2 minute read

Mullets: Mugiliformes

Flathead Mullet (mugil Cephalus): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Flathead mullets commonly reach a length of 14 inches (35 centimeters) from the tip of the snout to the end of the body but may reach 47 inches (120 centimeters) from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. Fat covers a large portion of the eyes. Flathead mullets have several rows of teeth on the edges of the lips. The body is olive green on the back and silvery on the sides and belly, and there are about seven dark stripes along the sides. The pelvic fin, anal fin, and lower lobe of the tail fin are yellowish in some fish. The pelvic fins are the rear pair, corresponding to the rear legs of four-footed animals.

Geographic range: Flathead mullets live all over the world in warm water.

Habitat: Flathead mullets live in inshore marine waters, estuaries, lagoons, and rivers, usually in shallow water, rarely moving deeper than 656 feet (200 m). Adults may move far upriver.

Diet: Larvae and young flathead mullets feed on plankton.

Flathead mullets live in warm water all over the world. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)

Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage and must change form before becoming adults. Adults feed on invertebrates and algae (AL-jee), plantlike growths that live in water and have no true roots, stems, or leaves. These fish may gulp and filter sediment, browse over submerged surfaces, or feed at the surface.

Behavior and reproduction: Adult flathead mullets form schools and sometimes jump. Adults move offshore in unorganized groups to spawn, usually at night, before returning to near-shore waters with a low salt content or freshwater. The young remain in sheltered bays, lagoons, and estuaries until they are old enough to reproduce.

Flathead mullets and people: Flathead mullets are important food fish in many parts of the world.

Conservation status: Flathead mullets are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Berra, Tim M. Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001.

Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Knopf, 2002.

Schultz, Ken. Ken Schultz's Field Guide to Freshwater Fish. New York: Wiley, 2004.

Web sites:

"Production of Mullet Fish Larvae in UAE." Government of United Arab Emirates. http://www.uae.gov.ae/uaeagricent/FISHERIES/beyahfish_en.stm (accessed on October 10, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesMullets: Mugiliformes - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Flathead Mullet (mugil Cephalus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, MULLETS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS