Members of the family Centrarchidae are strongly compressed, brightly colored, ‘pan-fish’. The most distinguishing characteristic of longear sunfish is their elongated opercular flap, giving an appearance of a ‘long ear’. They are relatively small sunfish with individuals rarely reaching a total length of more than 12 cm, although one 24 cm fish was found in Michigan. Females are generally slightly smaller than males. Mature males are generally brighter and have a more pronounced opercular flap than females, up to 230 mm long.
Becker (1983) describes longears as having: “2 dorsal fins, but broadly joined and appear as 1; base of dorsal fins about twice the length of anal fin base; first dorsal fin with 10 spines, second with 10-11 soft rays. Anal fin with 3 spines, and 9-11 soft rays; pelvic fin thoracic with 1 spine and 5 rays; pectoral fin short, bluntly pointed to rounded, and when laid forward across cheek barely reaching posterior edge of eye; caudal fin slightly forked. Scales ctenoid, in lateral line 34-38; lateral line complete. Back olive to rusty brown; sides lighter; breast and belly yellow to orange-red. Back and sides with specks of yellow, orange, emerald, and blue; 8-10 vertical bars conspicuous to absent. Cheeks orange with wavy blue streaks radiating back from the mouth and eye. Ear flap black, narrowly edged with pale red to yellow (white in immature and all preserved specimens). Dorsal and anal fins olive, often with rusty orange wash; in preserved specimens, soft dorsal fin with parallel rows of light dots. Pectoral fins clear to lightly pigmented. Breeding male iridescent green above and bright orange below; the vertical fins a deep rusty orange; and pelvic fins blue-black. Scale pockets with dark pigmented crescents pointing anteriorly. Breeding females less brilliantly colored.”
Longear sunfish are most easily confused with several of the other sunfish of the genus Lepomis including: the pumpkinseed, L. gibbosus; the bluegill, L. macrochirus, the redear sunfish, L. microlophus; and the orangespotted sunfish, L. humilis.
More Lepomis megalotis images can be found at: http://www.nativefish.org/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/nativefish/gallery.pl?MODE=FISH_VIEW&ID=735
Range length: 240 (high) mm.
Average length: 71-94 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; male more colorful
Average mass: 434.5 g.
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