The Ictaluridae, sometimes called Ictalurids, are a family of catfish native to North America, where they are important food fish and sometimes as a sport fish. They include fish commonly known as bullheads, madtoms, channel catfish, and blue catfish.
Ictaluridae is strongly supported as a monophyletic
group. Ictaluridae is closely related to the Asian
. These two families are sister taxa
in the superfamily Ictaluroidea
Though the family includes three genera of blind, subterranean, and troglobitic catfishes, Trogloglanis, Satan, and Prietella, none of these three genera are closely related. Instead, Satan is closely related to Pylodictis, Prietella to Noturus, and Trogloglanis possibly to Ictalurus, although it may not be closely related to any of the other ictalurids. Ameiurus is sister to a clade formed by Satan, Pylodictis, Noturus, and Prietella.
Distribution and habitat
Ictalurids originate from North America from southern Canada
. Both bullheads and madtoms tend to be found in small streams and ponds, but are also known in larger bodies of water. Channel catfish
, bullheads and madtoms are "bottom feeders" with widely varied diets that include scavenging.
Ictalurid species have four pairs of barbels
(commonly referred to as "whiskers" as applied to catfish). The skin is naked. The dorsal fin
and pectoral fins
are usually with a spine. The dorsal fin is usually with six soft rays. The palate
is toothless except in the fossil genus Astephus
. The genera Trogoglanis
, and Prietella
include four species of blind catfishes. They have the ability to inflict painful stings with poison embedded in fins.
One of the largest species is the blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus, specimens of which have been found to weigh over 50 kg (110 lb). The maximum length is 1.6 m in the blue catfish and the flathead catfish. The bullheads, on the other hand, are small catfish which at maturity often weigh less than half a kilogram (1 lb), while the madtoms (genus Noturus) are in general much smaller.
Relationship to humans
The North American catfish has acquired an association with American Southern
folklore which exceeds its place as a mere food fish. The image of cane pole fishing
for catfish at a proverbial lazy stream has become a stand-by of southern Americana
. Even today the catfish fishing culture features use of arcane "stink baits" and elaborate night-fishing techniques, giving catfish fishing a uniqueness in approach and emphasis as contrasted with the technology-oriented realms of fishing such as bass fishing
In some areas, the bullhead is seen as a desirable fishing quarry, for its fighting qualities exceed its size. In other areas, it is seen as a nuisance fish due to its efficient bait-stealing qualities.