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Author: Walbaum, 1792

Sardina pilchardus Walbaum, 1792

Diagnosis: small or moderate herring-like fishes, elongate, subcylindrical, belly with scutes but not sharply keeled. Hind margin of gill-opening smoothly rounded (without fleshy outgrowths); lower part of gill cover with 3-5 distinct bony striae radiating downward (in addition to normal fleshy radiating canals); gillrakers 44-106 on lower part of first arch. Pelvic fin origin well behind dorsal fin origin; last two anal finrays enlarged. Colour: back green or olive, flanks golden, shading to silvery white on belly; a series of dark spots along upper flanks, sometimes with a second or even third series below. Size: to 25 cm, usually 15-20 cm.

Habitat: coastal pelagic, at 25-55 m by day and 15-35 m by night; shoaling, migratory. Food: mainly planktonic crustaceans (Calanus, Pseudocalanus, Temora), also larger planktonic animals. Reproduction: at 20-25 m, near the shore or as much as 100 km out to sea, from April (English Channel), June to August (North Sea, also Black Sea), September to May (off European coasts of Mediterranean), and November to June (off African coasts of Mediterranean).

Distribution: Madeira, the Canaries and Atlantic coasts northward to Iceland (rare) and North Sea (uncommon in northern parts, absent in Baltic), also western Mediterranean and Adriatic, but unknown off Libya and uncommon in eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, Sea of Marmara and Black Sea. Elsewhere, Atlantic coasts southward to Dakar (Senegal). Abundant in some areas and of great fishery importance, both as adults (pilchards) and half-grown (sardines).

Eggs, larvae and young stages. Raffaele, 1888: 55, pl. I (fig. 24), pl. III (fig. 14) | Cunningham, 1891-1892: 151, pl. X; 1893-1895: 148, fig. 1-3 | Marion, 1891: 99, pl. I (fig. 1-7) | Fage, 1920: 28, fig. 15-20 | D'Ancona, 1931: 2, fig. 1-5, pl. I (fig. 1-5) | Vodianitsky & Kazanova, 1954: 243, fig. 6 | Varagnolo, 1964: 251, pl. I (fig. 2) | Marinaro, 1971: 16, pl. 1, fig. 1-2 | Yannopoulos, 1977: 73.
Otoliths (sagitta). | Jenkins, 1902: 118, pl. III (fig. 17-18) | Sanz Echeverría, 1926: 147, fig. 2; 1928: 160, pl. IV (fig. 2) | Chaine, 1938: 159, pl. XIII 3 | Schmidt, 1968: 8, pl. I (fig. 6), pl. 14.


Subspecies (recognized by some but not all authors).

S. pilchardus pilchardus: lower gillrakers more than 60, head length 20-23% SL; Atlantic, Gibraltar to Bergen.
S. pilchardus sardina: Iower gillrakers 44-70 (but sometimes to 106), head length 18.5-21.0% SL; Mediterranean, Black Sea, Atlantic from Gibraltar to Cape Blanco. Also, lower gillrakers 59-90, head length 24.5-28.2% SL; Bay of Goree, Senegal.

European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus)