Elops lacerta Valenciennes, 1847
West African ladyfish
Elops lacerta
photo by FAO

Family:  Elopidae (Tenpounders)
Max. size:  100 cm TL (male/unsexed)
Environment:  pelagic-neritic; freshwater; brackish; marine; depth range 1 - 50 m,
Distribution:  Eastern Atlantic: coastal waters of West Africa from Mauritania to Angola or Namibia (Ref. 4445, 81265, 81629). Sometimes it enters freshwater, like in Cross River and Kouilou-Niari River (Ref. 81629). It is often confused with Elops senegalensis (Ref. 81629).
Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): 0-0; Anal spines: 0-0. Diagnosis: Elops lacerta is characterized by 17-19 gill-rakers on lower limb of first gill arch and small scales, those in lateral line numbering 72 to 83 and ornamented with a small, unbranched, tubule (Ref. 2844, 81265, 81629). Description: Spindle-shaped fish, oval in cross-section (Ref. 81265). Eyes large, partially covered by an adipose eyelid; mouth terminal, gape wide, the upper jaw extending distinctly beyond hind margin of eye; lower jaw slightly prominent, with a bony gular plate placed ventrally between its two branches (Ref. 81265). All fins spineless; a single dorsal fin positioned at about mid-length of body, its long base enclosed in a scaly sheath; pectoral fins set low on sides, pelvics abdominal; both paired fins with a scaly axillary process above their bases; caudal fin deeply forked (Ref. 81265). Colouration: Silvery on the sides, dorsum and head greyish black in preserved and bluish green in live specimens (Ref. 2844, 81265, 81629). Preserved specimens with dorsal and caudal fins greyish, other fins whitish or transparent; in life all fins are tinted a pale yellow; extremity of dorsal fin, as well as superior and posterior border of caudal, more or less broadly edged with dark grey (Ref. 2844, 81265, 81629). The colour pattern of the leptocephalus larvae is characterized by a strong line of dark pigment along the ventral border of the body and flanks with scattered melanophores; but species level identification of these larvae, Elops lacerta or E. senegalensis, remains uncertain (Ref. 81629).
Biology:  Elops lacerta lives in shallow coastal waters over sandy/muddy bottoms, occasionally entering brackish waters and the lower reaches of rivers; from inshore and some way up tidal rivers to edge of shelf (Ref. 4445, 81265, 81629). The reproduction takes place in the sea (Ref. 81265). It feeds primarily on small fishes, mainly clupeids, crustaceans and molluscs; large specimens also feed on insects (Ref. 81629).
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern (LC); Date assessed: 16 February 2009 Ref. (123251)
Threat to humans:  harmless
Country info:   

Entered by: Luna, Susan M. - 06.02.92
Modified by: Boden, Gert - 05.09.18
Checked by: Froese, Rainer - 05.02.94

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