The dollar sunfish has a short, compressed body with 34 to 41 lateral line scales. The dorsal fin contains nine to 11 spines and 10 to 12 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine or 10 rays. The mouth is small, barely reaching the front of the eye. The cheek has three or four rows of scales, and the short, rounded pectoral fin has 12 rays, two useful characteristics for separating this species from the longear sunfish, which typically has six rows of cheek scales and 13 or 14 pectoral rays. The black ear flap, which is elongate and angled upward, has a light green margin and is also adorned with bluish green spots and wavy stripes. Nonbreeding individuals are olive on the back with orange and brown flecks; the sides and venter are pale yellow to white. Vertical fins are light yellow to gray. Breeding males have a yellowish body and bright golden orange venter covered with iridescent blue scales. The head is covered with longitudinal bluish vermiculations. Vertical fins become much darker overall and develop a broad band of yellowish orange at their bases. See Holbrook (1855b) for original description.
4 to 5 in (102 to 127 mm)
The dollar sunfish is distributed primarily below the Fall Line in Alabama. Scattered records occur in the Tennessee River drainage and the Black Warrior River system above the Fall Line.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY:
Collection sites for this lowland species include small to large streams, rivers, reservoirs, and swamps. Spawning occurs from April into August in Alabama. Growth is fairly slow. Individuals in North Carolina are sexually mature at age two and have a life span of six years (Lee and Burr, 1985). Food items of dollar sunfish in Tennessee (Etnier and Starnes, 1993) include detritus, filamentous algae, and terrestrial insects. Dollar sunfish are of little interest to anglers because of their sporadic distribution and relatively small adult size.
Holbrook described the dollar sunfish in 1855.
Lepomis means scaled operculum.
Marginatus means edged, probably referring to the marginal banding on the ear flap.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.