Mugil cephalus Linnaeus, 1758
Flathead grey mullet
photo by Randall, J.E.

Family:  Mugilidae (Mullets)
Max. size:  100 cm SL (male/unsexed); max. reported age: 16 years
Environment:  benthopelagic; depth range 0 - 120 m, catadromous
Distribution:  Cosmopolitan in coastal waters of the tropical, subtropical and temperate zones of all seas. Eastern Pacific: California, USA to Chile (Ref. 2850). Western Pacific: Japan to Australia (Ref. 9812). Western Indian Ocean: from India to South Africa (Ref. 4393). Western Atlantic: Nova Scotia, Canada to Brazil (Ref. 7251); Cape Cod to southern Gulf of Mexico (Ref. 26938); absent in the Bahamas and most of West Indies and Caribbean (Ref. 7251, 9761). Eastern Atlantic: Bay of Biscay to South Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea (Ref. 7399). Reported in Sea of Okhotsk (Ref. 50550).
Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): 5-5; Dorsal soft rays (total): 7-9; Anal spines: 3-3; Anal soft rays: 8-9. Diagnosis: body stout, cylindrical in cross-section, slightly compressed; head broad and flattened (Ref. 57400). Well developed adipose eyelid (Ref. 40476, 57400) covering most of pupil (Ref. 57400). Upper lip thin and without papillae (Ref. 57400), with 1-2 outer rows of small, moderately close-set, unicuspid teeth and up to 6 inner rows of smaller, bicuspid teeth (Ref. 81659). Lower lip with outer row of small unicuspid teeth and sometimes 1 or more inner rows of smaller, bicuspid teeth (Ref. 81659). Hind end of upper jaw reaching a vertical line from anterior eye margin; maxillary pad not visible below corner of mouth when closed; origin of 1st dorsal fin nearer to snout tip than to caudal-fin base (Ref. 57400). Anterior parts and bases of 2nd dorsal and anal fins with a moderately dense coverage of scales (Ref. 57400, 81659). Pectoral axillary process (Ref. 57400). 13-15 scale rows between origins of dorsal and pelvic fins (Ref. 57400, 81659). Pelvic fins, anal fin, and lower lobe of caudal fin yellowish in specimens from the tropical Atlantic coast of Africa (Ref. 57400, 81659). Description: lips thin; pectoral fins short (when folded forward does not reach eye); anal spines 3 in adults, anal soft rays 8 in adults, 9 in larvae (Ref. 40476). 36-42 (usually 38 or 39) scales in longitudinal series (excluding scales on caudal fin base); 13-15 scales between pelvic and first dorsal fins; anal fin with 3 spines and 8 (rarely 9) segmented rays in adults (first spine very short and usually hidden by overlying scales), usually 2 spines and 9 soft rays in juveniles <35 mm SL; pectoral fin 61-83% of head length, with 1 short, unsegmented ray dorsally and 15-17 (mode 16) longer, segmented rays; pharyngobranchial organ with single, large valve, often shorter (anteroposteriorly) than deep (dorsoventrally)(Ref. 81659). Coloration: live specimens: dorsally greyish olive, greyish brown (Ref. 81659), bluish-grey (Ref. 57400) to olive-green (Ref. 40476). Flanks silvery(-grey)(Ref. 40476, 57400, 81659) with golden reflections (Ref. 57400) and 7-10 longitudinal dark bands following rows of scales (Ref. 57400, 81659), sometimes distinctive (Ref. 40476), bands less conspicuous on ventral parts of flanks (Ref. 81659). Fish from estuarine waters may have duller flanks and be duller blue or dirty brown dorsally (Ref. 81659). Abdomen off-white (Ref. 40476, 81659). Fins dusky, with numerous fine black speckles, particularly on dorsal and caudal fins; pelvic fins paler than other fins (Ref. 81659). Pelvic fins, anal fin and lower lobe of caudal fin yellowish in specimens from the tropical Atlantic coast of Africa (Ref. 57400, 81659). Dark spot at origin of pectoral fin (Ref. 81659). Preserved specimens: dorsum dark brown, flanks lighter brown or silvery with longitudinal dark bands, and ventral parts of body pale/yellowish or silvery (Ref. 81659).
Biology:  Adults are found in coastal waters (Ref. 2850, 44894, 57400), often entering estuaries and rivers (Ref. 2847, 3573, 11230, 44894, 57400), sometimes far-up-river, lagoons and hypersaline environments (Ref. 57400). They are usually in schools over sand or mud bottom (Ref. 2850), between 0 and 10 m, occurring equally in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters (Project MUGIL). They are mainly diurnal, feeding on detritus, micro-algae and benthic organisms (Ref. 56548, 74902, 74760). Juveniles feed on zooplankton until about 3.0 cm SL (Ref. 59043). Reproduction takes place at sea, at various times of the year depending on the location (Ref. 74907, Amour). Adults form schools and migrate offshore to spawn and developing larvae migrate back inshore (Ref. 81659). There is absence of an obligatory freshwater phase in the life cycle (Ref. 74752). Females spawn 0.8 to 2.6 million eggs which develop at sea (Ref. 74912, Chen & Su 1986). Sexually mature at 3 to 4 years (Ref. 74902). Maximum length reported as 120 cm SL (Ref. 7399, 57400, 81659) remains to be confirmed (Project MUGIL). Maximum weight reported as 12 kg (Ref. 56527) seems too high for the area and remains to be confirmed (Project MUGIL). Widely cultivated in freshwater and brackish ponds (Ref. 2847, Jackson 1984, Liao 1981). Marketed fresh, dried, salted, and frozen; roe sold fresh or smoked (Ref. 9321); also used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166).
IUCN Red List Status: (Ref. 115185)
Threat to humans:  harmless
Country info:   

Entered by: Papasissi, Christine - 17.10.90
Modified by: Musschoot, Tobias - 31.10.17
Checked by: Froese, Rainer - 16.01.06

Source and more info: For personal, classroom, and other internal use only. Not for publication.

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