bass (băs) [key], common name applied to various fishes of the families Serranidae (sea basses) and Centrarchidae (black basses and sunfishes). The sea basses are a large, diverse, and important family of perchlike fishes with oblong, rather compressed bodies. All basses are carnivorous and most are marine, although several species are found in freshwater (see sunfish). Sea basses inhabit warm and temperate seas throughout the world and are highly valued as game and food fishes. Along the Atlantic coast as far north as Cape Cod is found the common, or black, sea bass, a sluggish bottom fish averaging 6 lb (2.7 kg) in weight and 18 in. (45 cm) in length. Offshoots of the sea basses and classified with them are the white basses, including the striped bass (or rockfish) and the white perch, both found in fresh and brackish waters from Florida to Canada; the white bass of the Mississippi valley and the Great Lakes; and the similar but smaller yellow bass, found in the same range. The white sea bass of the N Pacific, however, is a member of the Sciaenidae family (see croaker). The Pacific sea basses include the giant sea bass, or Pacific jewfish, a bulky bottom fish that reaches a weight of 600 lb (270 kg) and a length of 7 ft (2.1 m), as well as the 2-ft (60-cm) kelp and sand basses. The so-called Chilean sea bass, or Patagonian toothfish ( Dissostichus eleginoides ), of the deep, cold waters of the Southern Hemisphere, is a member of the Nototheniidae family. The groupers are an important genus of large tropical sea basses. Very closely allied to the sea basses are the tripletail, with prominent anal and dorsal fins, and the robalo, or snook, widely distributed in tropical American saltwaters. Basses are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, families Serranidae and Centrarchidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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