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Freshwater whitefish

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Freshwater whitefish
Temporal range: Late Eocene–present
Bloater (Coregonus hoyi)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Subfamily: Coregoninae
Bonaparte, 1845

The freshwater whitefish are fishes of the subfamily Coregoninae, which contains whitefishes (both freshwater and anadromous) and ciscoes, and is one of three subfamilies in the salmon family Salmonidae.[1][2] Apart from the subfamily Coregoninae, the family Salmonidae includes the salmon, trout, and char species of the subfamily Salmoninae, and grayling species of the subfamily Thymallinae.[1][3] Freshwater whitefish are distributed mainly in relatively cool waters throughout the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere.


The Coregoninae subfamily consists of three nominal genera:[4]

  • Coregonus Linnaeus, 1758 – whitefishes and ciscoes, which according to some authors number more than 60 species.[5] There are differing opinions on the classification of some species within the genus and the overall number of species.[2] Some species in Arctic regions of Asia and North America forage in marine waters.[2]
  • Prosopium Jordan, 1878 – round whitefishes, which includes six species, three of which occur only in a single lake.[2][6]
  • Stenodus Richardson, 1836inconnus, which includes two species, sometimes considered a single species with two subspecies.[7] Phylogenetically, Stenodus is not distinct from Coregonus.[8]

Two fossil genera (Beckius David, 1946 and Parastenodus David, 1946) are also known, both only from isolated scales from the Late Eocene or early Oligocene Kreyenhagen Shale of the San Joaquin Valley, California.[9][10]


In their ecosystems, whitefish tend to be some of the largest fish and occupy niches as benthic predators.[11] The recent invasion of several invasive species,[12] including the sea lamprey and zebra mussels,[11] has begun to pose a threat to the whitefish population by disrupting historic ecological relationships and prey distribution.[13] This has been exacerbated by other changes to their habitat such as changes in land use, climate change,[12] and the introduction of outside nutrients through runoff.[13]

Whitefish as food[edit]

Lox, smoked whitefish, cream cheese, and bagels

Freshwater whitefish is known for its mild flavor and high omega-3 fatty acid content.[14] It is generally favored by those who dislike stronger fishy taste.[14] Lake whitefish is one of the most commonly consumed varieties of freshwater whitefish.[14]  It is especially popular in the Great Lakes region, where it can frequently be found, usually grilled or fried, as a popular offering in many restaurants. Smoked whitefish is locally produced as well. Many freshwater whitefish species have also made up an important component of the traditional diets of many indigenous people who have historically inhabited its range.[15][16] Other varieties of smoked freshwater whitefish are sold in delicatessens and eaten as part of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, either filleted[17][18] or made into whitefish salad.[19][20]

Use by indigenous peoples[edit]

Lake whitefish, adikameg in Ojibwe, has historically been a staple food for the Anishinaabe,[21] a diverse group of tribes native to the North American Midwest.[16] In recent years, following several legal battles which restored the ability of native peoples to exercise their right to hunt and gather,[21] whitefish has become a major resource for those communities. Native Alaskan communities also gather whitefish, specifically the inconnu (or sheefish), as a subsistence food.[15]

Evolution due to human interaction[edit]

There are a multitude of species of freshwater whitefish, some are more valued economically than others. Fishing for markets is not uncommon for species such as Coregonus widegreni and Coregonus lavaretus. At the time, there was an increase in younger groups of C. widegreni because when fishing, humans only wanted the larger fish which ended up being the oldest.[22]


  1. ^ a b Nuttall, Mark (12 November 2012). Encyclopedia of the Arctic. Routledge. p. 1834. ISBN 978-1-57958-436-8.
  2. ^ a b c d Behnke, Robert J (6 July 2010). Trout and Salmon of North America (1st ed.). New York: The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. pp. 335–340. ISBN 978-1-4516-0355-2.
  3. ^ "Salmonidae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Coregoninae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Coregonus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Prosopium". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Taxonomic information for Inconnus (Stenodus)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  8. ^ Bernatchez, L; Colombani, F; Dodson, JJ (1991). "Phylogenetic relationships among the subfamily Coregoninae as revealed by mitochondrial DNA restriction analysis" (PDF). Journal of Fish Biology. 39: 283–290. Bibcode:1991JFBio..39S.283B. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1991.tb05091.x. ISSN 0022-1112.
  9. ^ David, Lorre R. (1946). "Some Typical Upper Eogene Fish Scales from California". Contributions to Paleontology. IV.
  10. ^ "PBDB Taxon". paleobiodb.org. Retrieved 2024-04-17.
  11. ^ a b Ergas, S.J.; Aponte-Morales, V. (2014), "Biological Nitrogen Removal", Comprehensive Water Quality and Purification, Elsevier, pp. 123–149, doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-382182-9.00047-5, ISBN 978-0-12-382183-6, retrieved 2022-04-26
  12. ^ a b Renik, Kathryn M.; Jennings, Martin J.; Kampa, Jeffrey M.; Lyons, John; Parks, Timothy P.; Sass, Greg G. (2020-08-20). "Status and Distribution of Cisco (Coregonus artedi) and Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in Inland Lakes of Wisconsin". Northeastern Naturalist. 27 (3): 469. doi:10.1656/045.027.0307. ISSN 1092-6194. S2CID 222001614.
  13. ^ a b Borvinskaya, E.V.; Sukhovskaya, I.V.; Vasil’eva, O.B.; Nazarova, M.A.; Smirnov, L.P.; Svetov, S.A.; Krutskikh, N.V. (2017-02-08). "Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) Response to Varying Potassium and Sodium Concentrations: A Model of Mining Water Toxic Response". Mine Water and the Environment. 36 (3): 393–400. Bibcode:2017MWE....36..393B. doi:10.1007/s10230-016-0426-0. ISSN 1025-9112. S2CID 99067213.
  14. ^ a b c "Lake Whitefish – Eat Wisconsin Fish". Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  15. ^ a b Baker, Timothy T.; Sands, Tim; West, Fred; Westing, Charlotte, eds. (2009), Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska's Populations, American Fisheries Society, doi:10.47886/9781934874110.ch44, ISBN 978-1-934874-11-0, retrieved 2022-04-26
  16. ^ a b Kuhnlein, H.V. (2017). "Traditional Animal Foods of Indigenous Peoples of North America".
  17. ^ Achitoff-Gray, Niki (September 2014). "Lox, Whitefish, and Beyond: An Introduction to Appetizing". Serious Eats. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  18. ^ Federman, Niki Russ (October 2015). "The Russ & Daughters Guide to Smoked & Cured Fish". Lucky Peach. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  19. ^ Avey, Tori (February 2011). "Whitefish Salad". Tori Avey. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  20. ^ Kapadia, Jess (April 29, 2013). "Whitefish Salad, The Bagel's Secret Lover". Food Republic. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  21. ^ a b GLIFWC. "Lifting Nets: Gurnoe Decision [video]". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  22. ^ Kallio-Nyberg, Irma; Veneranta, Lari; Saloniemi, Irma; Jokikokko, Erkki; Leskelä, Ari (March 12, 2019). "Different growth trends of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) forms in the northern Baltic Sea". Journal of Applied Ichthyology. 35 (3): 683–691. Bibcode:2019JApIc..35..683K. doi:10.1111/jai.13898 – via Wiley.

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