The sunfishes are a family (Centrarchidae) of freshwater ray-finned fish belonging to the order Perciformes. The type genus is Centrarchus (consisting solely of the flier, C. macropterus). The family's 27 species includes many fishes familiar to North Americans, including the black basses, rock bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappies. All are native only to North America.

Family members are distinguished by having at least three anal spines. The dorsal spines are 5–13 in number, but most species have 10–12. The pseudobranch is small and concealed. Sizes of most are in the 20–30 cm (8–12 in) range, but with the largemouth bass reported to reach almost one metre (just over three feet) in extreme cases.

The male of most species builds a nest by hollowing out a depression using his tail, then guards the eggs.

Most sunfishes are valued for sports fishing, and have been introduced in many areas outside their original ranges, sometimes becoming pests.

The marine sunfishes (family Molidae) are entirely unrelated; for some other fishes known as "sunfish", see Ocean Sunfish.

Fossil record

The earliest fossils of Centrarchidae are from Middle Miocene Nebraska, belonging to the redear sunfish (13.6-16.3 million years ago)


Recent genetic evidence suggests the following phylogeny of the centrarchid genera:


Search another word or see centrarchidaeon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature