|Florida Fish: Sucker Fish (2)|
(Carpiodes cyprinus) Eight species of suckers occur
in Florida, including two species of Carpiodes
carpsuckers, the quillback and the highfin carpsucker. As their
common name implies, these silvery, deep-bodied fish resemble
common carp. However, both carpsuckers may be distinguished from
carp by the absence of barbels, and lack of spines in dorsal and
anal fins of the carpsuckers. In both carpsuckers, the mouth is
situated on the underside of the head and the snout extends
forward beyond the jaws; also, the first ray of the dorsal fin
may be very long, forming an elevated filament. Quillback and
highfin carpsuckers are very similar in appearance, but they may
be separated by looking at the lower lip. The quillback does not
have a nipple-like knob at the middle of the lower lip, while
the highfin carpsucker has a small nipple at this location. Both
carpsuckers may be distinguished from other Florida suckers by
body shape. The carpsuckers have deep, slab-sided bodies, while
our other suckers are more elongate or somewhat cylindrical in
shape. Quillbacks are benthic fish, feeding on the bottom and
ingesting insect larvae, other organisms and organic detritus.
They reproduce during March and April. Females may produce from
15,000 to 360,000 eggs apiece, which are broadcast over gravel
shoals or deep stretches of sand. They may live as long as ten
or eleven years, and may reach a maximum length of about 26
inches and maximum weight of 12 pounds. Quillbacks typically
inhabit moderately large streams, but may also live in creeks if
permanent pools are present.
River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum) In Florida the river redhorse is known only from the Escambia River at the western end of the Panhandle. Normally inhabitants of medium to large size rivers, river redhorse may also enter tributary streams and have been observed in reservoirs. They prefer clean rivers with sand, gravel or cobblestone bottoms and swift currents. This robust, cylindrical sucker may be separated from other similar Florida suckers by its red tail fin. The dorsal and other fins may also be red or reddish. The dorsal fin has a straight or slightly concave margin and the tail fin has a pointed upper lobe which usually is slightly longer than the rounded lower lobe. Crescent-shaped dark spots may be visible on the scales of the back and sides and the overall body color of the river redhorse is olive to brownish across the back, with silvery or bronze sides and a white underside. River redhorse feed primarily on molluscs such as mussels and clams, and their enlarged, molar-shaped, internal pharyngeal teeth are specially adapted for crushing the hard shells of such bivalves.
Sharpfin Chubsucker (Erimyzon tenuis) Sharpfin chubsuckers inhabit streams of the western Panhandle of Florida, from the Perdido River to the Yellow River. The sharpfin chubsucker is superficially similar to the lake chubsucker, with which it is occasionally found. As the common name implies, the dorsal fin is sharply pointed, while that of the lake chubsucker is rounded in profile. Usually the first ray of the dorsal fin is longer than the base of this fin, while the first ray is usually shorter than the fin base of the lake chubsucker. Both of these chubsuckers are robust, oblong and somewhat compressed fishes; however, they are not nearly as deep-bodied or slab-sided as the carpsuckers and they have shorter dorsal fins (containing less than 20 rays) than the carpsuckers. Conversely, most other Florida suckers (spotted sucker and several redhorse suckers) are much more elongate and slenderer than the chubsuckers, and although the mouth of the chubsuckers is slightly below the head, it is not nearly as far beneath the head as that of the spotted sucker and the redhorse suckers. The anal fin of the male sharpfin sucker is not bilobed as is that of the male lake chubsucker. Breeding takes place in the spring, probably March and April. They may reach a length of 16 inches and may live seven or eight years. This is a fish of streams rather than quiet waters; however, it does not prefer the swifter waters favored by most suckers.
Spotted Sucker (Minytrema melanops) Spotted suckers occupy streams of northern Florida, from the Perdido River, eastward to the Suwannee River system. This species and the redhorse suckers (genus Moxostoma) may be readily separated from other Florida suckers (the carpsuckers, Carpiodes, and chubsuckers, Erimyzon) by their elongate, cylindrical bodies and distinctly sucker-like mouths located well on the underside of the head. Spotted suckers and the redhorse suckers have protrusible lips which they employ to pick up food from the bottom and it is these extendable lips which provide them with the amusing local name of buglemouth bass. Spotted suckers may be identified by the presence of eight to twelve parallel rows of dark spots which run along the sides of the body. Overall body coloration is brassy or bronze, with the upper back shading to olive or brownish and the bottom being gray or white. Breeding males may have two dark bands running along the sides, separated by a pinkish or reddish band along the midline of the sides. Spotted suckers are bottom-feeders, sucking up food items with their protrusible lips. They consume copepods, cladocera, true midge larvae, aquatic earthworms, biting midge larvae, water mites, aquatic beetles, mayfly nymphs, dragonflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and rarely, fish. Spawning migrations begin during January, and reproduction occurs through the spring. They may live about five or six years and reach a maximum length of about 24 inches and maximum weight of three pounds.
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