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Elops saurus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA ACTINOPTERYGII ELOPIFORMES ELOPIDAE

Scientific Name: Elops saurus
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1766
Common Name(s):
English Ladyfish, Tenpounder
Spanish machete del Atlántico
Synonym(s):
Argentina carolina Linnaeus, 1766
Elops indicus Swainson, 1839
Elops inermis Mitchill, 1814
Elops purpurascens Richardson, 1846
Mugilomorus annacarolina Lacepède, 1803
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). Elops 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).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern 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.
Justification:
Historical accounts of E. saurus outside the Western Atlantic have been erroneously described (e.g., Fraser 1973). The species is only distributed in the Western Atlantic from southern New England (but uncommon north of Cape Hatteras, NC) south to Florida, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula (McBride and Horodysky 2004, McBride et al. 2010). Elops saurus was recently split into two species, E. saurus and E. smithi (McBride et al. 2010). There is no formal stock assessment for this species but there are historic time series data for commercial and recreational catches as well as fishery-independent time series data in the United States, particularly Florida. Its early stages use estuary and lagoonal habitats, which are prone to anthropogenic alterations. However, population trends are currently stable and this species is exhibits a broad range of habitat plasticity. Therefore, we list this species as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Historical accounts of E. saurus outside the Western Atlantic have been erroneously described (e.g., Fraser 1973). The species is only distributed in the Western Atlantic from southern New England (but uncommon north of Cape Hatteras, NC) south to Florida, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula (McBride and Horodysky 2004, McBride et al. 2010). Elops saurus was recently split into two species, E. saurus and E. smithi (McBride et al. 2010).

Countries:
Native:
Bahamas; Mexico; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are historic time series data for commercial (fish meal, human consumption) and recreational catches as well as fishery-independent time series data of E. saurus in the southeast USA. Elops saurus is common throughout Florida (McBride et al. 2001). During 2007, the total annual landings of ladyfish in Florida were 1,110,012 pounds; most (75%) were landed by the commercial fishery. Landings were greater on the Gulf coast, where about 92% of the statewide landings were made in 2007. The recent discovery of E. smithi, a sympatric congener in with E. saurus in the southeast USA, does not influence the interpretation of these landings because the newly recognized species most likely comprises only 1–2% of the catch (McBride and Horodysky 2004).

Most USA commercial landings of E. saurus occur along Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, where landings rose steadily from the 1960s to peak at 2630 MT in 1999 (http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/commercial/). Due to Florida’s state-wide prohibition of entangling nets in 1995, landings declined to 500 MT in 2009. Recently, the landings attributed to other Gulf of Mexico states have increased, and since 2000, landings attributed throughout the Gulf have averaged 625 MT (+ 227 MT s.d.) (http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/commercial/). These landings over the last decade are similar to landings from the 1960s, suggesting that the effect of Florida’s net ban on restricting effort have contributed to relative stability in the commercial landings of E. saurus. Total annual commercial landings on the Atlantic coast are a negligible part of the statewide catch, reaching 0.15 MT in 2005. Landings rates for the Atlantic coast commercial fisheries have slowly declined since 1996.

Most USA recreational landings of E. saurus also occur in the Gulf of Mexico (http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/recreational). Recreational landings increased markedly following the late 1990s, in both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic fishing regions, possibly due to Florida’s net ban restricting the availability of commercial product (Adams et al. in review).

Indices of abundance from Florida's Fisheries-Independent Monitoring program's (1996–2010) using a consistent gear (183 m haul seine) indicate that the stocks were stable from 1996–2006 in each of the sampled estuaries in Florida (northeast Florida, northern Indian River Lagoon, southern Indian River Lagoon, Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Cedar Key, Appalachicola Bay). No formal stock assessment for ladyfish is available at this time (MacDonald pers. comm. 2011).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Elops saurus occurs in several coastal and estuarine habitats, including seagrass beds, mangrove marsh, impounded salt marshes and sand flats (Gilmore et al. 1982, McBride et al. 2001). Leptocephalus larvae ingress into estuaries from offshore areas (e.g., Sebastian Inlet) from fall to spring and metamorphose into juveniles (Gehringer 1959, McBride and Horodysky 2004). Larval duration is 27–48 days (Wheeler 2000). Juveniles tend to occur in the lowest salinities available in the estuary, although they are not found in fresh water (McBride et al. 2001). Juveniles grow about 1mm per day based on length frequencies (MacDonald pers. comm. 2011). As the YOY grow, they move to more polyhaline, lower estuarine habitats and they eventually leave the estuary. In total they extend from oligohaline to marine habitats in their first few years (McBride et al. 2001). Depth range for this species is less than 1m to continental shelf depths.

Length frequency analyses suggest that they grow from 20–30 mm to 200–300 mm SL during their first year and that at least three age classes were present throughout the year in estuaries of Florida (McBride et al. 2001). Palko (1984) collected 81 ladyfish from northwest Florida, from 238–604 mm FL.  Unvalidated, sectioned otoliths showed 0-6 annuli, suggesting that ladyfish live at least six years. Maximum length recorded is 100 cm TL (Claro 1994).

Elops saurus are presumed to be offshore spawners (Gehringer 1959). Spawning is suggested to occur in the fall (Hildebrand 1943). Newly ingressed metamorphosing larvae feed on copepods and mosquito larvae. Late-metamorphic larvae and juveniles forage on crustaceans and small fishes (Harrington and Harrington 1960, Sekavec 1971).
Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is primarily harvested for bait and commercial sale for consumption (fish meal, human consumption) occurs. In Florida, Elops saurus is an important recreational game fish for light-tackle anglers (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2008).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Elops saurus 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 may overlap with  marine reserves in parts of its range. There are no recreational size or bag limits in place (MacDonald pers. comm. 2011).

Bibliography [top]

Claro, R. 1994. Características generales de la ictiofauna. In: R. Claro (ed.), Ecología de los peces marinos de Cuba, pp. 55-70. Instituto de Oceanologia Academia de Ciencias de Cuba and Centro de Investigaciones de Quintana Roo (CIQRO), México.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2008. Ladyfish, Elops saurus. Available at: http://myfwc.com/media/195433/24_Ladyfish_2008.pdf. (Accessed: 24 March).

Fraser, T.H. 1973. The fish Elops machnata in South Africa. The J. L. B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology Special Publication 11.

Gehringer, J.W. 1959. Early development and metamorphosis of the ten-pounder Elops saurus Linnaeus. Fishery Bulletin 59: 618?647.

Gilmore, Jr., R.G., Donohoe, C.J., Cooke, D.W., and Herrema, D.J. 1981. Fishes of the Indian River Lagoon and adjacent waters, Florida. Harbor Branch Foundation Technical Report 41.

Harrington, R.W. and Harrington, E.S. 1960. Food of larval and young tarpon, Megalops atlanticus. Copeia 3: 11-319.

Hildebrand, S.F. 1943. Notes on the affinity, anatomy and development of Elops saurus Linnaeus. Journal of the Washington Academy of Science 33: 90-94.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.2). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 17 October 2012).

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.

McBride, R.S., MacDonald, T.C., Matheson, Jr., R.E., Rydene, D.A., and Hood, P.B. 2001. Nursery habitats for ladyfish, Elops saurus, along salinity gradients in two Florida estuaries. Fishery Bulletin 99: 443-458.

McBride, R.S., Rocha, C.R., Ruiz-Carus, R. and Bowen, B. 2010. A new species of ladyfish, of the genus Elops (Elopiformes: Elopidae), from the western Atlantic Ocean. Zootaxa 2346: 29?41.

Palko, B.J. 1984. An evaluation of hard parts for age determination of pompano (Trachinotus carolinus), ladyfish (Elops saurus), crevalle jack (Caranx hippos), gulf flounder (Paralichthys albigutta), and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma). . NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFC 132: 11.

Sekavec, G.B. 1971. Gross morphology of the digestive tract of the ladyfish, Elops saurus. Chesapeake Science 12: 275-276.

Smith, D.G. 1989. Order Elopiformes; Families Elopidae, Megalopidae, and Albulidae: Leptocephali. Memoir Sears Foundation for Marine Research. Number I. Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Part Nine, pp. 961?972. Sears Foundation for Marine Research. Yale University, New Haven.

Wheeler, E.P. 2000. Age and developmental stage at recruitment of ladyfish, Elops saurus . Florida Institute of Technology.


Citation: Adams, A., Guindon, K., Horodysky, A., MacDonald, T., McBride, R., Shenker, J. & Ward, R. 2012. Elops saurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 31 August 2014.
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