Friday, July 17, 2009
The pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) is a freshwater fish of the sunfish family. It is native to northeastern North America, from New Brunswick to South Carolina but it has been introduced elsewhere in North America.
Pumpkinseeds reach a maximum length of about 16 inches, sizes of 6–8 inches are more typical. Weights are normally less than one pound. The fish present an oval silhouette and are very compressed laterally; it is this body shape, resembling the seed of a pumpkin, which provides them with their common name. The coloration includes orange, green, yellow, or blue speckles on an olive back, yellow sides and a yellow to orange belly and breast. As with all centrarchids, they have sharp spines in the dorsal and anal fins.
Pumpkinseeds prefer shallow water with some weed cover. They are often typical of ponds and small lakes. They are active during the day and rest at night.
These fish reproduce rapidly and are low on the food chain. They eat a variety of insects, including mosquito larvae, along with small molluscs and crustaceans. They also feed on smaller fish, including smaller pumpkinseeds. In the shallow areas of which they are typical, the fish exploit the entire water column from the bottom to surface.
Sexual maturity occurs at age two. Males prepare nests in colonies on gravel bottoms in late spring. The males are territorial and chase even early-arriving females away. When a female reaches a nest, she is joined by the male, and eggs are deposited in a cloud of milt. The eggs settle and stick to the pebbles. The female departs as soon as the eggs have been deposited. Males may welcome several females over several days. The male guards the nest as the eggs hatch in a few days. The males continue to guard the offspring, herding them into a ball-like cloud. After a week or two, the young gain sufficient energy and maintaining the order of the cloud becomes impossible at which point the offspring disperse and the male departs the nest. Pumpkinseeds are known to interbreed with the closely-related bluegill, which they resemble in form and coloration.