Freshwater drum have a distinctive appearance. They are a silver, deep-bodied fish that are somewhat flat. An unusual characteristic of these fish is that their lateral line extends into their rounded caudal fin. They also have a long dorsal fin relative to their total length and it contains a deep notch. They have a blunt, rounded snout and ridged scales. Freshwater drum can reach lengths up to .91 m and weights up to 24 kg. On average, they range in size from 31 cm to 71 cm and weights from .45 kg to 3.6 kg. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Ross and Brenneman, 2001; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
Freshwater drum are the only members of the family Sciaenidae that inhabit freshwater. They have a vast distribution range that extends from as far north as the Hudson Bay to as far south as Guatemala. They are found as far east as the Appalachian Mountain range in the eastern U.S. and as far west as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. They are considered to be one of the most wide-ranging fish species in North America. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005; Ross and Brenneman, 2001; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
Freshwater drum inhabit backwaters and areas of slack current in a wide range of habitats. They may live in deep pools in medium to large rivers and large lake environments of varying depths. They live at the bottoms of bodies of water and particularly like silty to rocky surfaces. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Hubbs and and Lagler, 1947; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Ross and Brenneman, 2001; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
Freshwater drum begin life when the female's egg becomes fertilized by the male. The fertilized egg then hatches after 48 to 96 hours. The larvae are 3 mm at hatching and stay at the surface for three days, or until they are capable of swimming on their own. They then proceed to move into deeper waters to begin feeding and are considered juveniles at 15 mm. They can reach lengths up to 85 mm during their first year, and reach sizes up to 150 mm the next. The size of freshwater drum varies based on food and habitat availability. The sexes are not dimorphic. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Ross and Brenneman, 2001; Trautman, 1981)
Freshwater drum breed seasonally in open water. The eggs are fertilized and left floating near the surface of the water where the eggs, and subsequently the larvae, are carried by currents. This unique characteristic is thought to be the explanation of their wide distribution. Freshwater drum are seemingly promiscuous because males and females disperse eggs and sperm into the water column where fertilization is rather random. However scientific evidence to justify this statement has not been documented. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005)
Males generally reach maturity at the age of four while females usually reach maturity around age five and into their sixth year of life. Spawning takes place when water temperatures reach 20° C, usually between the months of May and June. The fish spawn within the water column. According to Etnier and Starnes (1993) one female can produce 40,000 to 60,000 ova, although most of these eggs are preyed on almost immediately. Fertilized eggs float near the surface of the water for two to four days before hatching. Larvae stay attached to the surface film until they obtain enough muscle strength to swim into deeper water. This usually requires at least three more days. Growth is rapid in young fish and tends to slow down with age. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Ross and Brenneman, 2001; SWEDBERG and WALBURG, 1970; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
There is no parental involvement among freshwater drum after spawning.
Not much information is available on the lifespan of freshwater drum in captivity. It is known that they can reach the age of 13 in the wild and average between 6 to 8 years natural longevity. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Ross and Brenneman, 2001)
Freshwater drum congregate in large schools to feed and breed. They are primarily active in feeding at night. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
Freshwater drum communicate by making drumming, or croaking sounds with specialized muscles that vibrate against their air bladders. This feature gives the species its name, grunniens, latin for "grunting". These muscles only develop in males. Drumming is thought to excite males and females to assemble in a breeding area. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Ross and Brenneman, 2001)
Freshwater drum feed on prey at all hours of the night. They peruse the bottom in schools in search of many different items. They generally root around and move rocks and other bottom surface to flush their prey. Adults feed primarily on aquatic insects such as mayflies, small fish (in particular shad and immature drum) and mollusks. During the early larval stage, freshwater drum feed primarily on the larval stages of other fishes. After reaching 12 mm they begin to feed on zooplankton. Juveniles feed on larval stages of mayflies and caddisflies. Freshwater drum are equipped with heavy teeth located behind their mouth or in their thoat that aid in the consumption of snails and the introduced zebra mussel. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Hubbs and and Lagler, 1947; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005; Ross and Brenneman, 2001)
Humans contribute to a great amount of predation on freshwater drum. Commercially up to 453,592 kg or 1 million pounds is harvested per year. Immature drum are preyed on by many different predatory fishes such as walleyes, muskellunges, northern pikes, other freshwater drums and gulls (<<g.Larus>>), such as herring gulls. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005)
Freshwater drum are known for their feeding on the notorious zebra mussels. They do not control populations however they may contribute to high numbers of mortality in these nuisance mussells. It is documented that many types of mussels use freshwater drum as a host in their reproductive cycle. (French and Bur, 2005; Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005)
There are no known adverse effects of freshwater drum on humans.
Freshwater drum are growing in popularity and in some cases they are recognized as a sport fish. They are known for their great fighting ability and their large size. They are popular meat in some areas. In some cases drum make a great bait to catch other fish species. These fish also have exceptionally large inner ear bones called otoliths. They are called “lucky stones” and are collected for good luck. Many otoliths have been found around old Indian settlements and were traded far outside of their natural range. Archeologists believe that they were collected by indigenous peoples and worn as jewelry. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005; Robison and Buchanan, 1988; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005; Trautman, 1981)
The IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, and the United States Endangered Species Act list the status of freshwater drum as being a species of “least concern” or having “no special status.” This indicates that populations are not threatened in the near future.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web, Courtney Egan (editor).
Aaron Sluss (author), Eastern Kentucky University, Sherry Harrel (editor, instructor), Eastern Kentucky University.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
on or near the bottom of a body of water
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
specialized for swimming
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats fish
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
small animals that float or drift in great numbers in fresh or salt water, especially at or near the surface. These serve as food for many larger organisms. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
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French, J., . Bur. 2005. "CSA Illumina" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2005 at http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=9304040&q=drum+%2B+zebra+mussel&uid=787072160&setcookie=yes.
Hubbs and, C., K. Lagler. 1947. Fishes of the Great Lakes region. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Cranbrook Institute of Science.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005. "Minnesota Department of Natural Resources" (On-line). Accessed October 23, 2005 at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snapshots/fish/freshwaterdrum.html.
Molluscs Division of the Museum of Biological Diversity at the Ohio State University, 2004. "Mussel Host Database" (On-line). Accessed December 06, 2005 at http://22.214.171.124/Musselhost/.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005. "Ohio Department of Natural Resources" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2005 at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife/Fishing/aquanotes-fishid/fwdrum.htm.
Robison, H., T. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press.
Ross, S., W. Brenneman. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.
SWEDBERG, D., C. WALBURG. 1970. Spawning and Early Life History of the Freshwater Drum in Lewis and Clark Lake, Missouri River. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, Vol. 99 Issue 3: Pages 560 -570. Accessed November 28, 2005 at http://afs.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request.
Schultz, K. 2004. Ken Shultz's Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes. Hoboken, Ney Jersey: John Wiley and Sons Inc..
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 2005. "Texas Parks and Wildlife" (On-line). Accessed October 23, 2005 at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/fwd/.
Trautman, . 1981. The Fishes of Ohio : with illustrated keys. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press.