SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mugil cephalus

CHARACTERISTICS: The body of the striped mullet is somewhat compressed and robust with a stout caudal peduncle. The head is short and wide with a small, oblique mouth and a strongly developed adipose eyelid. Because this species is a filter feeder, numerous close-set gill rakers are found in the gill chamber. The scales extend well onto the caudal fin and only slightly onto the dorsal and anal fins. Adults are typically bluish gray on the back and silvery on the sides and venter. Scales on the sides have dusky centers, giving the appearance of distinct horizontal stripes. Juveniles are a bright silvery color. Brownish pigment in the iris is generally more dispersed than is the gold eye pigment found in the white mullet, Mugil curema.

ADULT SIZE: 9 to 15 in (226 to 380 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Striped mullet are found worldwide in circumtropical areas. In the United States, this species is known from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in Pacific waters of southern California. Striped mullet are widespread in the lower reaches of the Alabama and lower Tombigbee rivers, decreasing in abundance near the Fall Line. We routinely encounter individuals in the Perdido, Conecuh, and Choctawhatchee rivers. Etnier and Starnes (1993) report striped mullet in the lower Tennessee River drainage, but we know of no collections from that drainage in Alabama at this time.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Generally striped mullet prefer open water of estuarine and freshwater environments, where they can be observed traveling in schools near the surface. Spawning occurs offshore during late fall and winter, with small mullet entering nearshore coastal waters by early spring. Juveniles grow quickly in the food-rich estuaries, beginning their schooling efforts at this small size. Older adults usually move inland in late summer as river discharge decreases and salt water progressively moves up stream. The young of this species eat microcrustaceans and insect larvae, while older individuals feed strictly on plants and associated plant material that they process in a gizzard. Striped mullet are among the few fish species to possess such an organ.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Linnaeus described the striped mullet in 1758.

Mugil means from the word mulgeo, meaning to suck.

Cephalus means head.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.