perch, common name for some members of the family Percidae, symmetrical freshwater fishes of N Europe, Asia, and North America. The perch belongs to the large order Perciformes (spiny-finned fishes) and is related to the sunfishes and the sea basses. Best known is the yellow (also called red) perch ( Perca flavescens ), a popular game and food fish abundant in lakes and large streams, where it feeds on insects, crayfish, and small fish and grows to an average length of 1 ft (30 cm) and weight of 1 lb (.5 kg). The voracious walleye, or walleyed pike ( Stizostedion vitreum ), another member of the family, is darker and larger (up to 10 lb/4.5 kg). Very similar to the walleye but slenderer and smaller is the Eastern sauger, or sand pike ( S. canadense ). The native American darters (2–3 in/5–8 cm), found E of the Rockies, are a subfamily containing many species, most of them brilliantly colored. Of separate families are the pirate perch, a chubby little fish of sluggish streams and bayous (family Aphredoderidae), and the trout perch, or sand roller, a small fish abundant in the Great Lakes (family Mugiloididae). Perches are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Percidae.

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

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology


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