Lepomis microlophus
Lepomis microlophus
(Redear Sunfish)
Native Transplant
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Lepomis microlophus (Günther, 1859)

Common name: Redear Sunfish

Synonyms and Other Names: shellcracker, stumpknocker, cherry gill, sunny, sun perch

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Deep-bodied, olive colored, with darker spots and flecks of red, and occasionally vertical bars along the sides. The hind end of the gill flap is black with a white border and has a red spot on the tip (hence its name). The chest color is yellowish to cream colored.The mouth is small and when closed barely reaches only to the front margin of the eye. The pectoral fins are long and more pointed than those of other sunfish; the first dorsal fin contains 10 sharp spines, followed by 10 to 12 rays. Moyle (1976); Hubbs et al. (1991); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993). Lepomis microlophus is composed of two unnamed subspecies; one in Florida, Georgia, and southern Alabama, the other throughout the rest of its range. The two subspecies may no longer be distinguishable due to interbreeding caused by stocking programs (Page and Burr 1991).

Size: 25 cm

Native Range: The native range for this species is Atlantic coast of North America (USEPA 2008). Page and Burr (1991) report the range as Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from about the Savannah River, South Carolina, to the Nueces River, Texas; north in the Mississippi River basin to southern Indiana and Illinois. Rohde et al. (2009) also conclude that the native range includes the Savannah River in Georgia and extends south through Florida and west to the Rio Grande River, and north in the Mississippi River Valley to southern Illinois and Indiana.  Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) cite Bailey (1938) in reporting that the native range on the Atlantic slope may not be any farther north than Georgia.  

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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 is known from the lower Colorado River, Roosevelt Lake on the Salt River, and other reservoirs in central Arizona (Minckley 1973; Grabowski et al. 1984; Rinne 1995; Miller and Lowe 1967) and the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuges (USFWS 2005); many drainages within the Sacramento-San Joaquin, Death Valley, Tulare-Buena Vista , Southern California regions, the Yolo Bypass, Suisun Marsh, and the Colorado River in California (Smith 1982; Douglas 1974; Moyle 1976; Moyle and Daniels 1982; Grabowski et al. 1984; Moyle and Randall 1999; Sommer et al. 2001; Matern et al. 2002); the Platte, Republican, and Arkansas drainages (Walker 1993; Rasmussen 1998), and College Lake in Larimer County in the Cache La Poudre system in Colorado (Horak, personal communication); Wagamons Pond, Sussex County, Delaware (Raasch, personal communication); the northern two-thirds of Illinois, including the Lake Michigan, Illinois, Kaskaskia, Sangamon, Embarras, and Vermilion drainages (Smith 1979; Burr and Page 1986); southern farm ponds and reservoirs and northern Indiana, including the Tippecanoe, White, and lower Wabash drainages, and the Anderson River (Gerking 1945; Nelson and Gerking 1968; Burr and Page 1986; Mills et al. 1993); artificial recreational lakes and interior streams in Iowa (Harlan et al. 1987); the Kansas River drainage and numerous counties in Kansas (Cross 1967; Cross and Collins 1995); locations east of the lower Green River in Kentucky, including the Licking, Kentucky, upper Levisa , Salt and Rolling Fork drainages (Burr and Page 1986; Burr and Warren 1986; Powers and Ceas 2000); The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Washington County, and the mainstem Potomac River near Plummers Island, Maryland (Tilmant 1999; Starnes et al. 2011); Branch, Calhoun, Hardin, Jackson, Oakland, Hillsdale, and Washtenaw counties, Michigan (Bailey and Smith 1992; UMMZ specimens; Michigan DNR); the lower Missouri drainage, and reservoirs and ponds outside its native range in Missouri (Pflieger 1971, 1975, 1997; Cross et al. 1986); the Platte-Niobrara drainage, the Elkhorn River in Dodge and Washington counties, and West Oak Lake in Lancaster County, Nebraska (Morris et al. 1974; Cross et al. 1986); lower Colorado River and Ft. Churchill ponds, Lyon County, Nevada (Deacon and Williams 1984; Insider Viewpoint 2001; Vinyard 2001); the Pecos drainage in New Mexico (Koster 1957; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); the Susquehanna and Allegheny drainages in New York (Hocutt et al. 1986); Tennessee, Roanoke, French Broad-Holston, and Dan drainages, probably introduced in the Neuse and Tar drainages, and regarded as native but possibly introduced in the Catawba, Yadkin, Lumber, and Waccamaw drainages in North Carolina (Hocutt et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991); Honey Creek at Buckeye Lake, Greter's Lake in Richland County, Pippen Lake in Portage County, the Scioto and Great Miami drainages, and other locations in Ohio (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Trautman 1981; Burr and Page 1986; Hocutt et al. 1986; Underhill 1986); non-specific, widely distributed in Oklahoma (Hall 1956; Miller and Robison 1973; Douglas 1974); parts of western Oregon including ponds in the Willamette Valley (Bond 1994) and Benton and Marion Counties (Logan 1994; Anonymous 2001); at least eight lakes in Pennsylvania, seven in the Susquehanna drainage and one in the Allegheny drainage; and the Monongahela drainge (Denoncourt et al. 1975a; Cooper 1983; Hocutt et al. 1986), Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) also mapped collections in eastern Pennsylvania in the Delaware drainage; in the Garzas, Guajataca, and Loiza Reservoirs and at non-specific locations in Puerto Rico (Erdsman 1984; Lee et al. 1983); all drainages of South Carolina except the Savannah River.  Introductions have occured throughout the state in the Pee Dee, Santee-Cooper, Edisto, Combahee, Broad, and Saluda drainages (Loyacano 1975; Hocutt et al. 1986; Rohde, personal communication; Rohde et al. 2009); non-specific localized populations in Tennessee (Etnier and Starnes 1993); western Texas (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Red River Authority 2001); Holmes Creek Reservoir, Davis County, Utah (Sigler and Miller 1963); two lakes in Caledonia County, northeastern Vermont (Whittier and Hartel 1997); Appomattox, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, James, Dan, Banister, Chowan, Roanoke, and Big Sandy drainages and the Occoquan Reservoir in Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Starnes et al. 2011); and although Stauffer et al. (1995) listed the redear as native, collections in the Ohio River in West Virginia would be based on introductions according to Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) and Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).  Established in Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS 2005).

Ecology: Redear Sunfish is a molluscivorous species of the Centrarchid family. It lives in vegetated littoral zones of small to large lakes, marshes, and reservoirs, and streams or rivers with sluggish to slow moving flow (French and Morgan 1995).

Means of Introduction: Intentional stocking for sportfishing. In Iowa, fish found in interior streams are believed to be escapes from stocked lakes (Harlan et al. 1987). The species' recent (1991) discovery in Vermont is somewhat of a mystery. It appears the most likely means of introduction there is stock contamination of privately stocked Micropterus (Whittier and Hartel 1997).

Status: Established in most locations, but extirpated in New Mexico (Sublette et al. 1990) and Utah (Sigler and Sigler 1996). The Delaware population at Wagamons Pond was discovered in October 1994 (Raasch, personal communication). Not established in Missouri (Pflieger 1997). Established in at least one of the two lakes in Vermont (Whittier and Hartel 1997). Results of a 1995 survey show that redear natural reproduction has been highly successful in Clear Lake in Jackson County, MI (Herman 1996).

Impact of Introduction: Redear is highly molluscivorous. Direct impacts on invertebrates and indirect impacts on vegetation are associated with L. microlophus in Tennessee (Ruiz et al. 1999). In inland lakes of southern Michigan, introduced redear is associated with ecological changes in populations of pumpkinseed L. gibbosus, a native molluscivore. Effects of introduced redear on pumpkinseed include reduced consumption of snails and reduced population densities (Huckins 1997). The effects appear to be driven by differences in pharyngeal morphology and competitive ability; redear exert greater crushing forces and consume more snails than sympatric pumpkinseeds (Huckins 1997). When introduced into a water body, Huckins et al. (2000) found that competition between the two species resulted in a 56% reduction in pumpkinseed abundance, and a 69% reduction in average snail biomass when compared with lakes without redear.

Hybridizes with other Lepomis species (Scribner et al. 2001).

Remarks: Robison and Buchanan (1988) reported Redear Sunfish as widely stocked in Arkansas in ponds and reservoirs, presumably in native waters. Menhinick (1991) listed this species as "regarded as native but possibly introduced" and "introduced" into the Catawba, Yadkin, Lumber, and Waccamaw drainages. Stauffer et al. (1995) differed with other authors (Lee et al. 1980 et seq. and Jenkins and Burkhead 1994) in reporting this species as native to the Potomac, Big Sandy, Kanawha, and Little Kanawha drainages, and Ohio basin. No records exist for New York (Whittier and Hartel 1997).

Redear, and to a lesser extent pumpkinseed, are the only known morphologically and behaviorally specialized molluscivores in the sunfish family (Huckins et al. 2000). The ability of these sunfish to crush hard-shelled organisms provides a set of food resources that are less effectively used by other sunfishes, facilitating cohabitation with other sport fish such as bluegill and bass (VanderKooy et al. 2000).

References: (click for full references)

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FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., G. Jacobs, M. Cannister, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled, and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 4/12/2013

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., G. Jacobs, M. Cannister, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled, and M. Neilson, 2018, Lepomis microlophus (Günther, 1859): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=390, Revision Date: 4/12/2013, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 3/20/2018

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/20/2018].

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