Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Characiformes (Characins)
Family: Characidae (Characins)

Genus/species: Astyanax mexicanus 


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The head is notable for the absence of eyes. Young are born with functioning eyes which become completely enclosed in tissue as fish grows. The lack of sight is compensated by a highly developed lateral line that detects vibrations and changes in the water. The fish is without pigmentation and is plain pink with a silver sheen. They live in schools and grow to about 12 cm or 4.72 inches.


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Texas, New Mexico, and eastern and central Mexico in freshwater pools within dark caves.

DIET IN THE WILD: A keen sense of smell and electrolocation aid in finding food. Blind cave fish are omnivores and feed on animal and plant remains that wash into the caves and on bat droppings from cave ceilings. Much of their time is spent searching for food; they are able to store four times more energy as fat than their surface-dwelling relatives, allowing them to deal with irregular food supplies.


REMARKS: Two forms of A. mexicanus (eyed and eyeless) being members of the same species, are closely related and can interbreed.

The loss of eye tissue in the blind cavefish, which occurs within a few days of their development, happens through epigenetic silencing of eye-related genes, according to a study led by the National Institutes of Health. Epigenetic regulation is a process where genes are turned off or on, typically in a reversible or temporary manner. This mechanism differs from genetic mutations, which are permanent changes in the DNA code. The study appears in Nature Ecology & Evolution.


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Lepisosteiformes (Gars) 
Family; Lepisosteidae (Gars)

Genus/species: Atractosteus spatula

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Alligator-like. Large size and broad, short, wide, blunt snout and a heterocercal tail. Color is dark olivaceous brown above and white to yellowish beneath with dark brown blotches on all fins. Body is covered with armor-like ganoid scales consisting of diamond-shaped, interlocking, and extremely hard bony plates covered with layers of dentine and enamel. Head protected by bony plates. Alligator gars have two rows of teeth, a longer one on the palate, and an outer row in the jaw, enabling them to pierce and hold prey. A. spatula is the largest exclusively freshwater fish found in North America.

Alligator gar are the largest gar species. with a length up to than 3 m (9.8 ft), weight to 137 kg (300 pounds).

Alligator Gar 8362889461_f8706ce1f4_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Alligator Gar are found in lakes, rivers, and bayous from the Mississippi to the Gulf coast in fresh and brackish water.


DIET IN THE WILD: They are opportunistic carnivores and sit-and-wait predators. They appear to be sluggish, but can ambush prey with short bursts of speed feeding on almost anything, including fish, ducks, turtles, small mammals, and carrion

REPRODUCTION: Females reach sexual maturity at 11 years. Eggs laid on aquatic vegetation, to which they adhere. Young cling to the stems with an adhesive disc on their head until yolk sac is absorbed, and then swim actively. Juveniles feed on plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish before transitioning to fish almost exclusively.
The eggs of alligator gar are bright red and poisonous to humans if ingested.

MORTALITY: Females generally larger and longer lived than males. Some may live to 50 years or more in the wild, 80 years in captivity. The Academies oldest gars are in their 60s.

CONSERVATION STATUS: Not on IUCN Red List. Pollution and degradation of habitat threaten this species.

alligator garIMG_2863


REMARKS: Gars also have a highly vascularized swim bladder directly connected to its throat that enables them to breathe in air, an adaptation to life in water with low oxygen levels. Native Americans used armor-like ganoid scales as arrowheads and jewelry. Early American farmers used the scales on the blades of their plows.

The fossil record traces their existence to the Early Cretaceous over a hundred million years ago.there is no documentation of attacks on man by alligator gars.

There is no documentation of an attack on man by alligator gars.


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6-7-13, 1-19-17, 10-9-18

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Percidae (Perches)

Genus/species:  Perca flavescens 

Yellow Perch 3270754327_18c03d6f85_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Background color yellowish
overlaid by 6–8 dark vertical bars on the sides. Sexual dimorphism: females grow faster and become larger than males. Max. size: ~50 cm (20 inches), common length 19 cm (7.5 inches).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: West central Canada and the Hudson Bay area east to New Brunswick, south to South Carolina, and west to Kansas. Also found in the Atlantic, Arctic, and Great Lakes. Found in freshwater lakes as well as impoundments of larger rivers, also smaller ponds and rivers. Known in both brackish water and salt lakes. Prefers clear water, though can tolerate low oxygen levels.

DIET IN THE WILD: P. flavescens have small backward slanting teeth lining the jaws and gill rakers that strain out small pelagic food sources from the water such as insects, larger invertebrates, fishes and fish eggs. Diurnal feeder.

PREDATORS: Fishes and birds.

LONGEVITY: To 12 years.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Not listed but fishing has been restricted in some Great kale states do to fluctuating populations.

REMARKS: Marketed as a common food fish with a commercial fishery in Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Cichlidae (Cichlids)

Genus/species: Herichthys cyanoguttatus

Texas Cichlid aka Rio Grande Cichlid  2999113747_5988dd62cb_o

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Light grey with many small turquoise to white dots over the body. A single black spot on central side and second spot on the caudal peduncle; three black bars behind central spot. Max. length: 30 cm (12 inches), common length : 11.3 cm (4.5 inches)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Originally restricted to the lower Rio Grande drainage in Texas and south to northeastern Mexico. Introduced to central Texas and central Florida. Found in pools and open runs of rivers; prefers warm water and areas with vegetation.

DIET IN THE WILDt: Worms, crustaceans, insects, and plant matter. Sorts through mouthfuls of gravel, eats the small animals, and spits out the rest.


REMARKS: Considered a game fish in Texas and Mexico. This species is the only cichlid native to the U.S.

Swamp, SW08 Alligator Gars


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Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum; chordata (chordates)
Subphylum: Vertebrata (vertebrates)
Superclass: Osteichthyes (bony fishes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Siluriformes (Catfish)
Family: Ictaluridae (North American freshwater catfishes)

Genus/species: Ictalurus punctatus 

Channel Catfish 4814480548_07a4554eb4_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color varies from blue, black, olive; speckled above, lighter below, with males generally darker than females. Like all catfish, are scaleless. Two barbels in upper jaw,four below, keel like adipose fin and a forked tail. Size to 24 inches and weight to 13 kg (28.6 lbs).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: North America: Central drainages of the United States to southern Canada and northern Mexico. Found in rivers and streams, ponds and reservoirs, especially on sand or gravel bottom near rocks or logs where they hide during the day.

DIET IN THE WILD: Olfactory sensors on barbels and the body. Omnivorous eating small fish, crayfish, clams and snails; also feed on aquatic insects and small mammals.

REPRODUCTION: Monogamous. Mate once a year, males guard nest. Farmed world-wide as a food source.

REMARKS: Albino form common in the aquarium trade.
Farmed world-wide as a food source.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Centrarchidae (Sunfishes)

GENUS: Lepomis sp. 

Sunfish description to append

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Shape is perch like. In direct sunlight sunfish have a brilliant sheen. A black extension of the upper gill cover is the “ear.” Spinous dorsal fins. Length to 24 cm (9.5 inches) and a maximum weight of 1.7 pounds.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: North America from northeastern Mexico to the north to the Great Lakes in shallow water, with dense vegetation in small lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers and streams

DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivorous, tend to be generalists: aquatic insects, snails, crustaceans and small fishes.

REPRODUCTION: Male makes the nest and defends it.

Sunfish description to append

REMARKS: A popular game fish with anglers.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Cypriniformes (Carps)
Family: Catostomidae (Suckers)

GENUS/SPECIES: Ictiobus bubalus

Smallmouth Buffalo Fish  Ictiobus bubalus (Catostomidae) (Suckers) 3000398478:

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Common length : 58.5 cm (2 feet), max. weight: 37 kg (81 pounds). Stocky with a dorsal hump. Color varies from gray to brown and coppery green dorsally and pale yellow to white ventrally.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Lake Michigan drainage and Mississippi River basin from Pennsylvania and Michigan to Montana, and south to the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico. Inhabits pools, backwaters and main channels of small to large rivers. Also in lakes and reservoirs.

DIET IN THE WILD: Feeds on benthic crustaceans, mollusks; also algae. Grinds prey with the bony plates in its throat.

Smallmouth Buffalo Fish  Ictiobus bubalus (Catostomidae) (Suckers)IMG_2505

REPRODUCTION: Spawns in spring and summer with the female depositing tens of thousands of eggs which adhere to vegetation and gravel to keep from flowing away.

MORTALITY: Lives to 15 years.

REMARKS: Somewhat boney but a desirable food fish. These fishes are caught in commercial fishing gear including hoop and wing nets, drag seines, and trammel and gill nets in the midwest. (Rarely taken by hook-and-line fishing).

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Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Acipenseriformes (Sturgeons and paddlefishes)
Family:Polyodontidae Paddlefishes (Paddlefishes)

Genus/species: Polyodon spathula

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Gray, shark-like body with a deeply forked tail and huge toothless mouth when feeding. Extended upper jaw (rostrum) flattened into paddleshape, accounts for 1/3 of total body length. Fins stiffer than those of teleost fishes. Heterocercal tail. Skeleton cartilaginous, skin tough, scales lacking. Max length 221 cm (87 inches); max weight 90.7 kg (200 pounds), average weight considerably less.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Rivers of central United States, especially Mississippi River and its tributaries. Prefers deep pools in large rivers where the current is slow; is highly mobile and has been known to travel more than 2,000 miles.


DIET IN THE WILD: Zooplankton, the majority being water fleas, also tiny crustaceans and larvae. To feed, the fish swims with its huge mouth wide open. As the water passes over its gills food is filtered out by special filaments called gill rakers. Also, the paddle is covered with pores that extend over the head and along the gill covers. These pores are electroreceptors capable of detecting as little as 1/100 of 1-millionth volt per cm, enough to sense the presence of plankton, a valuable tool, especially since vision, hearing and smell are poor.

REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: Female spawn only once every 4 to 7 years starting when they are 6-12 years old swimming up river to lay 2 eggs at a time. Egg cases rounded. Eggs hatch in 7 days; young are swept downstream to permanent home.

MORTALITY: Live up to 30 years.

PREDATORS: Only man.

CONSERVATION STATUS: IUCN: vulnerable. Threatened by overfishing throughout much of its range, particularly for its eggs since the ban on imported caviar. Dams prevent fish from reaching spawning grounds, sedimentation and river modifications destroy habitat.

Mississippi paddlefish   (Polyodon spathula)  IMG_2499 - Version 2

REMARKS: The paddle is covered with pores that extend over the head and along the gill covers. These pores are electroreceptors capable of detecting as little as 1/100 of 1-millionth volt per cm, enough to sense the presence of plankton, a valuable tool, especially since vision, hearing and smell are poor.

Both paddlefish and sharks have skeletons made of cartilage, not bone. Paddlefish have no scales.

Paddlefish are the oldest surviving animal species in North America. Fossil records indicate that they date back 300 million years.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) 
Order Acipenseriformes (Sturgeons and paddlefishes)
Family  Acipenseridae (Sturgeons)

Genus/species: Scaphirhynchus albus 

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Shark-like with heterocercal tale and scutes instead of scales; gray above, white below. Flat, upturned head. Four long barbels. One of the rarest and largest freshwater fishes in North America; length to over 2 m (6.5 feet), weight over 75 lbs.

Pallid Sturgeon  8395624080_f62868641d_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their large tributaries, especially the Kansas River, from Montana to the Gulf
of Mexico. Found on the bottom in turbid, deep, fast
 flowing rivers over sand and gravel bars. 

DIET: Mollusks, insects, and small fishes. S. albus  is a bottom feeder. In addition to taste buds on the tips of the barbels it has sensory organs on the ventral surface of the
snout that pick up electrical fields emanating from prey. The sturgeon stirs up the muck with its snout, then the mouth, which is folded in.

REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: In the wild, external fertilization, eggs scattered and not guarded. However, natural reproduction is almost non-existent. Since 1990 over 150,000 pallid sturgeon have been raised in hatcheries and released.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Life span: up to 50 years or more.

CONSERVATION STATUS:: ESA: federally listed 1990: Endangered.Our juvenile pallids came from Gavin’s Point National Fish Hatchery in Montana. The Steinhart is permitted to display these 88 A Docent & Guide View of the Steinhart Aquarium Species
endangered species as long as an educational message is presented about their distribution, endangered status, and threats facing them.

REMARKS: Pallid and shovelnose sturgeon are
 known to hybridize, another potential threat to the species survival in the southern portion of the pallid’s range where shovel nose sturgeon dominate. Often referred to as the Dinosaur of the Missouri, the pallid sturgeon is known from 70 million years ago and at one time was the top freshwater carnivore. Like all sturgeon, have a cartilaginous skeleton.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Lepisosteiformes (Gars)
Family: Lepisosteidae (Gars)

Genus/species: Lepisosteus osseus

Longnose Gar 3079559158_8c3e7931ff_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Very long, cylindrical with dorsal and anal fins set well back on the body, and a large rounded tail fin. Snout more than twice as long as head. Olivaceous brown above and white below. Dark spots on median fins and on body. Ganoid scales. Two to three feet in length not uncommon.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Saint Lawrence River drainage; along Atlantic coast from south of New Jersey to Florida; Southern Great Lakes and Mississippi River system, south to Rio Grande in Texas.
Found in backwaters, large creeks, lakes; may enter brackish water.
They can live in very warm water with little oxygen.

DIET IN THE WILD: Voracious predators. Piscivorous; also feeds on crabs and other crustaceans. Catches prey by swinging jaws back and forth, impaling fish on its sharp teeth.

REPRODUCTION: Sexual maturity for males is reached between 3 and 4 years of age while females at 6 years of age. Spawn in spring depositing eggs in weedy bays on vegetation. Young have a special disk on its head to attach to vegetation, much like pike fry.

PREDATORS: Rarely eaten by fish.

Longnose Gar 8703062067_f828b535c6_b

CONSERVATION: Not federally listed as endangered but but some states list it as threatened because of overfishing and habitat loss.

REMARKS: The roe is poisonous.

Gar can also take in oxygen by swimming to the surface and gulping air into their swim bladders allowing them to live in oxygen poor water..

Family dates back 245 million years

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