Meet the Silver Surfperch

This is a common resident of the sandy surf zone. It is the smallest of the three common sand-dwelling surfperch of northern Oregon. It lives up to its name; it’s so silver it can be difficult to get a good photo of this little fish on dark wet sand.

Hook and line caught, in the swash
Silver surfperch, Hyperprosopon ellipticum

You will occasionally see striking orange or black spots on the anal fin of these fish, but this one just has a dull gray wash across the anal fin.


  1. are all of these critters living in the same area, geographically, and they’re all in the same part of the surf? in what ways are they differentiating themselves from the other species?

    1. Cool questions Megmi. Since it’s just you and me, I’ll try to answer. The geographic range of the three surfperch in my posts overlap substantially. I don’t know the extent to which they occupy the same part of the surf zone, but there is some overlap. Anglers trying for the red-tail surfperch routinely catch silver and walleye surfperch too. There is much more to the story, however, and I’ll devote some posts to that later.
      Finally, how are they different? Actually, they are not too different; I guess it depends on your frame of reference. Some differences are size, color, their prey. Things like this. My colleagues and I study these and more. Sharing information about these things is what this webpage is all about. You must be a biologist.

      1. That’s what I’m asking: how are their ecological niches different? In my introductory biology course, I teach my students that two organisms cannot occupy the same niche – one will outcompete the other, eventually, if they try. I am kind of a biologist (I used to be a real one, in a former life) but I’ve never really been an ecologist. So, I’m looking for how they are distinguishing themselves from each other in their environment, and avoiding direct overlap in too many ways.

        For example: what different prey do they consume?
        Are they egg layers? where do they lay their eggs?
        Are they mostly living in different regions of the water depth, but overlapping sporadically and accidentally? Or they really mostly hang out in the same regions, but eat different things, or make babies in different places…

  2. Hi Megmi, Like I was saying, we don’t know is the prey if the prey is much different. There are probably some differences in adult feeding; adult red-tailed surfperch are much bigger than adult silver surfperch. I’ll be reporting much more about this as I learn more about it. You’ve got me interested!

    This whole group of fishes are livebearers with internal fertilization. Like guppies. We don’t know much about the answers to your other questions. It’s a recent radiation (as I will describe later) so don’t expect huge differences. Look for color and behavior to be involved in the differentiation you are interested in.

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