Editor’s note: The Courier Express, in collaboration with Lola M. Smith, MS, lecturer in biology at Penn State DuBois, is republishing a series of work completed by college students about endangered species in Pennsylvania. References for the work, similar to a college research paper, are credited at the end for each article.
Lepomis megalotis, or the longear sunfish, is an endangered species of panfish within Pennsylvania. The longear sunfish gets its name from the extended gill plate that covers both upper and lower gills unlike other sunfish. On this extra-long gill plate there is a large black spot that covers the end of the plate. Using the longer gill plate along with a colorful pattern on the rusty colored body and back, and the bright orange/yellow color on the belly, you will be able to identify the longear sunfish. This species prefers clear, slow moving, and shallow rocky bottom streams that are well vegetated for cover. It will avoid areas with strong currents and turbid waters.
Loss of habitat is why the longear sunfish is endangered within Pennsylvania. This could also be due to the fact that even if displaced from their restricted home range they will always return to the same spot. This behavior makes it so that they focus more on returning to their home range then breeding to increase population. These factors make it so that any change or destruction within their habitat could be devastating for the population. Globally, this species is secure, meaning that is has a sustainable population that will continue to grow. This species is most abundant in the middle of the country, such as states like Kansas and Texas. States containing longear sunfish spread from these states to the East Coast.
To take action to improve the population within Pennsylvania, habitat has to be first focus. If habitat is found with a population or that could sustain a population of the species, be sure to keep the water as clean as possible. This area should be taken into consideration when building or improving pre-existing structures. These projects should be sure to keep the stream clean, as well as keep the stream bed as rock or sand as the longear sunfish will not live on a silt stream bed. There currently is no action play within Pennsylvania to directly increase the longear sunfish population. The biggest thing a single person could do is to go out and clean up areas where these fish could live, as well as try to maintain areas that are already good habitat of this species. Keeping the habitat requirements in mind is the best way to help the longear sunfish. Help spread the word to increase awareness of these requirements for the public who may not know, so that they can make an impact too.
Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. 2007. Freshwater Fish Pennsylvania Endangered. Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Partnership. http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/factsheets/11401.pdf. Retrieval Date: September, 16 2021