Site by Bennett Web & Design Co.
Notes on the Diet and Egg Clutches of the Pirate Perch
(Aphredoderus Sayanus) from Central Arkansas
Malcolm L. McCallum*
Abstract - Aphredoderus sayanus (Pirate Perch) is a widespread species whose life history
is the subject of only a few studies. I recorded life-history data from a small sample
of Pirate Perch collected from an intermittent stream in midcontinental highlands of Arkansas
(Batesville, Independence County) on 30 June 2004. Our small sample suggests
variation in prey consumption rates between sexes during the breeding season and in
allocation to reproduction among females. Our survey confirmed that Pirate Perch from
Arkansas have similar insectivorous diets to those reported from other regions.
Information about the life histories of species provides vital information for their
management and conservation (Bury 2006, McCallum 2003, McCallum and McCallum
2006). Life-history information is sparse for Aphredoderus sayanus (Gilliams) (Pirate
Perch) in Arkansas (Robison 1988). I examined diets and reproductive traits from a
sample of Pirate Perch from a small stream in central Arkansas. Generally, we expect
geographical variation in life-history characteristics (Berven and Gill 1983), such that
understanding of trait space requires examination across a species’ range.
The Pirate Perch is a small, laterally compressed fish found in streams of the southern
and central United States (Burr et al. 1991). This fish prefers sites with benthic debris
along under-cut banks, especially in slow-flowing waters (Monzyk et al. 1997). Pirate
Perch spawn in underwater root masses, and are not known to exhibit extensive parental
care (Fletcher et al. 2004), despite previous studies that suggested that the species held
eggs in the brachial chamber (Poly and Wetzel 2003). Spawning takes place in South
Carolina from January–April (Rohde et al. 2009), May in Illinois (Forbes and Richardson
1920), and from February–March in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin (Fontenot
and Rutherford 1999). The embryonic development was previously described by Martin
and Hubbs (1973). In Arkansas, they breed from May–June, but little is known about its
breeding ecology (Robison 1988).
A study conducted in North Carolina showed that the lifespan of Pirate Perch is up
to 4 years, and that there is no sexual dimorphism (i.e., for total length-weight relationships;
Shepherd and Huish 1978). Dietary items in North Carolina included Cladocera,
larval Diptera, Isopoda, and Amphipoda (Shepherd and Huish 1978). In Illinois, nearly half
of dietary items were Chironomus and Corethra spp., with the remainder being nymphs of
Ephemeroptera, aquatic Hemiptera, larval Coleoptera, aquatic Lumbriculus, Entomostraca,
and occasional amphipods and isopods (Forbes and Richardson 1920). In Virginia, diets
were also primarily composed of aquatic insects (Flemer and Woolcott 1966).
A sample of nine Pirate Perch was collected with dipnets from a small, unnamed roadside
intermittent stream on 30 June 2004 as part of a classroom exercise. Specimens were
weighed, and dissected for sex determination. Ovaries and stomach contents were removed,
weighed, and the eggs counted and measured with a micrometer. Fishes were aged
via biochronology using scale annuli (Murphy and Willis 1996). Dietary items were identifi
ed to the lowest possible taxonomic resolution and enumerated.
*Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences,
University of Missouri at Kansas City, 5007 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110;
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 11/3, 2012
544 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 11, No. 3
There was little size difference between the males (n = 4) and females (n = 5), although
females weighed slightly more than males (Table 1). Males had more food in their
stomachs than females (Table 1), with 88.9% of the specimens having full stomachs.
(Table 2). The mean mass of the stomach contents was 0.056 g (SE = 0.016). Palaemonetes
paludosus (Gibbes) (Grass Shrimp) occurred in 67% of stomachs, and accounted for
28.5% of dietary items among individuals. Trichopterans were in 55.6% of stomachs and
comprised 57.1% of dietary items identified. Chironomids were recovered from 22.2% of
stomachs, and accounted for 4.8% of prey. We recovered one specimen each of Zygoptera,
Amphipoda, and Odonata, and a fish scale (11.1% of stomachs).
Body mass - age relationships matched those of previous studies. Dietary data for
Pirate Perch in this study showed a diverse diet composed primarily of small benthic invertebrates,
suggesting that the diets of Pirate Perch in central Arkansas are comparable
to those observed in other regions. The only major difference was the large numbers of
Grass Shrimp in my samples. These have not previously been reported in Pirate Perch,
Table 1. Mean values for nine life-history and dietary traits with their accompanying standard
Standard Total Body Mass of Mass of Egg Number of Mass of
Age length length mass egg egg diameter eggs per stomach
Sex (years) (mm) (mm) (g) Clutch (g) (g) (mm) clutch contents
All 1.22 64.2 74.6 5.22 - - - - 0.056
(± 0.15) (± 2.2) (± 2.8) (± 0.72) (± 0.016)
Males 1.0 62.3 72.0 5.34 - - - - 0.079
(± 0.0) (± 4.4) (± 6.0) (± 1.71) (± 0.035)
Females 1.4 65.8 76.6 5.13 0.139 0.007 1.00 30.4 0.037
(± 0.25) (± 2.1) (± 1.9) (± 0.33) (± 0.054) (± 0.004) (± 0.21) (± 16.1) (± 0.007)
Table 2. Dietary components observed in nine Pirate Perch from central Arkansas.
Fish no. Dietary item Quantity % of total
1 Palaemonetes paludosus 1 100
2 Empty - -
3 Palaemonetes paludosus 1 100
4 Palaemonetes paludosus 3 100
5 Trichoptera 12 92.3
Zygoptera 1 7.7
6 Trichoptera 1 33.3
Chironomida 1 33.3
Fish scales 1 33.3
7 Trichoptera 5 83.3
Palaemonetes paludosus 1 1.7
8 Isopoda 4 57.1
Palaemonetes paludosus 1 14.2
Amphipoda 1 14.2
Trichoptera 1 14.2
9 Palaemonetes paludosus 5 41.7
Trichoptera 5 41.7
Chironomida 1 8.3
Odonata 1 8.3
Total 42 -
2012 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 545
despite the fact that Grass Shrimp and Pirate Perch co-occur. All females in this study
had eggs, but the allocation to reproduction was varied. In the future, investigators should
observe mating and nesting behavior for this solitary fish. I am hopeful that this limited
dataset will fill in some missing links in the life history of this interesting species.
Berven, K.A., and D.E. Gill. 1983. Interpreting geographic variation in life-history traits. Integrative
and Comparative Biology 23(1):85–97.
Burr, B.M., A. C. Pertschuk, L.M. Page, E.C. Beckham, W.N. Eschmeyer, and R.T. Peterson.
1991. A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes: North America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin,
Boston, MA. 432 pp.
Bury, R.B. 2006. Natural history, field ecology, conservation biology, and wildlife management:
Time to connect the dots. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1(1):56−61.
Flemmer, D.A., and W.S. Woolcott. 1966. Food habits and distribution of the fishes of Tuckahoe
Creek, Virginia, with special emphasis on the Bluegill, Lepomis m. macrochirus Rafinesque.
Chesapeake Science 7(2):75−89.
Fletcher, D.E., E.E. Dakin, B.A. Porter, and J.C. Avise. 2004. Spawning behavior and genetic
parentage in the Pirate Perch (Aphredoderus sayanus), a fish with an enigmatic reproductive
morphology. Copeia 2004:1−10.
Fontenot, Q.C., and D.A. Rutherford. 1999. Observations on the reproductive ecology of Pirate
Perch Aphredoderus sayanus). Journal of Freshwater Ecology 14(4):545−550.
Forbes, S.F., and R.E. Richardson. 1920. The Fishes of Illinois, 2nd Edition. State of Illinois, Division
of the Natural History Survey, Urbana, IL. 357 pp.
Martin, F.D., and C. Hubbs. 1973. Observations on the development of Pirate Perch, Aphredoderus
sayanus (Pisces: Aphredoderidae), with comments on yolk circulation patterns as a possible
taxonomic tool. Copeia 1973:377−379.
McCallum, M.L. 2003. Reproductive ecology and taxonomic status of Acris crepitans blanchardi,
with additional investigations on the Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation.
Arkasnas State University, Jonesboro, AR. 150 pp.
McCallum, M.L., and J.L. McCallum. 2006. Publication trends of natural history and field studies
in herpetology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1(1):62−67.
Monzyk, F.R., W.E. Kelso, and D.A. Rutherford. 1997. Characteristics of woody cover used by
Brown Madtoms and Pirate Perch in Coastal Plain streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries
Murphy, B.R., and D.W. Willis. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd Edition. American Fisheries Society,
Bethesda, MD. 732 pp.
Poly, W.J., and J.E. Wetzel. 2003. Transbranchioral spawning: Novel reproductive strategy observed
for the Pirate Perch, Aphredoderus sayanus (Aphredoderidae). Ichthyological Exploration
of Freshwaters 14(2):151−158.
Robison, H.W. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, AR. 536 pp.
Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, and J.W. Foltz. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of
South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 430 pp.
Shepherd, M.E., and M.T. Huish. 1978. Age, growth, and diet of the Pirate Perch in a Coastal Plain
Stream of North Carolina. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 107:457−459.