Sparus aurata

Of the 39 genera included in the Sparidae family, Sparus is the genus formed by 102 species among which we find Sparus aurata, or commonly known as gilthead seabream. It is a species of fish that is distributed in the waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the British Isles to Cape Verde, including the entire Mediterranean Sea in between. Although adults prefer deeper waters (30 meters), juveniles tend to frequent shallow coastal areas. There are records of sightings of specimens down to depths of 150 meters, especially during the breeding season. They have the ability to withstand various salt concentrations, so they can sometimes enter river deltas.

The body of Sparus aurata is oval, moderately deep and laterally compressed. The maximum size that this species can reach is fixed at 70 cm, although it is more common to observe specimens of about 35 cm in total length. The cephalic profile is curved, with small eyes and a mouth located in the lower part of the head oriented slightly obliquely. The mouth is equipped with thick lips, and its jaws have 4 to 6 cone-shaped teeth that resemble canine teeth and are located on both jaws in an anterior position. Following these canine teeth, we find teeth with a blunter shape that will progressively transform into molar teeth and that are organized forming between 2 and 4 rows on each side of both jaws. The teeth present in the two outermost rows are noticeably more robust than the rest of the teeth. The specimens of Sparus aurata have a dorsal fin formed by 11 spines followed by 13-14 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 11-12 soft rays.

As for the coloration of Sparus aurata, the body is silvery gray, with a large black spot at the origin of the lateral line, that is to say at the top of the operculum. It also has a golden stripe, which in fact gives its name to this species, and which is located between the eyes. This golden stripe is flanked by two darker areas that are not very well visualized in juveniles. Sometimes specimens may have several horizontal longitudinal lines on the sides of their bodies. The upper edge of the dorsal fin has a dark colored stripe, as well as on the fork of the caudal fin and the tips of its lobes, which are also usually black.

Usually we will observe specimens of this species either solitary or forming small groups. Sparus aurata is a sequential protandric hermaphrodite species, that is specimens at birth are males and therefore have developed male gonads, and later in the course of their life they change from being males to females. This process of sexual transformation of Sparus aurata occurs approximately when the specimens reach an age of 3 years. The time when the reproduction of this species occurs is between October and December, and as mentioned at the beginning, during this time the specimens tend to be in deeper waters than during the non-reproductive season.

As for the diet of Sparus aurata, it is carnivorous in nature, finding among its favorite prey various species of molluscs, crustaceans and other small fish. Occasionally it may eat some algae as a complement to its diet.