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REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY The major spawning period for pirate perch in the Atchafalaya River Basin, Louisiana, is February through March. It appears that adult pirate perch are not branchial brooders but rather release their adhesive eggs over leaf litter and woody debris. They can live up to four years or longer. CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN. SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS This species is considered a water quality indicator species by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for the Gulf Coastal Ecoregion.

This feeding behavior is facilitated by well-developed sensory pores on the head; a large, inferior mouth; and long, fleshy barbels on the chin in some species that are believed to aid in locating prey. Food consists of worms, crustaceans, echinoderms, and small bottom fishes such as gobies and small flatfishes. In turn, ophidiiform fishes are important food sources for many larger fish predators including skates, rays, sharks, eels, cod, hakes, goosefishes, and flounders. In addition, cusk-eels and their relatives living in shallow waters are prey to wading birds.

Distribution A cusk-eel (Ophidion scrippsae) swimming near southern California. (Photo by Kerstitch. Bruce Coleman, Inc. ) 16 Most ophidiiform fishes are distributed broadly in all oceans, sometimes to abyssal depths and extending to shallow seas and estuaries. Ophiidiforms occur from Greenland south to the Weddell Sea, but most species are found in warmer waters of the tropics and subtropics. Carapids, ophidiids, and aphyonids are strictly marine, whereas some bythitid species are estuarine or reside in freshwater.

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