Osmerus mordax, Rainbow smelt : fisheries, gamefish

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Osmerus mordax (Mitchill 1814)

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

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

Actinopteri (ray-finned fishes) > Osmeriformes (Freshwater smelts) > Osmeridae (Smelts)
Etymology: Osmerus: Greek, osme = odorous; similar to freshly cut cucumbers (Ref. 45335);  mordax: mordax meaning biting (Ref. 10294).  More on author: Mitchill.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Marine; freshwater; brackish; pelagic-oceanic; anadromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 425 m (Ref. 58426), usually ? - 150 m (Ref. 96339).   Temperate; 6°C - 18°C (Ref. 1998); 73°N - 41°N, 167°W - 53°W (Ref. 86798)

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

North Atlantic: Atlantic drainages from Lake Melville in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada to Delaware River in Pennsylvania, USA and west through Great lakes. Arctic and Pacific drainages from Bathurst Inlet, Northwest Territories to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Also Pacific drainages of Asia.

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.

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Nerito-pelagic (Ref. 58426). Inhabits cool clear lakes, medium to large rivers, and coastal waters (Ref. 86798). A schooling species that occurs in midwater of lakes or inshore coastal waters (Ref. 1998); at temperatures ranging from 7.2-15.6°C. Coastal population are anadromous (Ref, 86798). 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

Mecklenburg, K.C., P.R. Møller and D. Steinke, 2011. Biodiversity oif the Arctic marine fishes: taxonomy and zoogeography. Marine Biodiversity 41(1):109-140. (Ref. 86838)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 123251)

  Least Concern (LC) ; Date assessed: 01 March 2012

CITES (Ref. 123416)

Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

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

More information

Common names
Spawning aggregation
Egg development
Aquaculture profile
Allele frequencies
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

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Internet sources

Alien/Invasive Species database | Aquatic Commons | BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | DiscoverLife | ECOTOX | Faunafri | Fishipedia | Fishtrace | GenBank(genome, nucleotide) | GloBI | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | MitoFish | Otolith Atlas of Taiwan Fishes | Public aquariums | PubMed | Reef Life Survey | Socotra Atlas | Tree of Life | Wikipedia(Go, Search) | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates based on models

Preferred temperature (Ref. 115969): 0.2 - 6.9, mean 2.7 °C (based on 724 cells).
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.5625   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00417 (0.00318 - 0.00546), b=3.13 (3.05 - 3.21), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  3.0   ±0.0 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  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.