebraska, belonging to the redear sunfish (13.6–16.3 million years ago).[2]


These fish prefer to live in and around aquatic vegetation so they can get adequate coverage from predators such as bass. They also prefer slow moving water such as lakes, or slow moving rivers. They are also social fish, as they prefer to live and travel in schools. They generally feed off of the bottom, but will rise to the surface to feed on insects. Their diet consists of plants and animals that are in the water in their habitat.[citation needed]


smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Recent genetic evidence suggests the following taxonomy of the centrarchid genera:[3]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, G.D. & Gill, A.C. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 
  2. ^ Centrarchidae. Fossilworks.org.
  3. ^ Roe, K. J., et al. (2002). Phylogenetic relationships of the genera of North American sunfishes and basses (Percoidei: Centrarchidae) as evidenced by the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Copeia 2002(4), 897–905.

External links[edit]