carp, hardy freshwater fish, Cyprinus carpio, the largest member of the minnow family; it is also known as the common carp. A native of Black, Caspian, and Aral sea basins of Eurasia, the carp has been introduced widely elsewhere in the world and has become so well established that it is called the English sparrow of the fishes. Many variations in color and form have developed. Carp have four barbels (
whiskers) around the mouth and are usually dark greenish or brown (occasionally yellowish or silvery), with red on some of the fins. Most carp are scaled, although the mirror carp variant has only a few scattered scales and the leather carp has none. Carp may reach a length of 3 ft (91 cm) and a weight of 25 lbs (11.3 kg). They are bottom feeders, eating chiefly aquatic plants but also insects and small animals; their habit of rooting in the mud often makes the water unfit for the feeding and spawning of other fish, and they compete with waterfowl for food. However, they are valued commercially as food fish, especially in Europe, where they are sometimes bred and raised for this purpose. In the United States, the introduced carp has thrived in parts of the Midwest, and is regarded as an invasive species; it can be destructive to the aquatic ecosystem and displace native species. Ornamental varieties are bred in Japan. See also Asian carp. The common carp are classified in the phylum Chordata, class Actinopterygii, order Cypriniformes, family Cyprinidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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