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Osmerus mordax mordax  (Mitchill, 1814)

Rainbow smelt
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| Native range | All suitable habitat | PointMap | Year 2100 |
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Osmerus mordax mordax   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
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Image of Osmerus mordax mordax (Rainbow smelt)
Osmerus mordax mordax
Picture by Lyons, J.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Osmeriformes (Smelts) > Osmeridae (Smelts)
Etymology: Osmerus: Greek, osme = odorous; similar to freshly cut cucumbers (Ref. 45335);  mordax mordax: mordax meaning biting (Ref. 10294).

Environment / Climate / Range Ecology

Marine; freshwater; brackish; pelagic-oceanic; anadromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 425 m (Ref. 58426).   Temperate; 73°N - 41°N (Ref. 26213)

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 19.5  range ? - 19.8 cm
Max length : 35.6 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 1998); max. reported age: 7 years (Ref. 52222)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 12 - 16; Vertebrae: 58 - 70. Body elongate, laterally compressed, greatest depth at anterior of dorsal fin origin. Head moderate; eye moderately large; snout elongate, pointed. Mouth large; lower jaw protruding, maxillary extending to middle of eye or beyond, well toothed on vomer, palatine, pterygoid, basibranchial, dentary, maxillary, and tongue. Teeth specially enlarged on tongue and front of vomer. Body color is pale green on back, with purple, blue, and pink iridescent reflections on the side when freshly caught.

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

North Atlantic: Lake Melville, Labrador, Canada to Delaware River, Pennsylvania, (maybe to Virginia), and inland along Saint Lawrence River to Lake Superior. Northwest Pacific: off Russia (Ref. 26334).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Nerito-pelagic (Ref. 58426). A schooling species that occurs in midwater of lakes or inshore coastal waters (Ref. 1998); at temperatures ranging from 7.2-15.6°C. Migrates up to 1,000 km upstream in rivers (Ref. 6793). Occurs possibly to 425 m (Ref. 2851). Feeds on invertebrates such as amphipods, ostracods, aquatic insect larvae and aquatic worms (Ref. 1998); food also include copepods, euphausiids, mysids and small fishes (silversides, mummichogs and herring) (Ref. 5951, 10294). Headed, gutted, sold fresh, frozen and precooked. Eaten sautéed and fried (Ref. 9988).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Spawning runs occur when temperature is between 8.9-18.3°C, may last for 3 weeks, peak for 1 week. Lengths of both sexes decrease as spawning progress. Two or more tuberculated males maintain position against a female in swift water, eggs released in clusters and presumably milt released simultaneously. Spawning usually takes place at night, spawners move downstream to the lake during daytime.

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman, 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 184:1-966. (Ref. 1998)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)

CITES (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Harmless




Human uses

Fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
FAO(fisheries: production; publication : search) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

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Internet sources

Alien/Invasive Species database | BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | DiscoverLife | Faunafri | Fishtrace | GenBank(genome, nucleotide) | GOBASE | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | iSpecies | Public aquariums | PubMed | Scirus | SeaLifeBase | Tree of Life | uBio | Wikipedia(Go, Search) | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.6251   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00457 (0.00320 - 0.00653), b=3.10 (3.00 - 3.20), based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  3.0   ±0.0 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278):  Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (K=0.31; tm=2-6; tmax=6; Fec=8,500).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Moderate vulnerability (38 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Low.