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COVID-19 put a damper on pretty much all of my travel plans. My hope was to have at least 100 species in the books by now. But I’m forging on. The Lansing area has a number of wadable streams that are great for electrofishing. The Red Cedar River runs right through MSU’s campus, and the section that runs through campus is electrofished pretty commonly for classes. There are other locations with public access upstream from campus that I’ve never electrofished, and this is a pretty good time (when I can get away) to explore. Just north of town is the Looking Glass River. The Looking Glass is slightly smaller but offers a pretty good contrast to the Red Cedar. The Red Cedar runs through a mosaic of Agriculture, Forest, and Urban landscapes, with pretty diverse substrates. The Looking Glass is pretty much all Ag, and rocky areas are pretty rare. So I shocked both! I’ve concentrated most of my effort on the Looking Glass because colleague Mark Stephens has captured Pirate Perch there. And I want to catch a Pirate Perch.
Pirate perch are perhaps the weirdest fish we have in the Great Lakes region. On the surface, it's just a small charcoal-black fish with a big mouth. However, it represents an evolutionary intermediate between soft-rayed fishes (like salmon and minnows) and spiny-rayed fishes (like bass and perch). It is in the Order Percopsiformes, with another weird fish, the Trout Perch. But that’s not the weird part about the Pirate Perch. Its *ahem* vent is under its chin. You know that saying “Don’t @#$& where you eat?” Well, Pirate Perch don’t have that apparent luxury. Some comedian then gave this species its scientific name: Aphredoderus sayanus. Oddly enough, the species name (sayanus) is actually in reference to Entomologist Thomas Say, and its genus translates from Greek to ‘Excrement throat’. What in the holy hell is going on here.
Either way, I’ve caught a bunch of species in the Red Cedar and Looking Glass. To be exact, I captured five species so far in the Red Cedar (from one trip), and 10 from the Looking Glass (in two trips). One of those species from the Looking Glass is, you guessed it, ol’ shitneck itself. I got a Pirate Perch on Oct 29 with the help of my graduate student Jake Sawecki. He saw it pop up and immediately knew it was weird. We only caught one, so I won’t be able to use this species for ID in my Ichthyology class just yet as I’d like to get at least ten specimens before I introduce them to the class. But I’ll be back.