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Orangespotted Sunfish

ORANGESPOTTED SUNFISH
Copyrighted picture of an orangespotted sunfish from "Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin."

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lepomis humilis

CHARACTERISTICS: A relatively small but attractive species, the orangespotted sunfish has 32 to 41 lateral line scales. The dorsal fin contains nine to 11 spines and 10 or 11 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine rays. The pectoral fin has 15 rays and it is long, its total length going fewer than 3.5 times into standard length. The mouth is fairly large, extending almost to the eye. Teeth are lacking on the tongue, but they are present on the palatine bone in the roof of the mouth. This is the only Lepomis species known to have a pair of sensory pores located in depressions between the eyes. The back and sides are greenish silver with scattered reddish orange spots. The venter is yellowish orange. The sides and caudal rays of breeding males assume an iridescent, bluish green color, and the vertical fins become bright yellowish orange. The black ear flap has a distinct, milky white border. See Girard (1858b) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 3 to 4 in (75 to 102 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Our records are predominantly from the Highland Rim region of the Tennessee River system and the Black Belt district of the Mobile basin. The apparent absence of the species from the Cahaba River system could be due to insufficient sampling of preferred habitats. This is the only sunfish species in Alabama not found in coastal rivers.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Lepomis humilis inhabits medium to large streams and rivers characterized by little or no current and sand and silt substrates. Etnier and Starnes (1993) record this species from similar habitats in Tennessee. Our largest collections came from around concentrations of aquatic vegetation in backwater sloughs above and below Millers Ferry Lock and Dam in the Alabama River drainage. Spawning occurs over shallow nests from May to August in Alabama. Gerald (1971) indicates that sound production may be important to the spawning act. Barney and Anson (1922) note that this species feeds primarily on small crustaceans and aquatic insect larvae; Etnier and Starnes (1993) add terrestrial insects to the list. Orangespotted sunfish live for more than four years, but because of their small size, they receive little attention from anglers.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Girard described the orangespotted sunfish in 1858.

ETYMOLOGY:
Lepomis means scaled operculum.
Humilis means humble, possibly referring to the small adult size of this species.

This copyrighted information above is from the Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call orangespotted sunfish: redspotted sunfish, dwarf sunfish, pygmy sunfish, and sunperch, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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