striped mullet

characteristics

COMMON NAME

Striped Mullet

Scientific name

Mugil cephalus

LENGTH

12-20 inches

DIET

 Decaying plant material
Inorganic particles
Algae

FISH DESCRIPTION

Family: Mugilidae (mullets)

The striped mullet is also known as “jumping mullet.” A similar species that can be seen in the springs is the white mullet, also known as “silver mullet.”

Distinguishing features: Two widely spaced dorsal fins. Large eye parallel with mouth. Striped mullets have many thin horizontal stripes along their side. White mullets look similar to striped mullets but tend to be smaller, a shiny silver color without stripes, and have a dusky black edge to their tails.

Range, habitat and behavior: These typically saltwater and estuarine fish can be found in warm coastal seas worldwide; the two species most common in Florida (Striped and White) are common in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil. Often seen jumping out of the water and feeding on the bottom.

Diet: Algae, detritus, and other tiny marine and freshwater life. Mullet can be seen picking up mud off the bottom, which they filter with their gill rakers and inner teeth, and spitting it back out.

Mullet are usually 12-14 inches long, with a maximum length of 20 inches. They are common worldwide in warm waters. They can tolerate a large range of salinity, so you may see them in salt water as well as in the springs. 

Fun facts:

The mullet that you see in a freshwater spring has traveled at least once from the coast. Adult mullet migrate to saltwater spawning grounds in the fall and winter, and the resulting eggs hatch there. As mullet grow they may move into various habitats including freshwater rivers, saltmarshes, estuaries, the open sea – and freshwater springs. As adults, those that traveled into rivers and springs will migrate back to salt water to spawn.
 
Mullet are known for leaping out of the water. In fact, another name for striped mullet is “leaping mullet.” Though it is not known for certain why they do this, there is some evidence that they do this more frequently in oxygen-poor water, which supports the theory that it is done to clear their gills and give them an oxygen boost.
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