SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ictiobus bubalus

CHARACTERISTICS: The smallmouth buffalo is a deep-bodied sucker; its maximum depth goes 2.7 or fewer times into its standard length. Its mouth is small and horizontal, with a distinctly grooved upper lip. The upper jaw is much shorter than the snout. A wide-based, falcate dorsal fin contains 25 to 31 soft rays. The complete lateral line has 35 to 37 pored scales. Body and fins are beige to slate gray for most of the year, turning darker during the spawning season. See Rafinesque (1818b) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 24 to 35 in (610 to 890 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: The Tennessee drainage records included in Lee (1979) and Boschung (1992) are based mainly on specimens collected by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1936 and 1938. Jandebeur (1972) reports three locations in the Elk River. From 1991 to 1993, we collected individuals at 34 stations in the Tennessee River drainage, where the species was abundant and seemed to be a favorite host for chestnut and Ohio lampreys. The species is widespread and abundant in the Mobile basin, primarily below the Fall Line.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: The smallmouth buffalo is a riverine species, although juveniles infrequently occur in small streams as well. This species is especially abundant along riverbanks and in open waters of reservoirs. Wrenn (1969) reports that smallmouth buffalo in Wheeler Reservoir on the Tennessee River spawn in early to middle spring, when water temperatures reach 59º - 62ºF (15º - 16ºC); his observation is supported by our collections of gravid, tuberculate adults in April and early May. Etnier and Starnes (1993) note upstream spawning migrations of this species in the Little Tennessee River before the construction of the Tellico dam. On 14 May 1993, we collected a large number of tuberculate adults in very swift water below Lake Tuscaloosa Dam on the North River, near Tuscaloosa. Active spawning was occurring in the rapids, since most of the individuals we examined were running milt and eggs on light pressure. Smallmouth buffalo reach eight years of age and total lengths of approximately 22 inches (Wrenn, 1969). Individuals in the Tennessee drainage eat mostly bivalve mollusks (primarily Corbicula), copepods, and aquatic diptera.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Rafinesque described the smallmouth buffalo in 1818.

Ictiobus means bull fish.
Bubalus means buffalo.

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