Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819, Ohio River, United States. Two or three subspecies are recognized.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Bluegill sunfish, sunfish; German: Blauer Sonnenbarsch; Spanish: Pez sol.
Maximum total length 16 in (41 cm). Broad, rather flat fish with a small mouth. Distinguished from its relatives by an allblack opercular flap, general gray-blue coloration, a dark spot at the rear edge of the soft dorsal fin, and dark banding on the sides of the body.
Common in North America from southern Canada to northern Mexico; widely introduced throughout the world.
Freshwater, inland waters from large lakes to small ponds, also slow-moving streams. Prefers some type of cover, such as rocky or vegetated areas.
Schooling fishes. Schools of several dozen smaller fishes ranging up to 4 in (10.2 cm) long are commonly seen along lake shores in 1–2 ft (0.3–0.6 m) of water, darting from beneath docks and boats. Larger fishes generally remain further from shore in deeper water. Cleaning
has been recorded for Florida populations.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Mainly diurnal feeders. Diet comprises invertebrates and small fishes.
Breeds in the late spring and early summer, when groups of males enter shallow water to begin building nests, which are depressions in the substrate. The male guards its nest. Females may also spawn with smaller males known as satellite and sneaker males, which take on the female coloration and fool nesting males into allowing them to approach and mate with females coming to the nest. Sneaker males may also lie in ambush in vegetation near a nesting male’s site, wait for females to arrive, then quickly swim through the nest site, ejecting milt. The spherical, demersal eggs, which are laid singly or in small clusters, typically hatch in two to three days. Bluegills in the field typically attain sexual maturity at two to three years and about 4–5 in (10.2–12.7 cm) in length. Bluegills hybridize with pumpkinseeds and many other sunfish species.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Sport and minor commercial food and aquarium fishes.
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