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Aplodinotus grunniens

What do they look like?

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)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    24 (high) kg
    52.86 (high) lb
  • Average mass
    0.45-3.6 kg
    lb
  • Range length
    910 (high) mm
    35.83 (high) in
  • Average length
    310-710 mm
    in

Where do they live?

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)

What kind of habitat do they need?

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)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • benthic
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

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)

How do they reproduce?

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)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Freshwater drum breed once a year for 6 to 7 weeks in late spring to early summer.
  • Breeding season
    Spawning takes place between May and June and when water temperatures reach 20° C.
  • Range number of offspring
    40,000 to 60,000
  • Average number of offspring
    50000
    AnAge
  • Range time to hatching
    1 to 4 days
  • Range time to independence
    5 to 8 days
  • Average time to independence
    6 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    5 to 6 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    4 to 6 years

There is no parental involvement among freshwater drum after spawning.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning

How long do they live?

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)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    13 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 to 8 years

How do they behave?

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)

How do they communicate with each other?

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)

What do they eat?

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)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • zooplankton

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

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)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

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)

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

There are no known adverse effects of freshwater drum on humans.

How do they interact with us?

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)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

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.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web, Courtney Egan (editor).

Aaron Sluss (author), Eastern Kentucky University, Sherry Harrel (editor, instructor), Eastern Kentucky University.

References

Etnier, D., W. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. Knoxville: The University of Tennesse Press.

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://128.146.250.63/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.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Sluss, A. 2006. "Aplodinotus grunniens" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 17, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Aplodinotus_grunniens/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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