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Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus


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Redear Sunfish
credit: Raver, Duane

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Alternate name: Shellcracker

Family: Centrarchidae, Sunfishes view all from this family

Description The redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), also known as the shellcracker, Georgia bream, cherry gill, chinquapin, improved bream, rouge ear sunfish and sun perch, is native to the southeastern United States, but since it is a popular sport fish it has been introduced to bodies of water all over North America. It generally resembles the bluegill except for coloration and somewhat larger size. 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 is between 20 and 24 centimetres (7.9 and 9.4 in) in length. Max length is 43.2 centimetres (17.0 in), compared to a maximum of about 40 centimetres (16 in) for the bluegill.

Dimensions Up to 14" (36 cm); 5 1/2 lb (2.5 kg).

Habitat Rivers & streams, Lakes & ponds.

Range Plains, Great Lakes, Southeast, Florida, Texas.

Discussion he favorite food of this species is snails. These fish are bottomfeeders, meandering along lakebeds seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures. The fish has 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.
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. The redear sunfish is also located in many marsh wetlands of freshwater.