Mackerel combines the qualities that are useful for a person: it is tasty, lives crowded and multiplies well. This allows you to catch it in large quantities annually, and at the same time not to cause damage to the population: unlike many other fish species that suffer from moderate fishing, mackerel is even very active at all.
Origin of view and description
The ancestors of fish appeared a very long time ago - over 500 million years ago. The very first one that has been reliably established is pikaya, a creature 2-3 centimeters in size, looking more like a worm than a fish. Pikaya had no fins, and she swam, bending the body. And only after a long evolution did the first species resembling modern ones appear.
This happened at the beginning of the Triassic period, at the same time a class of ray-finned arose, to which the mackerel belongs. Although the oldest of the ray-finned are also very different from modern ones, the basics of their biology have remained the same. And yet, the ray-fin fish of the Mesozoic era almost all became extinct, and the species that inhabit the planet now have already arisen in the Paleogene era.
After the extinction that occurred on the border of the Mesozoic and Paleozoic, about 66 million years ago, the evolution of fish went much faster - like many other orders. Speciation went much more actively, because it was the fish that began to dominate in water bodies, having suffered from extinction less than other aquatic animals. It was then, at the very beginning of the new era, that the first representatives of the mackerel family appeared: then the extinct Landanichthys and Sphyraenodus, as well as the surviving genus of bonito. The oldest finds of these fish are more than 65 million years old.
Mackerels themselves appeared a little later, by the beginning of the Eocene, that is, about 55 million years ago, at the same time, most of the other genera belonging to the mackerel family were formed, and its real flowering began, which continues to this day. The period of the most active speciation ended then, but individual species and even genera continued to appear in subsequent eras.
The genus of mackerel was described was K. Linnaeus in 1758, received the name Scomber. It is noteworthy that the family to which it belongs (mackerel) and even the order (mackerel-like) was named for this fish. From the point of view of systematics, this is not entirely true, because mackerels were far from being the first even in the family, but this genus is best known.
Appearance and features
Photo: What does a mackerel look like?
The average length of this fish is 30-40 cm, maximum 58-63 cm. The weight of an adult is on average 1-1.5 kg. Her body is elongated, in the form of a spindle. The snout is pointed. It is most easily recognized by the characteristic dark stripes on the back, despite the fact that the belly does not have them - the transition from a striped color to a plain one in the middle of the body of the fish is very sharp.
The mackerel's back is dark blue with a steel sheen, and the sides and belly are silver with a yellowish tinge. As a result, when a mackerel is shown at the surface, it is difficult for birds to see it, because it merges with water in color; on the other hand, it is hardly noticeable for fish swimming lower, since for them it merges with the color of the sky, as it is seen through the water column.
Mackerel has well-developed fins, and it has additional fins, allowing it to swim faster and better maneuver. All species have a swimming bladder except the Atlantic: in combination with a streamlined body and developed muscles, this allows it to swim at a higher speed than other species can develop, up to 80 km / h.
It reaches this speed in a sharp throw in just two seconds, which is comparable to the acceleration of the fastest cars, but it can also hold it in seconds. Usually, all types of mackerel swim at a speed of 20-30 km / h, in this mode they can spend most of the day and not be exhausted - but you need to eat a lot for this.
Mackerel’s teeth are small, they do not allow hunting for large prey: it is very difficult to tear their tissues, they can only bite through very weak scales and soft tissues of small fish.
Interesting fact: When a large school of mackerels rises to the very surface of the water, then due to the movement of these fish, a hum occurs that can be heard even at a distance of more than a kilometer.
Where does mackerel live?
Photo: Mackerel fish
Each species of this fish has its own range, although partially they overlap:
- Atlantic mackerel is found in the North Atlantic, and is found in the Mediterranean Sea. In warm times it can reach the White Sea, and most of all in the North;
- African mackerel also lives in the Atlantic, but to the south, their ranges intersect, starting from the Bay of Biscay. It can also be found in the Canary Islands and the southern half of the Black Sea. Most common in the Mediterranean Sea, especially in its southern part. Juveniles are found all the way to Congo, but adults swim to the north;
- Japanese mackerel lives on the eastern coast of Asia and around Japan, the islands of Indonesia, to the east it can be found up to Hawaii;
- Australian mackerel is found off the coast of Australia, as well as New Guinea, the Philippines, Hainan and Taiwan, Japan, spread to the north up to the Kuril Islands. It can also be found far from the main range: in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf. Although this species is also being fished, it is valued below the Japanese.
As you can see, mackerel lives mainly in waters of moderate temperature: it is small and too far to the north, in the seas of the Arctic Ocean, and in too hot tropical ones. At the same time, nevertheless, the warmth of the waters of those seas in which she lives varies greatly. This is due to seasonal migrations: it moves to places where water is at an optimum temperature (10-18 ° C).
Practically only the fish inhabiting the Indian Ocean do not migrate: there the water temperature changes little during the year, and therefore there is no need for migrations. Some populations migrate over fairly long distances, for example, Black Sea mackerel swims in the North Atlantic in winter - thanks to the warm currents, the water there remains in the optimal range. When spring comes, she makes the return journey.
Now you know where the mackerel is found. Let’s see what this fish eats.
What does mackerel eat?
Photo: Mackerel in the water
The menu of this fish includes:
- small fish;
- larvae and caviar.
While the mackerel is small, it mainly consumes plankton: it filters the water and eats various small crustaceans that are in it. It also feeds on small crabs, larvae, insects and the like small animals, without making a big difference between them.
But it can also be engaged in predation: to hunt various kinds of small fish. Most often, it feeds on young herring or sprats from fish. Such a menu is more characteristic for an already adult fish, and with shoals it can attack even very large prey.
A large school of mackerel can also prey on schools of other fish that try to escape by moving to the very surface of the water. Then the confusion usually begins: the mackerel themselves prey on small fish, birds dive on them, dolphins and other large predators swim to the noise.
Mackerel fry often eat their own relatives. Although cannibalism is common in adults: the largest fish often eat juveniles. All mackerels have a good appetite, but it is better than the Australian ones, this fish is known for sometimes throwing itself even on a bare hook, so inclined to devour everything indiscriminately.
Interesting fact: Mackerel can also be fished, but not so simply because of its ability to abrupt and strong jerks. She can get off the hook, it is worth a little gape - because fans of sport fishing love her. But you won’t be able to catch it from the shore, you need to do this from the boat, and it’s best to get away from the shore properly.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Sea Mackerel
Active in the daytime and at dusk, rest at night. When hunting for other fish make a sudden throw, most often from an ambush. During such short throws they are able to achieve very high speed, so it is very difficult to get away from them.
Pelagic fish, that is, usually lives at a shallow depth. Lives in shoals, and sometimes mixed: in addition to the mackerel themselves, it may include sardines and some other fish. They tend to hunt both in packs and individually. When hunting together, schools of small fish often rise to the surface, where mackerels continue to chase after them.
As a result, other aquatic predators, interested in what is happening, and birds, primarily seagulls, come into play - so some mackerels from hunters turn into prey, because they lose their vigilance when they try to catch other fish.
But all this applies to the warm season. For several winter months, mackerel completely changes its lifestyle and falls into a kind of hibernation. Although this cannot be called full hibernation, the fish gather in large groups in wintering pits, and for a long time remain without movement - which means they eat nothing.
Mackerel lives for a long time - 15-18 years, sometimes 22-23 years. It grows more slowly with age, the best age for fishing is 10-12 years - by this time it reaches a fairly large size, and the meat becomes the most delicious.
Social structure and reproduction
Mackerels live in schools, both from fish of the same species and mixed, most often with herring, because they are usually caught together. Fish of the same size get stuck in schools, very rarely large fish of 10-15 years old, and very young ones appear in them. Spawns from the second year, after which it does it annually. The most adult mackerels that have reached 10-15 years are the first to spawn, in the Atlantic population this happens in April. Then gradually younger individuals go for spawning, and so on until the last weeks of June, when fish aged 1-2 years spawn.
Due to the annual reproduction and the large number of eggs that are being washed at a time (approximately 500,000 eggs per individual), mackerel is bred very quickly, and even despite the large number of threats and industrial catch, there are a lot of them. To spawn, the fish goes into warm waters off the coast, but at the same time it selects a place deeper and lays eggs at a depth of 150-200 m. This provides protection against many caviar eaters, including other fish that do not swim so deep.
The eggs are small, about a millimeter in diameter, but in addition to the embryo, each one also has a drop of fat, which it can eat at first. After the mackerel spawns, it swims away, but the eggs need to lie 10-20 days for the larva to form. The exact period depends on the parameters of the water, primarily its temperature, because the mackerel is trying to choose a warmer place for spawning.
Only the larva that was born is simultaneously defenseless against predators, and very aggressive itself. She attacks everything that is smaller and seems weaker, and devours the prey if she managed to overcome it - her appetite is simply extraordinary. Including eat their own kind. When a larva appears only 3 mm long, but, actively eating, it begins to grow very quickly. Since there is not enough food for everyone, most of them die during this period, but the rest grow to 4-5 cm by the fall - however, they still remain quite small and defenseless.
After this, the period of the most active growth passes, the fish become less bloodthirsty, and the way they behave more and more begins to resemble adults. But even when mackerels become sexually mature, their size is still small, and they continue to grow.
Natural enemies of mackerel
Photo: What does a mackerel look like?
Mackerel is hunted by many predatory fish and other marine animals.
- sea lions.
Despite the fact that she swims quickly, it is difficult for her to escape from such large predators simply because of the difference in size. Therefore, when such large fish attack, the flock can only rush in different directions. In this case, each individual can only count on the fact that the predator will not chase it.
At the same time, predators themselves can attack in groups at once, and then the school of mackerel suffers very much, for one such attack it can be reduced by a quarter. But in mixed schools, another fish is usually more at risk, because mackerels are faster and more maneuverable.
When the fish is at the very surface of the water, it begins to threaten the attacks of large birds and marine mammals. Her sea lions and pelicans are especially fond of. Even fed up with other prey, they often wait for just a mackerel, because its fatty meat is a delicacy for them.
Interesting fact: When buying frozen mackerel, it is important to pay attention to several signs by which you can understand that it was stored correctly and not expired. Mackerel should be shiny and elastic, without wrinkled spots on the skin - this suggests that it did not defrost before.
The meat should be cream colored. If it is too pale or yellowish - the fish was caught too long or thawed during storage or transportation. A large amount of ice indicates improper storage, so the meat is likely to be loose.
Population and species status
Photo: Mackerel fish
The status of the genus of mackerel does not cause concern, as well as each species included in it. These fish multiply rapidly and occupy a wide range, because in the waters of the oceans there are a very large number of them. The highest density is observed off the coast of Europe and Japan.
Active fishing is in progress, because meat is highly valued, it is characterized by a high degree of fat content (about 15%) and a large amount of vitamin B12, as well as other vitamins and minerals. It is also important that there are no small bones in it. This fish has long become one of the most famous in Europe and Russia.
It is also popular in Japan, where it is also actively caught, and besides, it is bred - thanks to effective reproduction, it is profitable to do this even despite the relatively slow growth. However, it is noticeably accelerated in conditions of artificial breeding, but its minus is that the fish does not grow to the same size as in the natural environment.
They catch mackerel with gear, nets, seines, trawls. Often it is mined in wintering pits, where it is very crowded. But even despite active prey, there is no decline in the mackerel population, it remains stable, or even grows altogether - for example, in recent decades it has been noted that it has become more common in the Pacific Ocean.
Like a small predator mackerel firmly takes a place in the food chain: it eats small fish and other animals, and predators feed on it larger. For many, this fish is among the main prey, and without it they would have lived much more difficult. People are no exception, they are also very active in catching and consuming this fish.