Species Description: Species Description: Mugil curema is a pelagic schooling fish in the family Mugilidae (Carvalho 2007). Its body is compressed and elongate. The dorsal surface of the white mullet is blue, green or olive with bluish reflections while sides are silvery providing camouflage from predators. Juvenile M. curema have a bright gold or yellow spot behind the opercle (bony plates which support the gill covers) (Bonner 2007). There is marked variation in the number of scales and pectoral fin rays among different populations. Most individuals have widely separated spiny-rayed dorsal fins with 4 spines and nine soft rays and pelvic fins with 1 spine and 5 branched soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 9 soft rays (Nirchio et al. 2005).
Larval white mullet that are larger than 7 mm can be distinguished from its congener M. cephalus by the longer caudal peduncle and the pigmented second dorsal fin found on M. cephalus (Ditty and Shaw 1996).
Potentially Misidentified Species: Mugil cephalus Linnaeus, 1758, Mugil brasiliensis Spix and Agassiz, 1831 and Mugil gaimardianus Desmarest, 1831
Regional Occurrence: Mugil curema occurs throughout the western hemisphere in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Bermuda, Gulf of Mexico to southern Brazil, and in the Eastern Atlantic from the Gulf of California to Chile (Nirchio et al. 2005, Bonner 2007) Adult white mullets are usually found in coastal waters such as bays, beaches, lagoons, and tidal rivers. Spawning events occur offshore along the outer continental shelf (Marin et al. 2003). Juveniles are usually abundant in bays and estuaries in the Atlantic coast (Bozeman and Dean 1987, Bonner 2007). The white mullet is most commonly found in habitats with submerged vegetation (Castillo-Rivera et al. 2002).
IRL Distribution: Schools of white mullet are common in the salt marshes of the Indian River Lagoon (Nordlie 2003) and occur in its impounded wetlands in the spring (Poulakis et al. 2002).
Age, Size, Lifespan: The average lifespan of Mugil curema is about 19 years (Bonner 2007). Adults can reach a maximum size of 355-360 mm standard length. Males and females are not reproductive until they reach the minimum size of 180 and 208 mm total length, respectively (Aguirre and Gallardo-Cabello 2004). Juveniles grow approximately 30-40 cm in 4 years. Males reach maturity beginning at two years of age and females mature at 3 years. The male to female ratio in a school is approximately equal (Aguirre and Gallardo-Cabello 2004).
Abundance: Mugil curema are most abundant during April and May, and found less frequently in August-September (Schauss 1977, Ditty and Shaw 1996). The Gulf of Mexico is one of the more heavily populated areas for M. curema (Nirchio et al. 2005).
Migration: Prejuvenile white mullet migrate from open seawater to estuaries and lagoons (Bonner 2007). In the fall of the first year, the young will school and move south to Florida and other subtropical and tropical regions (Jacot 1920).
Reproduction: M. curema are hermaphrodites and release their eggs and sperm simultaneously. The reproductive season of M. curema varies in locations throughout its range (Marin et al. 2003). In the Gulf of Mexico, the spawning season lasts from February to May (Aguirre and Gallardo-Cabello 2004). In North and South Carolina, the white mullet primarily spawns in the fall and winter (Bozeman and Dean 1987).
Embryology: The unfertilized eggs of the white mullet average about 0.82 mm in diameter. When the egg is fertilized, it increases to an average diameter of 0.90 mm. The embryos have a yolk sac, therefore the pelagic larvae are non-feeding. Juveniles start migrating to beaches and in estuaries at about 28 days old (Collins 1985).
Trophic Mode: Juveniles are omnivorous and receive the majority of their nutrition from the plankton. Juvenile and adult Mugil curema feed mostly on sediment particles, detritus, diatoms, green algae, and blue-green algae, as well as similar proportions of each item.
Fishery: Mugil curema is a commercially important fish throughout the world (Marin et al. 2003). The wholesale landing value for the white mullet in the Gulf Coast states from 1994-1998 was reported to be 38.2 million dollars. Mugil curema also represents a substantial recreational fishery.
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