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“Ghost Sightings” Made by Ichthyologists Past: Longear Sunfish, Lepomis megalotis, in North Carolina

Bryn H. Tracy1,*, Fred C. Rohde2, and Gabriela M. Hogue3

1Apex, NC 27539. 2National Marine Fisheries Service, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, NC 28516. 3North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 19, Issue 2 (2020): 297–307

Lepomis megalotis (Longear Sunfish) was first reported from North Carolina by Edward Drinker Cope in 1870, but its whereabouts in the state have been a mystery for almost 150 years. Published literature perpetuated the occurrence of Longear Sunfish and, eventually in 1986, its extirpation. Vouchered specimens from Cope’s 1870 publication are not available, but specimens collected later (1930s to 1990s) and purported to be Longear Sunfish, are available at various museums. Here we reidentified all known vouchered specimens of Longear Sunfish from North Carolina as either L. auritus (Redbreast Sunfish), L. cyanellus (Green Sunfish), L. gibbosus (Pumpkinseed), L. marginatus (Dollar Sunfish), Lepomis hybrids, or Enneacanthus gloriosus (Bluespotted Sunfish). Our findings indicate that there is no supportive evidence that Longear Sunfish, historically or more recently, ever occurred in North Carolina. This investigation of the true status and distribution of the Longear Sunfish in North Carolina underscores the importance of vouchered material in museum collections and globally accessible specimen data. Without these resources, we cannot discover the true distribution of species and therefore effectively list and allocate funds for their restoration and conservation.

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