Sphyraena sphyraena

The Sphyraena sphyraena also known as Mediterranean barracuda, is a species characterized by its elongated, fusiform, very hydrodynamic body with an almost cylindrical cross section. The general size of Sphyraena sphyraena specimens is 60-70 cm long and up to 6 kg in weight, although specimens have been reported to exceed these figures.

Source: FAO

Sphyraena sphyraena has a well-developed lateral line. Its head is elongated, which makes its jaws long, with the lower jaw being more prominent than the upper. The jaws do not reach beyond the front edge of the eye, neither in juveniles nor in adult specimens. The jaws are provided with very developed, robust and extremely sharp teeth. The base coloration of this species is between a greenish gray and lead gray, with the belly completely silver. Sometimes, it can present between 20 and 22 dark colored transversal bands, which are diffused by the flanks. We cannot use these transversal bands to identify this species, since there are individuals that present them and others that do not.

Sphyraena sphyraena has two dorsal fins, the first one has 5 spiny rays, while the second one, in a more posterior position, has one spiny ray and 9 soft rays. The pectoral fins are small compared to the body size. The posterior end of the pectoral fins does not go beyond the origin of the pelvic fins. The pelvic fins are born at the beginning of the first dorsal fin. Its anal fin has a spinous radius and 9 soft rays, while the caudal fin is forked.

A distinctive feature that differentiates it from the other species of barracuda present in the Mediterranean (Sphyraena viridensis) is the presence of scales on the operculum. Sphyraena sphyraena has the entirety of the operculum covered by scales, while Sphyraena viridensis has no scales on the rear edge of the operculum. Although this distinctive feature will not be very useful if we want to identify the species through photographs. In order to distinguish between these two similar species, we will have to rely on 3 differential characteristics. The first one is located in the operculum. The rear edge of the operculum in Sphyraena sphyraena has a single spine, while in Sphyraena viridensis there are two spines. The second distinctive feature is the second and third spines of the first dorsal fin. These are in Sphyraena sphyraena approximately the same height as the highest radius of the second dorsal fin, while in Sphyraena viridensis they are always smaller. Finally, the third distinctive feature is the interior coloration of the mouth, which in Sphyraena sphyraena is white, while in Sphyraena viridensis is yellowish.

Sphyraena sphyraena is a pelagic species, predator of perciformes and cephalopods, which we can find sometimes forming schools of more than 100 individuals, although it is also possible to find it alone. During the months of May to August the reproduction of Sphyraena sphyraena occurs, period during which the females release hundreds of thousands of eggs that will be fertilized externally by the sperm released from the males.