Herring Family – Clupeidae
The fish of the Herring or Clupeidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as sardinas. The family includes the herrings, hilsa, menhadens, sardines, and shads with 198 species placed in 54 genera. In Mexican waters there are twelve species found in the Atlantic, nine in the Pacific and one in both oceans. They are found globally, with most being part of small coastal schools in tropical marine waters.
Herrings range in length from 2.0 cm (0.8 inches) to 75 cm (30 inches). Their bodies are fusiform and built for quick, evasive swimming; they vary greatly in shape from round to strongly compressed and from thin to deep. They are normally silvery blue-green dorsally and silvery on their flanks; many have darker markings including spots behind their gill covers. They have a terminal mouth that opens at the front, ends before the eyes, is short but deep, and has either small teeth or no teeth. Their fins have no spines. Their anal fin is well back on the body with a short base and 12 to 29 rays. Their caudal fins are deeply forked. They have a single dorsal fin that is small and near the mid-point of the body. Their pectoral fins are set low on the body; their pelvic fins are located under the dorsal fin base at equidistance between the anal fin origin and the pectoral fin base. They have scuted keels along their abdomen and their lateral lines are either very short or non-existent. Their head is scaleless and their body is covered with smooth uniform scales.
Adults typically live in large shoals consisting of hundreds to thousands of individuals for protection against predation from birds, sharks, other predatory fish, whales, marine mammals, and jellyfish. They are known to form bait balls for protection. They consume zooplankton and small planktonic animals, but mainly crustaceans. Females produce up to 200,000 pelagic eggs per annum, which remain near the ocean surface and are capable of standing on their own.
Herrings play an essential role at the lower end of the food chain for the majority of marine fish and mammals. Many family members are important food fish comprising 50% of annual global fish catches. Commercially important species include the Atlantic Herring, Clupea harengus, the Atlantic Menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, the Gulf Menhaden, Brevoortia patronus, the Pacific Herring, Clupea pallasii, and the Spanish Sardine, Sardinella aurita. They are also used extensively to produce fish oil and fish meal. Some are excellent bait fish. They date to the early Paleogene period, 23 to 66 million years ago.
Members of the Herring family represented in the fish identification section of this website include six herrings, one sardine, and one shad, with one fish from the Atlantic, six from the Pacific and one that occurs in both oceans:
Blackstripe Herring, Lile nigrofasciata
Deepbody Thread Herring, Opisthonema libertate
False Pilchard, Harengula clupeola
Flatiron Herring, Harengula thrissina
Middling Thread Herring, Opisthonema medirastre
Pacific Sardine, Sardinops sagax
Round Herring, Etrumeus acuminatus
Threadfin Shad, Dorosoma petenense