Monday, September 10, 2012
When I was in college I took a course about fish diversity. We learned about fish evolution and memorized a bunch of latin names. I enjoyed when species had the same genus and species name. The Atlantic silverside is one of those fish species, its latin name being Menidia menidia.
There is a whole set of fish called silversides. They have long slim bodies, big eyes, and shiny silver scales.
The old adage “safety in numbers” is true for silversides. Silversides often school, forming large masses like in this video taken during my semester abroad in Bermuda. Coming together as a school makes it harder for a predator to pick out individual fish for food.
Unfortunately for them, silversides are a delicious commodity. The small fish are common and are toward the bottom of the food chain. Predators include seabirds and larger fish like stingrays and striped bass (or rockfish as its fondly called back home).
In addition to being food in the wild, silversides are often used as baitfish and can be bought to feed larger fish in aquariums. Silversides are also sometimes used in toxicity studies. They are sensitive to environmental changes so these tiny fish are important on a much larger scale, as possible indicators of a changing climate.
Here are several resources to learn more about silversides from the Maryland State Department of Natural Resources and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Check out this Sea Grant fact sheet to learn more about schooling.
Video by Sara K. MacSorley