Monday, August 17, 2009

Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)

The smelt migrates to the upper reaches of rivers to spawn, although it 'lives generally close to the European coastline from Scandinavia to the English Channel. It is slender with a transparent body, large eyes and a mouth with large teeth. It grows to a maximum length of 30 cm. Its lateral line terminates behind the pectoral fins. The back is green-grey, the sides are a silvery colour and the belly is white. It spawns in March and April in the river. The eggs at first rest on the gravel, but later the outer membrane bursts and the eggs float freely in the river. The larval stage of the smelt is fairly long; only after it has reached a length of 4 to 5 cm, does it develop scales and swim into the sea. Here it lives on plankton, crustaceans and small fish. In certain areas of its habitat it is fished for commercially; its flesh smells of cucumbers.

Maximum size and weight: 30 cm, 0.5 kg.

Identifying characteristics: Transparent body, large toothed mouth and large eyes. Lateral line terminates behind pectoral fins. Back green-grey, sides and belly silvery white.

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