Hitch (Lavinia exilicauda)

"Need to improve your spawning success rate? I can help." (Image Credit: Sony Pictures)

“Need to improve your spawning success rate? I can help.” (Image Credit: Sony Pictures)

No, we are not talking about that Hitch.

We are talking about this hitch:

The hitch (Lavinia exilicauda) is native to the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins of California. (Image Credit: René Reyes/U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

The hitch (Lavinia exilicauda) is native to the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins of California. (Image Credit: René Reyes/U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

The hitch (Lavinia exilicauda) is one of many species in Family Cyprinidae — carps, minnows and relatives. Growing to a little over 1 foot (36 cm) in length, the hitch is often described as very large minnow.

The name “minnow” really does cyprinids much injustice; in the English language, “minnow” carries such a connotation of blandness and impotence. Cyprinidae is in fact an incredibly diverse family of fishes, with more than 2,000 species found in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, ranging in size from the micro glassfish (Danionella translucida), which doesn’t get bigger than an M&M chocolate — to the giant barb (Catlocarpio siamensis), rumored to reach 9 feet (3 meters). Large cyprinids can be voracious predators, and small ones… well, they might nibble dead skin off your feet, as we learned when we visited Garra cambodigensis. Cyprinids also have given humanity two true classics of ornamental fishkeeping: the goldfish (Carassius auratus) and the carp (Cyprinus carpio) .

So the hitch is in some quality company. And its reproductive lifestyle is no less exciting.

Male hitch have no need for a Will Smith-type romance coach: they just go right up to the ladies and say hello. As is described in the classic text Inland Fishes of California (Moyle 2002):

Spawning is a mass affair accompanied by vigorous splashing. A ripe female is closely followed by 1 to 5 males, who apparently fertilize eggs immediately after their release. There is no territoriality.

No fighting over dates. Just a whole lot of lovin’:

Hitch spawning at Bell Hill Road Crossing on Adobe Creek, Clear Lake, California. (Image Credit: Richard Macedo/California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Hitch spawning at Bell Hill Road Crossing on Adobe Creek, Clear Lake, California. (Image Credit: Richard Macedo/California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Hitch are native to the tributaries of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins in California, United States, with distinct subspecies in certain areas.

One subspecies, the Clear Lake hitch (Lavinia exilicauda chi), will be evaluated for potential listing as a protected species by the State of California. A study published recently considered the Clear Lake hitch one of 20 native California freshwater fishes most vulnerable to impacts from future climate warming (Moyle et al. 2013).

The name “hitch” comes from a Pomo language word possibly attributed to this species — which was once a food source for Native American cultures in the region (Moyle 2002).

Lavinia exilicauda, the hitch. (Image Credit: Greg Cornish)

Lavinia exilicauda, the hitch. (Image Credit: Greg Cornish)

Lavinia exilicauda Baird & Girard, 1854
Hitch
Click for name etymology (ETYFish Project)
Click for names in other languages (FishBase)

Class Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
Order Cypriniformes (Carp-like Fishes)
Family Cyprinidae (Carps and Minnows)

FishBase Page: http://www.fishbase.org/summary/2796

Citations

Moyle, PB, JD Kiernan, PK Crain, RM Quiñones. 2013. Climate change vulnerability of native and alien freshwater fishes of California: a systematic assessment approach. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63883. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063883

Moyle, PB. 2002. Inland fishes of California, Revised Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press. 517p.

Full disclosure: I was once a pupil in Peter Moyle‘s introductory ichthyology course at University of California, Davis. Also, a coauthor on the climate change study, Joseph Kiernan, is a close friend and mentor. I gladly promote their expertise here.

– Ben Young Landis

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