NORTHERN HOG SUCKER
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hypentelium nigricans
Characteristics: The northern hog sucker is distinguished from the Alabama hog sucker by its 10 to 12 (usually 11) dorsal rays, a distinctly concave area between the eyes, and a gray to brown body and yellowish fins. The Alabama hog sucker has nine to 11 (usually 10) dorsal rays, a flat or only slightly concave area between the eyes, and light to dark charcoal body colors with distinctly light to bright orange fins. The northern hog sucker’s large mouth, with its many prominent papillae, is located on the underside of its snout. See Lesueur (1817b) for original description.
ADULT SIZE: 10 to 17 in (254 to 432 mm) in Alabama; up to 24 in (610 mm) in northern states
DISTRIBUTION: In Alabama, this species is limited to the Tennessee River drainage. A small population is also present in the upper Conasauga River, a tributary of the Coosa river drainage in southeastern Tennessee and northern Georgia (Etnier and Starnes, 1993).
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Northern hog suckers are widespread and often abundant in clear, high-gradient streams of small or moderate size. We collected our largest specimens in downstream reaches of several Tennessee River tributaries, including Second, Big Nance, and Limestone creeks and the Elk, Flint, and Paint Rock rivers. This species’ preferred habitat includes gravel, rock, and cobble substrates and moderate to swift currents. Spawning occurs n March and April, and eggs are usually deposited directly on gravel or cobble substrates. After hatching, young individuals remain in the area for most of their lives. Northern hog suckers flip stones on the substrate to feed on aquatic insect larvae and small snails, an activity that frequently attracts minnows which forage on the smaller organisms that are also uncovered. Northern hog suckers live for eight to 10 years. We have infrequently observed both Alabama and northern hog suckers with swirled or reversed scale patterns on their backs and sides.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Lesueur described the northern hog sucker in 1817.
Hypentelium means below “five-lobes,” possibly referring to the form of the lower lip.
Nigricans means blackish.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.