Pictures by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Erimyzon oblongus

creek chubsucker



Type Locality

New York (Mitchill 1815).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Erimyzon, Greek, meaning “to suck”; oblongus, Latin, meaning “oblong” (Pflieger 1975).



Cyprinus oblongus Mitchell1815:459

Erimyzon oblongus claviformis Cook 1959:85.



Maximum size: The maximum size reported length is 419mm (16.5 in) TL for the larger Atlantic Slope subspecies (Carlander 1969). The Mississippi River and Gulf Slope subspecies is smaller with a maximum reported size of 376mm (14.8 in) TL (Boschung and Mayden 2004); however most adult fish are smaller (Ross 2001).


Coloration: Color pattern (except in young with two dark stripes) consists of narrow vertical bars (Hubbs et al. 1991). The back and upper sides are bluish green to brown, becoming more yellow or gold on the sides. The undersides are white to yellow. Scale margins are dark giving the upper sides a cross-hatched appearance. There are five to eight dark blotches on the sides, which are connected by dorsal saddles. The blotches vary from being very distinct vertical bars (especially in young fish) to indistinct or coalesced into a lateral band (in adults). Paired and median fins are yellow orange to gray, and median fins tend to be darker then paired fins. Young fish have a broad black lateral stripe with a yellow stripe above it that runs from the snout to the tip of the caudal fin base. Breeding males are dark brown above, pink-yellow, below, with orange paired fins and yellow median fins (Ross 2001).


Counts: 56-76 pharyngeal teeth (Eastman 1977); 39-43 (usually 39-41) longitudinal scale rows; 4-18 dorsal fin rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); 7 anal rays; 13-16 pectoral rays; 9 (8-9) pelvic rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape: Cylindrical (Ross 2001); eye smaller (eye length contained more then two times snout length; Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Subterminal and oblique (Hubbs et al. 1991).


External morphology: Air bladder with two chambers; dorsal fin base less than one-fourth standard length; lateral line absent (Hubbs et al. 1991). Breeding males have three large tubercles on each side of head and a bilobed anal fin (Ross 2001).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Atlantic slope streams from Maine to Altamaha drainage of Georgia; Gulf slope streams east to Escambia River drainage, Alabama (single population) and west to San Jacinto system Texas. Mississippi Valley in Louisiana, Arkansas, southeast Oklahoma, upland Missouri, Mississippi, west Tennessee, West Kentucky, south Great Lakes drainage in southern tributaries to lakes Michigan, Erie, and Ontario (Wall and Gilbert 1980).


Texas distribution: Occurs in eastern Texas streams from the Red River southward to the San Jacinto Drainage; an early record exists from the Devils River (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

(2006). Populations in the southern Unites States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000). Hubbs et al. (1991) listed Erimyzon oblongus as a species of special concern, in Texas.


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Occupies small rivers and creeks often highly vegetated (Wall and Gilbert 1980), also less often in ponds (Wagner and Cooper 1963).


Mesohabitat: Wide variety of gradients, bottom types, and vegetation depending somewhat on age and stage of reproductive cycle. Seldom if ever occupies impoundments or springs, but may be taken in spring fed creeks. Young typically in head water rivulets. Adults usually not taken in large series. Populations apparently declining in streams subject to siltation (Wall and Gilbert 1980).



Spawning season: March to May, when the water temperature reaches about 17 degrees C (Richardson 1913; Breder and Rosen 1966; Boschung and Mayden 2004). Carnes (1958) notes the eastern subspecies spawns at water temperature of 11 degrees C, with most activity at night. The western subspecies spawns at water temperatures of 12-24 degrees C, spawning in the afternoon (Curry and Spacie 1984; Page and Johnston 1990).


Spawning habitat: Usually in small creeks, also in ponds or lakes that lack tributary streams (Carnes 1958). In Indiana, small cleared depressions on the sand bottom of pools just above riffles (Curry and Spacie 1984). Lithopelagophils; rock and gravel spawners with benthic larvae that hide beneath stones (Hankinson 1920; Page and Johnston 1990; Simon 1999).


Reproductive strategy: Males guard spawning location (Curry and Spacie 1984). Hankinson (1920) observed stone pulling by males and apparent acts of spawning. Prior to spawning males defend territories in moderately swift water over beds of gravel or near pits constructed by stonerollers or creek chubs. Males apparently do not initiate the digging of nest pits, but will modify existing pits by pushing stones around with their snouts. Females congregate upstream of males in quiet water, periodically drifting tail first into male territories. Once in a male’s territory, the female digs in the gravel with her snout, apparently signaling to the male that she is ready to spawn. In contrast to most species of suckers, pair spawning is much more common than group spawning, perhaps due to the shallowness of the usual spawning habitat. Actual spawning lasts three to five seconds as the male presses against female. Both release gametes while quivering and stirring the substratum with their caudal and anal fins (Page and Johnson 1990).


Fecundity: Fertilized eggs of the eastern subspecies E. o. oblongus are demersal and semiadhesive, with an average diameter of 1.8 mm; color varies from light to deep golden yellow and yolk occupies most of egg; no oil drops in the yolk mass; hatching occurs in 96 hours at a temperature of 20 degrees C (Kay et al. 1994). Egg production varies from 8,694-83,013 in fish 111-1110 g (Carnes 1958). Regardless of high fecundity this species is not found in high numbers (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Age at maturation:


Migration: An upstream migration often precedes spawning (Breder and Rosen 1966).


Growth and population structure: For the western subspecies E. o. claviformis TL averages 48-51 mm after one year and 104-107mm at end of the second year (Lewis and Elder 1953; Carlander 1969). There is no sexual dimorphism in size (Ross 2001). Newly hatched protolarvae are 4.8-6.6 mm TL (Kay et al. 1994).


Longevity: Females may live for 6 or 7 years, though males only live for 5 years (Carnes 1958; Wagner and Cooper 1963; Carlander 1969).


Food habits: Invertivore; major food items include copepods, cladocerans, chironomid larvae and other bottom organisms (Goldstein and Simon 1999). Diet includes organic detritus (including plant fragments), algae, diatoms, midge larvae (Diptera), small clams, and zooplankton (primarily copepods). Food habits are similar to E. sucetta, the lake chubsucker (Flemmer and Woolcott 1966; Gatz 1979; Sheldon and Meffe 1993). Feeding begins 7.4 days after hatching at a length of 7.7 mm TL (Kay et al. 1994).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

Two subspecies recognized, E. o. claviformis, which occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Basins, and the Atlantic Slope subspecies E. o. oblongus (Wall and Gilbert 1980). E. oblongus is most closely related to E. sucetta, and two species are known to hybridize (Hanley 1977). The genus Erimyzon is most closely related to Minytrema, and both genera are placed within the tribe Moxostomatini (Smith 1992).


Erimyzon oblongus is most similar to the lake chubsucker. It differs from the lake chubsucker in its higher lateral scale count (usually 39-40 or more versus 37 or fewer) and its lower dorsal ray count (10-11 versus 11-12). (Gilbert and Wall 1985). Compared to lake chubsuckers, creek chubsuckers have more cylindrical bodies, lighter colored fins and less deeply emarginated caudal fins (Ross 2001).


Host Records:

Cestoda: Monobothrium sp. Biacetabulum sp. (Arnold et. al 1967); Acanthocephala: Neoechinorhynchus prolixoides, Crustacea: Lernaea cyprinacea (Hoffman 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance




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Carlander, K.D. 1969. Handbook of Freshwater fishery biology. Vol.1. The Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames.

Carnes, W.C., Jr. 1958. Contributions to the biology of the eastern creek chubsucker, Erimyzon oblongus (Mitchill). Master’s thesis, North Carolina Sate Coll., Raleigh.

Cook, F.A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commision, Jackson.

Curry, K. D. and A. Spacie. 1984. Differntial Use of Stream Habitat by Spawning Catostomids. American Midland Naturalist 111(2):267-279.

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Goldstein, R.M., and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. pp. 123-202 in T.P. Simon, editor. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

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