Re: NANFA-- Pirate Perch article & videos

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 18 Feb 2004 07:11:29 -0400

This is a fascinating paper, and should give clues to aquarists on how to
spawn this enigmatic fish. I will do a full report (with photos, I hope) in
the spring American Currents.

Quick, quick summary: Pirate perch spawn head first in the submerged root
masses of trees. (Note: despite the authors' claims, this paper is not the
first to document root mat spawning among pirate perch. The 2003 paper by
Poly & Wetzel -- summarized in the Summer 2003 AC -- documented it as well.)

Several of interesting things emerge from this:

1) The importance of riparian trees to healthy pirate perch populations.

2) How healthy pirate perch populations may be tied to healthy salamander
and dobsonfly larvae populations, and vice-versa. (The salamanders and
larvae are adept at boring small holes in the root masses, which the pirate
perch wedge themselves in to spawn. The salamanders and larvae occasionally
get a nice meal of pirate perch eggs for their efforts.)

3) How spawning seems to be a communal affair, with up to 30 males
converging upon a root mass at once, with many parents contributing to the
offspring in a single nest. Maybe the trick to getting them to spawn in
captivity is to have a bigger tank with lots of males.

4) Another hypothesis explaining the bizarre jugular location of the pirate
perch urogenital opening: depositing eggs and sperm deeper into holes bored
through the root mass. The authors also mention the possibility that pirate
perch may be spitting their eggs into the root mass, which complements the
Poly & Wetzel hypothesis that pirate perch are "transbranchioral spawners"
in which eggs and sperm are drawn back through the gills and into the mouth,
and then spat into the spawning substrate. Too bad the authors of this most
recent paper were not aware of the latter one.

Fascinating stuff about a fascinating fish.

Chris Scharpf

> From: "Bruce Stallsmith" <>
> Reply-To:
> Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 17:47:14 -0500
> To:
> Subject: NANFA-- Pirate Perch article & videos
> The newest issue of the journal Copeia has an article that would be of
> interest to many readers of this list. A group of researchers from the
> Savannah River Ecology Lab and the Univ. of Georgia videotaped pirate perch
> breeding behavior in the wild and also examined the DNA of offspring and
> adults to determine patterns of parentage. Videos in QuickTime format, and
> color photographs, can be accessed at
> The article is by Dean Fletcher, Eliizabeth Dakin, Brady Porter and John
> Avise, entitled "Spawning Behavior and Genetic Parentage in the Pirate Perch
> (Aphredoderus sayanus), a Fish With an Enigmatic Reproductive Morphology,"
> pp. 1-10, 2004, of the journal Copeia.
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