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Life in Freshwater

Pike ( Esox lucius )

Pike

The pike can be found at weights exceeding 25 kilograms although it is normally between 2 - 12 kg. The name comes from the general shape of the body, long and cylindrical. The mouth looks somewhat like a duck-bill and opens very wide. There are rows of needle-like teeth which face backwards to prevent the escape of its prey. The eyes are close together and the single dorsal fin is set far back above the anal fin. Within the flesh of the back are numerous tiny Y-shaped bones, not connected to the backbone. This is an unusual feature of fish generally. The young fish is very green but this darkens with age and develops banding to give good disruptive coloration..

Only one species of Pike exists in Europe although there are five known species in the world. It is a species capable of surviving in very cold waters and as such is found in most areas of northern Europe, left in remote places after the Ice Age. Common in Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and down through Central Europe and parts of the Mediterranean. It can be found in lakes and slow moving rivers. They will exist in high glacial lakes of the Alps (see photo above).

ECOLOGY: The disruptive coloration gives good crypsis in vegetation where it tends to hide waiting for its prey to swim passed. The eyes are close together giving excellent binocular vision, typical of a predator. They also have a modified retina to yield superior detail and a yellow filter to reduce the flare of light on the water whilst hidden in the shade. They are voracious carnivores, consuming anything that moves from fish, amphibians and water birds. They also eat large quantities of invertebrates. The availability of food has an influence on growth such that the large specimens are often found near high concentrations of salmon and trout. In such cases they are considered a pest. Pike spawn through late winter into spring. This is triggered by warming temperatures of the water. They travel to set spawning areas, males first. The parents writhe around in the water releasing eggs and sperm creating random fertilisation. Up to 20,000 eggs per kilogram of body flesh can be released by the female. When the larval fish first hatches it sticks to the vegetation, consuming the rest of the yolk and then starts on the zooplankton. By one month it is 4 cm long and consuming insect larvae. The 90% mortality rate drops sharply after this period. By a year old the pikelets are about 9 cm long. It takes more than three years to mature and the males rarely grow as long as the females. As a consequence they may be consumed by the female. It is not unusual to find a dead pike with another pike stuck in the mouth!

 Classification:

 

 Kingdom

Animal

 Phylum

Chordata

 Class

Pisces

 Order

 


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