Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm So Blue

I decided to look through the Ohio list to see if I could find anything of specific interest1. I realized that I hadn’t written about any fish for a while (though it seems I was on a bit of a fish-kick at the beginning). While in the fish section, I came across this blue sucker.

Image from Nature's Images Inc.
Image from Nature's Images Inc.

This is the Blue Sucker (Cycleptus elongatus), who populates fast moving streams in fast-moving Midwestern streams and rivers, mostly in the Mississippi river basin. Their mouth is the really disturbing bit: a pink, wart-covered maw used to suck up benthic aquatic invertebrates and some vegetative material. Their streamlined bodies (the elongatus part) and sickle-shaped dorsal fin help them manage their high-speed habitat. Spawning is fairly straightforward, occurring in spring and summer in deep rapids. The eggs are sticky, so they won’t immediately wash downstream.

It’s a freshwater species, so, like the Wartyback, the Lake Sturgeon, the Ohio Lamprey, the Eastern Hellbender, and the Queensland Lungfish, the Blue Sucker has a problem with dams2. In the sucker’s case, they’re built for fast-paced life, which is taken away by those concrete constructions3. Silt build-up is a by-product of dams that also isn’t too helpful, along with pollution draining into the rivers. Oh, and, they’re tasty, which is not a good thing for a fish trying to survive, as overfishing probably started the decline in the first place.

There’s good news for our azure friends: their numbers are increasing. Not, apparently, up to what they were pre-European, but they’re certainly on the rise. People who have never seen them before are reporting more and more. The reason given for this? The pollution levels are decreasing, and the Blue Suckers are finding alternative places to spawn. The fact that fishing them has been illegal since the ‘70s probably isn’t hurting.

1The Lake Erie Water Snake is on there, and I was considering writing about it, since it recently appeared on an episode of Dirty Jobs, along with someone I have worked with.
2Hydroelectric isn’t looking as good as it used to, is it?
3You’ve heard this one, but:
What did the fish say when it ran into the brick wall?


King Aardvark said...

"What did the fish say when it ran into the brick wall?

Please don't do that. It hurts my brain.

Anyway, it's nice that you can report on a fairly successful case of an organism returning from the brink. Do you know how close the blue sucker is to being taken off the endangered list?

Anonymous said...

Wow....that picture of the fish mouth IS really disturbing. Looks like some serious cold sores! Ick. (but, then again, who would be kissing a fish?)