Elops smithi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Elopiformes Elopidae

Scientific Name: Elops smithi McBride, Rocha, Ruiz-Carus & Bowen, 2010
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Southern Ladyfish
Spanish Malacho
Taxonomic Source(s): McBride, R.S. and Horodysky, A.Z. 2004. Mechanisms maintaining sympatric distributions of two ladyfish (Elopidae: Elops) morphs in the Gulf of Mexico and western North Atlantic Ocean. Limnology and Oceanography 49: 1173– 1181.
Taxonomic Notes: Elops saurus was recently split into two largely allopatric species, E. saurus and E. smithi (McBride et al. 2010). In Florida waters, E. saurus and E. smithi may occur sympatrically at early life stages, though this does not appear to persist into the adult stage (McBride and Horodysky 2004).  E. saurus and E. smithi can be differentiated by myomere or vertebral counts;  the more northern E. saurus is characterized by a higher count while the more southern E. smithi exhibits a lower count (Smith 1989, McBride and Horodysky 2004, McBride et al. 2010). These phenotypic differences are corroborated by genetic data (McBride et al. 2010). The sequence divergence in mtDNA cytochrome b (d = 0.023-0.029) between E. smithi and E. saurus is similar to or greater than that measured between recognized species of Elops in different ocean basins (McBride et al. 2010). We recommend the vernacular name Malacho, which is already used for Elops in several countries bordering the Caribbean basin." (McBride et al. 2010; see 'etymology').

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2011-03-30
Assessor(s): Adams, A., Guindon, K., Horodysky, A., MacDonald, T., McBride, R., Shenker, J. & Ward, R.
Reviewer(s): Harwell, H. & Raynal, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Harwell, H.
Elops smithi occurs along the northern coast of South America, in the Caribbean Sea, and throughout the Bahamas and southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Little information exists regarding population status, ecology, life history, fisheries interactions or potential threats. Only eight specimens of this estuarine species have been reported from museum records. Therefore, we consider this species Data Deficient.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Elops smithi occurs along the northern coast of South America, in the Caribbean Sea, and throughout the Bahamas and southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Leptocephali and juveniles are also collected along the eastern seaboard of North America, the  northern and eastern Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda but these represent waifs or vagrants (Smith 1989, Smith-Vaniz et al. 1999, McBride et al. 2010).

Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):50
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Only eight specimens have been reported from museum records, including specimens at the University of Florida and the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University in the United States (accessed through the Fishnet2 Portal,, 2011-05-14). Although it is possible that E. smithi may be present in United States landings data, it is extremely likely that the catch is predominately E. saurus. Little is known about landings data throughout most of this species' range.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Elops smithi is found in a wide range of salinities. Mature adults and early-life-history stages are found in offshore, marine habitats, where spawning presumably occurs (Gehringer 1959, Santos-Martínez and Arboleda 1993, McBride and Horodysky 2004). Transforming larvae and subadults are found throughout estuaries, as far up as the oligohaline zone, as well as in hypersaline lagoons (Carles 1967, McBride et al. 2001, McBride and Horodysky 2004).  They are found in hypersaline lagoons up to 49.25 ppt (Carles 1967). Carles (1967) used unvalidated scales to age fish, noting fish as old as age two were common in lagoons of Cuba. Size at age indicate slow growth rates, about 14 cm FL at first annulus formation. Carles (1967) reported fish up to 40 cm FL and noted age one as the age of maturity. Diet included mostly penaeid shrimp, less commonly Engraulis fish and some swimming crabs. Juvenile E. smithi reach 130 mm SL by their first winter in Florida (McBride and Horodysky 2004).


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Carles (1967) observed this species used as bait in commercial fisheries. In Florida, E. smithi may be a small component of the commercial and recreational catch (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2008). It is likely caught in subsistence fisheries in some parts of its range (McBride pers. comm. 2011).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Elops smithi utilizes estuarine areas and hyper-saline lagoons; changes in the the quality of this habitat may affect this species' population dynamics. Although this species may not be closely associated with any single habitat, it may be adversely affected by urbanization.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In Florida, the prohibition of the use of tarp nets and entangling nets is in place for the commercial fishery of this species (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2008). Its distribution overlaps with  marine reserves in parts of its range. There are no recreational size or bag limits in place (MacDonald pers. comm. 2011). No species-specific information exists south of Florida.

Citation: Adams, A., Guindon, K., Horodysky, A., MacDonald, T., McBride, R., Shenker, J. & Ward, R. 2012. Elops smithi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T194309A2311298. . Downloaded on 20 June 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided