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Species: Elops smithi, Malacho, Southern Ladyfish

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75-78 (73-80) vertebrae
Caribbean to Brazil
LL 102-118



Elops smithi Mcbride et al, 2010

Malacho, Southern Ladyfish

Body long and slender, fusiform, oval in cross section; large eye; mouth long, opens at front or low jaw slightly shorter; teeth small and granular; with an elongate bony plate between lower jaws; gill rakers 8-9 +13-15; 75-78 (73-80) vertebrae; fins without spines; 1 dorsal fin, 21-25 principal rays, upper margin concave; anal 14-17 principal rays; anal fin base slightly shorter than dorsal fin base; pectoral fins very low on side; pelvic fins 10-16, at middle of belly, under or slightly in front of level of origin of dorsal fin; tail fin deeply forked; lateral line is straight and complete; scales small, about 102-118 in lateral line.

Silvery, with bluish to greenish tones above; fins sometimes with a yellow tint.

Size: reaches about 91 cm.

Estuaries and hypersaline lagoons, and shallow inshore waters, particularly in bays, lagoons, and mangrove areas; mature adults further offshore.

Depth: 0-50 m.

New England to Brazil; uncommon to rare in the Gulf of Mexico and E US.

Note: Externally (fin ray counts, scale counts, gill raker counts, body proportions,) indistinguishable from E. saurus; the 2 species can be distinguished genetically, and by the number of vertebrae they have: 81-85 (79-87) in E. saurus, 75-78 (73-80) in E. smithi; apparent differences in lateral line scale counts are related to the latitude where larva developed, not where they were spawned. Larvae of E. smithi that drift north of the Caribbean and establish within the range of E. saurus die out within a year or so of their arrival (see McBride et al 2010).

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  • Brackish
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom + water column
  • Near Bottom
  • Sand & gravel
  • Submerged vegetation
  • Water column
  • Beach
  • Estuary
  • Mud
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Insects
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Data deficient
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 91
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 50