Redear sunfish

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Redear sunfish
Temporal range: Middle Miocene to Recent
Redearsunfishnctc.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Centrarchidae
Genus: Lepomis
Species: L. microlophus
Binomial name
Lepomis microlophus
(Günther, 1859)

The redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus, also known as the shellcracker, Georgia bream, cherry gill, chinquapin, improved bream, rouge ear sunfish and sun perch) is freshwater fish native to the southeastern United States. Since it is a popular sport fish, it has been introduced to bodies of water all over North America. This species of sunfish is well known for its diet of mollusks and snails.

Large shellcracker being prepared for consumption

Description[edit]

Illustration of the redear sunfish, Lepomis microlophus

The redear sunfish generally resembles the bluegill except for coloration and somewhat larger size. The redear sunfish also has faint vertical bars traveling downwards from its dorsal.[1] It is dark-colored dorsally and yellow-green ventrally. The male has a cherry-red edge on its operculum; females have orange coloration in this area. The adult fish are between 20 and 24 cm (7.9 and 9.4 in) in length. Max length is 43.2 cm (17.0 in), compared to a maximum of about 40 cm (16 in) for the bluegill. Lepomis microlophus averages at a size of about 0.45 kg (0.99 lb), also larger than the average bluegill.

Habitat and Range[edit]

Redear sunfish are native to North Carolina and Florida, west to south Illinois and south Missouri, and south to the Rio Grande drainage in Texas.[2] However, this fish has also been widely introduced to other locations in the United States outside of its native range. In the wild, the redear sunfish inhabits warm, quiet waters of lakes, ponds, streams, and reservoirs. They prefer to be near logs and vegetation, and tend to congregate in groups around these features. This sunfish is also located in many marsh wetlands of freshwater.

Diet[edit]

The favorite food of this species is snails. These fish meander along lakebeds, seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures. Redears have thick pharyngeal teeth (hard, movable plates in its throat) which allow it to crunch exoskeletons. It is even capable of opening small clams. The specialization of this species for the deep-water, mollusk-feeding niche allows it to be introduced to lakes without the risk of competition with fish that prefer shallower water or surface-feeding. In recent years, the stocking of redear has found new allies due to the fish's ability to eat quagga mussels, a prominent invasive species in many freshwater drainages.[3]

Reproduction[edit]

Male guarding eggs

During spawning, males congregate and create nests close together in colonies, and females visit to lay eggs. The redear sometimes hybridizes with other sunfish species.

Fossil Record[edit]

The redear sunfish is the first-known species of Centrarchidae based on fossil records, as old as 16.3 million years, dating back to the Middle Miocene[1].

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bosanko, David, and Dan Johnson. "Redear Sunfish." Fish of Michigan Field Guide. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2007. 148-49. Print.
  2. ^ Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. "Redear Sunfish." National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. 347. Print.
  3. ^ Tavares, Stephanie (2009-11-09). "Popular sport fish could solve Lake Mead's clam infestation". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  • Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2005). "Lepomis microlophus" in FishBase. November 2005 version.
  • Ellis, Jack (1993). The Sunfishes-A Fly Fishing Journey of Discovery. Bennington, VT: Abenaki Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-936644-17-6. 
  • Rice, F. Philip (1964). America's Favorite Fishing-A Complete Guide to Angling for Panfish. New York: Harper Row. 
  • Rice, F. Philip (1984). Panfishing. New York: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-943822-25-4. 

External links[edit]