Lepomis megalotis
Lepomis megalotis
(Longear Sunfish)
Native Transplant
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Lepomis megalotis (Rafinesque, 1820)

Common name: Longear Sunfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: 24 cm.

Native Range: St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, Mississippi River, and Gulf Slope drainages west of the Appalachian Mountains from southern Quebec west to western Ontario and Minnesota, and south to the Florida panhandle and southern Texas; on the Gulf Slope from the Choctawhatchee River, Florida, to the Rio Grande, Texas and New Mexico. Also in northeastern Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).

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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species has been introduced into the Connecticut River drainage in Connecticut (Schmidt 1986); the Rock Creek Park in the District of Columbia (Tilmant 1999); the Potomac drainage, the Blue Ridge-Great Valley region, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and the coastal plain of southern Maryland (Lee et al. 1976, 1981; Tilmant 1999; Starnes et al. 2011); failed 1923 stocking in General Butler Ames Pond of Massachusetts (Cardoza et al. 1993; Hartel et al. 2002); the Minnesota drainage (Burr and Page 1986), and possibly introduced into Little Rock and Hustler lakes in Minnesota (Phillips et al. 1982); Lake St. Louis in St. Charles County, Missouri (Pflieger 1997); probably introduced in the Tennessee drainage of North Carolina (Menhinick 1991; Gilbert, personal communication); the Rio Grande and Mimbres drainages of New Mexico (Sublette et al. 1990); Grayson, Red River, and Cottle Counties Texas (Red River Authority 2001); the Potomac and New drainages, Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Tilmant 1999; Starnes et al. 2011); and the Potomac and Kanawha (above the falls) drainages in West Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Stauffer et al. 1995). Schmidt (1986) reported this species as introduced into the Connecticut drainage but does not indicate the state. The Longear Sunfish has also been introduced to the Chesapeake Bay basin in Pennsylvania (Christmas et al. 2000).  Whitworth (1996) does not list this species in the state of Connecticut. The drainage record may refer to a sunfish tentatively identified as this species collected from a pond in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, in 1923 (Cardoza et al. 1993). An undetermined species of Lepomis was stocked in Massachusetts through at least 1946 (Cardoza et al. 1993).This species was also found in the Chippewa drainage in Wisconsin (Burr and Page 1986).

Means of Introduction: Accidental stocking as a result of stock contamination with other centrarchids. The record from Missouri refers to a 1985 collection that was the first in Missouri from any Mississippi River tributary above the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The longear's presence here may be due to an undocumented introduction (Pflieger 1997).

Status: Established in all locations except the New drainage of Virginia, where it may be extirpated, and Massachusetts, where there are no recent records (Cardoza et al. 1993).

Impact of Introduction: Unknown.

Remarks: Some ichthyologists believe L. megalotis may actually be native to the Tennessee drainage in North Carolina. Populations there may be at low levels due to extirpation by introduced L. auritus (i.e., Starnes and Jenkins, personal communication). On the other hand, Gilbert (personal communication) points out that there are many specie native to the Tennnessee River drainage of Tennessee that do not enter North Carolina and whose ranges stop abruptly at the state line (which marks the western limits of the Blue Ridge plateau), such as Luxilus chrysocephalus, Etheostoma duryi, Etheostoma camurum, etc. Gilbert states that the state line is characterized by sharp increases in stream gradient of the various tributaries which is most pronounced in the Watauga system and least pronounced in the French Broad River. It is probably not coincidental that several other species otherwise found in North Carolina, range (or once ranged) into that state only in the French Broad system - e.g., Hiodon tergisus, Percina caprodes, Etheostoma simoterum, Noturus eleutherus, etc. Further evidence for introduction is that although found in flowing streams, L. megalotis is not partial to the fast-flowing mountain streams characteristic of the Blue Ridge plateau. Stauffer et al. (1995) consider this species native, but possibly introduced to the Potomac drainage. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) believe it is introduced and reported that the first record from the Potomac drainage in West Virginia was in 1953. The native status of Longear Sunfish in Minnesota is unclear. Eddy and Underhill (1974) mentioned records from Pomme de Terre River and Big Stone Lake from 1897 but question their validity. They state that many Longear Sunfish are misidentified. They accepted only a single record for the state, the one at Little Rock Lake. They also noted a population at International Falls, Ontario. Phillips et al. (1982) wrote that only two fish had been collected in the state, one at Little Rock Lake and the other at Hustler Lake, and that these may have been a result of introductions. However, Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) mapped six collection localities in the state. This may be an indication that this species is more widespread and possibly native to Minnesota and earlier authors overlooked these records; or as Eddy and Underhill suggest, they may be based on misidentifications. If the latter is true, then this species is very rare in Minnesota and it's presence there maybe the result of either introductions or isolated relict populations. Collections made in southeastern New York depicted in Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) were probably based on specimens identified by C. L. Smith. Smith later re-identified these fish as hybrids between the pumpkinseed and redbreast sunfish (Smith 1985).

References: (click for full references)

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press, Madison, WI.

Burr, B.M. and L.M. Page. 1986 . Zoogeography of the fishes of the Lower Ohio-Upper Mississippi basin. In C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. :287-324.

Cardoza, J.E., G.S. Jones, T.W. French, and D.B. Halliwell. 1993. Exotic and Translocated Vertebrates of Massachusetts. Fauna of Mass. Series, Publ. #17223-110-200-11/93-C.R. 6:95 pp.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tenneessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Hartel, K.E., D.B. Halliwell, and A.E. Launer. 2002. Inland Fishes of Massachusetts. 328 pp.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Guide Series, vol. 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Red River Authority of Texas. 2001. Red and Canadian Basins Fish Inventory: Grayson County. Red River Authority of Texas. Red River Authority of Texas.

Red River Authority of Texas. 2001. Red and Canadian Basins Fish Inventory: Red River County. Red River Authority of Texas.

Red River Authority of Texas. 2001. Red and Canadian Basins Fish Inventory: Cottle County. Red River Authority of Texas.

Schmidt, R. E. 1986. Zoogeography of the Northern Appalachians. In C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. pp. 137-160.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Starnes, W.C., J. Odenkirk, and M.J. Ashton. 2011. Update and analysis of fish occurrences in the lower Potomac River drainage in the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland—Contribution XXXI to the natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 124(4):280-309.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The fishes of West Virginia. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Cannister

Revision Date: 1/20/2012

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Cannister, 2018, Lepomis megalotis (Rafinesque, 1820): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=388, Revision Date: 1/20/2012, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 1/16/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/16/2018].

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