Morone americana (white perch)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Water Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Morone americana (Gmelin, 1789)
Preferred Common Name
- white perch
Other Scientific Names
- Morone americanus (Gmelin, 1789)
- Morone pallida Mitchill, 1814
- Morone rufa Mitchill, 1814
- Perca americana Gmelin, 1789
- Perca immaculata Walbaum, 1792
- Roccus americanus (Gmelin, 1789)
International Common Names
- English: narrow-mouthed bass; sea perch; silver perch; wreckfish
- Spanish: lubina blanca
- French: bar blanc d'Amerique; baret; cernier atlantique; perche blanche
- Russian: morona
Local Common Names
- Canada: baret
- Denmark: amerikansk bars; bars
- Finland: amerikanbassi
- Germany: Seebarsch
- Italy: spigola americana
- Norway: havabbor; hvit havabbor
- Poland: rokiel srebrzysty
- Portugal: robalo do norte; robalo-do-norte
- Sweden: vitabborre
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
M. americana can thrive in a wide range of environments, but is naturally found in brackish waters and can invade freshwater habitats. M. americana has the ability to compete with native species, preying on fish eggs and young fish, and has the ability to hybridize with native species and quickly become the dominant species in freshwater lakes. It is native to the Atlantic seaboard and inland rivers of northeastern USA, but has invaded the Great Lakes and surrounding watersheds and also occasionally further west. Like many invasive fish, it can become the most abundant species in many environments due to its opportunistic feeding, broadcast spawning with no preference for specific substrate type, and high fecundity.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Perciformes
- Suborder: Percoidei
- Family: Moronidae
- Genus: Morone
- Species: Morone americana
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Jordan and Gibert (1883) revised the genus Roccus to include Morone as a subgenus, but later Morone was separated as a genus from Roccus by Berg (1949) (Woolcot, 1957). Morone americana, commonly known in English as the white perch, has hybridized with Morone chrysops (native white bass) in western Lake Erie, USA, first noted in in the early 1980s at the same time as M. americana were increasing in abundance in this area (Natureserve, 2008). This hybridization is probably also occurring in the other Great Lakes.
DescriptionTop of page
M. americana is a demersal and semi-anadromous species, usually reaching a length of 12.7-17.8 cm and weighing from an average of 250 g up to 650 g (Riede, 2004). However, a maximum length of 49.5 cm has been recorded (IGFA, 2001), and a maximum weight of 2200 g (Robins and Ray, 1986). The recorded maximum age is 16 years (Froese and Pauly, 2008).
M. americana has a deep and laterally compressed body. The colour varies from dark greyish-green, dark silvery-green, or dark brown to almost black on the back, pale-olive or silvery-green on the sides and silvery-white on the belly. The white perch has a terminal mouth and a tongue with two narrow tooth patches on the anterolateral margin for grasping prey items (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). It does not have barbels. M. americana has two dorsal fins, slightly connected by a membrane, the anterior with six to ten spines, the posterior with one spine and 10-13 rays, no adipose fin, anal fin with one spine and eight to ten rays and lateral line with 44-52 ctenoid scales. The juveniles are similar to the adults, but may have faint lateral stripes.
Other identifying characteristics include the following. The body is deepest just ahead of, or at the beginning of, the dorsal fin; there are no lines or stripes on the back or sides; when the spiny dorsal fin is pulled erect, the soft dorsal fin also becomes erect; the second and third bony anal spines are almost exactly the same length; and the anal fin usually has eight or nine soft rays behind the three bony spines (National Sea Grant, 1998; Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002b; Chesapeake Bay Program, 2006).
DistributionTop of page
The native range of M. americana isNorth America’s Atlantic Slope drainages from the St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario drainage, Quebec, south to Pee Dee River, South Carolina (Fuller et al., 2008). Peak abundance of this species is in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay (Lee et al., 1980). Inland populations are more common in northern areas (Natureserve, 2008).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Native|
|Atlantic - Northwest||Present||Native|
|Atlantic - Western Central||Present||Native|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The introduction and spread of M. americana in the USA is detailed in Fuller et al. (2008). The first report of white perch in the Great Lakes drainage was from Cross Lake, central New York, in 1950 (Dence, 1952), where it apparently gained access to the lake via movement through the Erie Barge Canal in the 1930s and 1950s (Lee et al., 1980; Johnson and Evans, 1990; Mills et al., 1993). Scott and Christie (1963) stated that the white perch most likely gained access to Lake Ontario via the Oswego River, as a result of the spread of Hudson River populations northward and westward through the Mohawk River Valley and Erie Barge Canal. Once in Lake Ontario, it gained access to Lake Erie through the Welland Canal in 1953 and continued to spread to the upper Great Lakes (Johnson and Evans, 1990; Mills et al., 1993). The first reports of westward movement through the Great Lakes are as follows: Lake Erie in 1953 (Larsen, 1954), Lake St. Clair in 1977, Lake Huron in 1987 (Johnson and Evans, 1990), Lake Michigan at Green Bay-Fox River, Wisconsin in May 1988 (Cochran and Hesse, 1994), and Illinois waters of Lake Michigan off Chicago in September 1988 (Savitz et al., 1989). One oddity is that the first record from Lake Superior was in 1986 from Duluth Harbor - 1 year before the fish was found in Lake Huron, and 2 years before it was seen in Lake Michigan. The Duluth Harbor population may be restricted to that location because it is the warmest part of the lake. This population likely represents a separate introduction because it does not fit the pattern of western dispersal (Johnson and Evans, 1990).
White perch were brought from New Jersey to Nebraska in 1964, and fry produced that year in a hatchery were accidentally introduced into a reservoir that provided access to the Missouri River (Hergenrader and Bliss, 1971). White perch have been stocked intentionally in other areas for sport fishing. In Kansas, fish found at Browning Oxbow on the Missouri River are believed to have come from Nebraska. The species was not recorded from the Missouri River in Missouri until the 1990s (Pflieger, 1997). The source of M. americana in the two Kansas reservoirs is a result of stock contamination from a striped bass stocking (Fuller et al., 2008). It was stocked in West Virginia in the early 1900s, and illegally stocked by individuals in inland lakes in Indiana (Fuller et al., 2008).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Canada||USA||1950||Yes||Crossman (1991)||Introduced into Lake Ontario via the Erie Barge Canal and the Mohawk River in USA. Sighted in Lake Erie in 1953 and was surely established by 1975|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
There is a possibility of angler introductions of M. americana into new areas for sport fishing (Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002b).
HabitatTop of page
M. americana occurs in fresh, brackish and coastal waters (Robins and Ray, 1986). It is found predominantly in brackish water and close to the shore in saltwater (Natureserve, 2008), but is also common in pools and other quiet water areas of medium to large rivers, usually over mud (Froese and Pauly, 2008), far up medium to large rivers in fresh water and in lakes and ponds having no sea connection (Natureserve, 2008).M. americana is very common in shallow portions of inland lakes and rivers in its native range of Atlantic Slope drainages from St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario drainage in Quebec south to the Pee Dee River of South Carolina (Minnesota Sea Grant, 2001; Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002b). It has been observed to move offshore during the day and onshore at night.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Freshwater||Lakes||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Marine||Inshore marine||Principal habitat||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
M. americana hybridizes with Moronechrysops (native white bass) (Todd, 1986) and with Morone mississippiensis (Irons et al., 2002) in the USA. These hybrids are capable of back-crossing with parent species as well as crossing among themselves; therefore M. americana will dilute the gene pool of both parent species (Natureserve, 2008).
In its native estuarine environment, M. americana is semi-anadromous and spawns in the spring when water temperatures are between 10 and 16°C (Mansueti, 1961; Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). It migrates from the saltier bays and coastal areas into tidal, but more freshwater portions of streams and rivers to spawn in spring. In landlocked waters, it spawns in both rivers and reservoirs, and migrates from deep to shallow waters to spawn when temperatures are between 15 and 20°C, but may show no preference for habitat types during spawning and egg deposition (Zuerlein, 1981).
M. americanamaturation is size-specific with males maturing at smaller sizes than females (Mansueti, 1961). Males may spawn for the first time at 2 years, and females usually by 3 years, usually in late spring in brackish to nearly fresh water rivers over sandy bottoms. Spawning occurs over a period of 10 to 21 days with individual females expelling eggs on more than one occasion (Mansueti, 1961). Female M. americana are oviparous, broadcasting demersal, adhesive eggs to be fertilized externally (Mansueti, 1961). The eggs sink to the bottom and stick (Thomson et al., 1978). Its fecundity ranges between 20,000 and 150,000 eggs per individual female (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). Hatching takes place from 1 to 6 days following fertilization; 4 days at the usual spawning temperature of 15°C (Natureserve, 2008).
ClimateTop of page
|C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||<3.0||Optimum||>8.0 tolerated|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||18||20||Optimum||Hatching of eggs and larvae|
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Cyclops bicuspidatus||Aquatic|Larval||not specific||Smith and Kernehan (1981)|
|Esox lucius||Predator||Nematodes|Juveniles||not specific||Ward and Neumann (1998)|
|Lepomis macrochirus||Aquatic|Larval||not specific||Margulies (1990)|
|Micropterus salmoides||Predator||Nematodes|Juveniles||not specific||Ward and Neumann (1998)|
|Morone saxatilis||Predator||Aquatic|Adult; Other|Juvenile||not specific||Hartman and Brandt (1995)|
|Pomatomus saltatrix||Predator||Aquatic|Adult; Other|Juvenile; Aquatic|Larval||not specific||Hartman and Brandt (1995); Juanes et al. (1993)|
|Sander vitreus||Predator||Aquatic|Adult; Other|Juvenile||not specific||Knight and Vondracek (1993)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Although M. americana can be detrimental to native fish populations, it can also provide a valuable forage base for sports fish (Harris, 2006). Several predatory fish prey on M. americana. In their native estuarine environment, M. americana have been a prey to striped bass (M. saxatilis) of over 20 cm in length (Gardinier and Hoff, 1982) and bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) (Juanus et al., 1993). Some species prey on M. americana when their preferred food is depleted or not available. Walleye (Sander vitreus) prey on M. americana when gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) are not abundant (Hartman and Margraf, 1992). When M. americana becomes abundant, northern pike (Esox lucius), and other piscivores that prey on spiny rayed species such as largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), will target it (Ward and Neumann, 1998).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
M. americana invaded the Great Lakes through the Erie and Welland canals in the 1950s (WDNR, 2004).
M. americana have been stocked intentionally in non-native waters by voluntary and incidental agency stocking (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994; Carlander, 1997; Fuller et al., 1999), and possible angler introductions in other areas for sport fishing (Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002b). Between 1880 and 1950, federal and state hatcheries established inland populations of M. americana in Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, USA (Zeurlein, 1981). It also has been illegally stocked by individuals in inland lakes in Indiana, USA (Fuller et. al., 2008).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Invasion by M. americana can have a negative impact on resident fish populations (Harris, 2006), which in turn could cause degradation in fishing quality and subsequent economic impacts. Drops in abundance of native fishes have often followed white perch invasions (Hergenrader and Bliss, 1971; Zeurlein, 1981; Boileau, 1985; Gopalan et al., 1998; Wong et al., 1999; Madenjian et al., 2000).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
The ability of M. americana to compete for food with other species can cause negative effects on biodiversity. The competition between M. americana and native yellow perch (Perca flavescens) for zooplankton (Parrish and Margraf, 1990) and diet overlap (Fuller et al., 2008) may be the reason for the decline in growth rates of yellow perch since the invasion of M. americana in Lake Erie, especially in the western basin. Parrish and Margraf (1994) speculated that competition between juvenile M. americana and forage fishes, such as emerald shiner (Notropis atherinoides) and spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius), may be responsible for the declines of the latter species.
There can be a secondary effect of this competition as decline of these species could also affect walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), the top predator in Lake Erie ( Schaeffer and Margraf, 1987; Parrish and Margraf, 1994, in Fuller et al., 2008). The collapse of the walleye fishery in the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario coincided with an increase in the M. americana population and may have been a result of egg predation and the resulting lack of recruitment (Fuller et al., 2008). M. americana are also thought to cause declines in white bass [(Morone chrysops)] (Todd, 1986) populations in the Great Lakes region. M. americana completely replaced the previously dominant black bullhead (Ameiurus melas) 3 years after being introduced into a Nebraska reservoir, from 74% black bullhead to 70% white perch (Fuller et al., 2008).
The tendency of M. americana to hybridize with native fish poses a threat to biodiversity by diluting and polluting the gene pool. Hybridization and competition may represent another threat to the already dwindling yellow bass of the Great Lakes region.M. americana is known to form hybrids with white bass in Lake Erie in Ohio and Michigan, and the Detroit River and the St. Clair River in Michigan (Todd, 1986), and with yellow bass Morone mississippiensis in the Illinois River (Irons et al., 2002).
M. americana is regarded as having moderate to high vulnerability based on ‘L’ maximum and ‘K’ growth values (Cheung et al., 2005), whereas according to Froese and Pauly (2008) it was not evaluated in the IUCN Red List.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition (unspecified)
- Interaction with other invasive species
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Pet/aquarium trade
- Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
M. americana can be confused with Morone chrysops (white bass), although M. chrysops has six to ten dark horizontal lines on its back and sides and M. americana does not, and when the spiny dorsal fin is gently pulled erect, the soft dorsal fin also becomes erect in M. americana (Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002a). To confuse the issue further, the freshwater drum (or sheepshead) [Aplodinotus grunniens] is sometimes (incorrectly) called M. americana (Wisconsin Sea Grant, 2002a), but the freshwater drum can be distinguished by a lateral line that extends all the way to the end of its bluntly pointed caudal (tail) fin.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
M. americana has been included in the list of fish species that are illegal to import, possess, or release into public waters without a permit in certain states in the USA such as Indiana, as a preventive measure against its spread. According to law, if a M. americana is caught it should not be released, but killed. Transferring this species from one water body to another is prohibited to prevent further spread.
No specific control measures for M. americana are recorded.
ReferencesTop of page
Bath DW; O'Connor JM, 1985. Food preferences of white perch in the Hudson River Estuary. New York Fish and Game Journal, 32(1):63-70.
Carlander KD, 1997. Handbook of freshwater fisheries biology, volume 3, life history data on ichthyopercid and percid fishes of the United States and Canada. Ames, Iowa, USA: Iowa State University Press.
Cross FB; Mayden RL; Stewart JD, 1986. Fishes in the western Mississippi basin (Missouri, Arkansas, and Red Rivers). In: The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes [ed. by Hocutt CH, Wiley EO, ] New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, 363-412.
Crossman EJ, 1991. Introduced freshwater fishes: A review of the North American perspective with emphasis on Canada. Can. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 48 (Suppl. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci, No. 48 (Suppl. 1):46-57.
Froese R; Pauly D, 2004. FishBase DVD. Penang, Malaysia: Worldfish Center. Online at www.fishbase.org.
Fuller PL; Nico LG; Williams JD, 1999. Nonindigenous fishes introduced into inland waters of the United States. Bethesda, Maryland, USA: American Fisheries Society. [American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 27]
Gopalan G; Culver DA; Wu L; Trauben BK, 1998. Effects of recent ecosystem changes on the recruitment of young-of-the-year fish in western Lake Erie. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, No. 55:2572-2579.
Irons KS; O'Hara TM; McClelland MA; Pegg MA, 2002. White perch occurrence, spread, and hybridisation in the middle Illinois River, upper Mississippi River system. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science, 95(3):207-214.
Johnson TB; Evans DO, 1990. Size-dependent winter mortality of young-of-the-year white perch: climate warming and invasion of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, No. 119:301-313.
Knight RL; Vondracek B, 1993. Changes in prey fish populations in western lake Erie, 1969-88, as related to walleye, Stizostedion vitreum, predation. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, No. 50:1289-1298.
McGovern JC; Olney JE, 1988. Potential predation by fish and invertebrates on early life history stages of striped bass in Pamunkey River, Virginia. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 117:152-161.
Wong RK; Noble RL; Jackson JR; Horn S van, 1999. White perch invasion of B. Everett Jordan Reservoir, North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, 53:162-169.
Froese R, Pauly D, 2004. FishBase. http://www.fishbase.org
Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435
OrganizationsTop of page
Italy: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, http://www.fao.org/
Switzerland: IUCN (The World Conservation Union), Rue Mauverney 28, Gland 1196, Gland, Switzerland, http://www.iucn.org/
USA: United States Geological Survey, USGS National Center 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192, http://www.usgs.gov/
ContributorsTop of page
24/04/08 Original text by:
Sunil Siriwardena, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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