The term red mullet often includes two species, the Mullus barbatus and the Mullus surmuletus which is the striped red mullet. They are a type of goatfish and have barbels on their chin, similar to the goatee of a goat. A striped red mullet has this name because there is a stripe running down its dorsal fin. It is interesting to note that a red mullet is not at all similar to a gray mullet, nor does it belong to the same genus. The term mullet is also used to refer to several other types of ray-finned fishes, all of which are different from red mullet. Red mullets are found almost all across the world with the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean being the major hotbeds.
Red mullet is a delicious fish and is considered a seafood delicacy in many parts of the world. They are extremely easy to catch and until recent times were caught as bycatch of other fish. Red mullet is a warm-water fish and often migrates depending on the season or to lay eggs.
Keep reading for more interesting facts about red mullets. If this article is of interest, then check out our other articles on sawfish and scorpion fish.
What do they prey on?
Worms and crustaceans
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
1-7 million eggs
How much do they weigh?
1.2-2.2 lb (0.5-1 kg)
How long are they?
8-12 in (20-30 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
Crimson-orange with yellow streaks
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Marine neritic and Benthic zones
Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea
Mullus barbatus and Mullus surmuletus
Red Mullet Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a red mullet?
A red mullet is a type of marine fish.
What class of animal does a red mullet belong to?
A red mullet belongs to the class of Actinopterygii which includes various other ray-finned fish.
How many red mullets are there in the world?
There is no specific data regarding the total worldwide population of this species.
Where does a red mullet live?
Red mullets are found in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea. They are found in countries that border these water bodies such as Egypt, France, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Romania, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.
What is a red mullet's habitat?
Being a demersal fish, a red mullet spends its time near the ocean bed. Older fish prefer colder temperatures and are found in deeper waters. They are generally found in warm waters like the English Chanel and the Baltic Sea. Young fish are found near rocky beds where they scavenge matter.
Who do red mullets live with?
Red mullet are goatfish that lives and hunts in groups. They might also form a non-feeding group, simply for the safety benefits a school provides. Since they live in deep benthic zones where visibility is hindered, they use barbells on their chin to feel around. As such, they are not predators but they wait silently for prey to come by. Sometimes, they join forces with other fish like moray eels and hunt together.
How long does a red mullet live?
The average lifespan of this fish is around four years. However, a large percentage of fish only live up to three years of age. The maximum life span of a fish in the wild is 10 years.
How do they reproduce?
As red mullet is reared in many fisheries, the reproductive stages of this species have been subject to numerous studies. Red mullet are fully mature enough to reproduce at around two years of age. This is in contrast with the gray mullet species which grow and mature slowly. Red mullet season for breeding lasts from autumn to winter, but this may vary depending on the species. During the breeding season, adult fish migrate to lay eggs which may range from one to seven million eggs. The eggs freely float in the water and may sometimes be eaten by predators. Parents do not stay around to take care of their young ones. Young ones hatch and generally prefer softer sea bottoms like mangroves. Once they grow older, they may migrate to deeper and colder waters. Breeding occurs only once a year.
What is their conservation status?
Both red mullet species have been assigned a status of Least Concern by the IUCN. This is because they are reared extensively by fisheries to substantiate the loss from oceans. However, this does not mean that red mullet is not overexploited in the wild. In fact, two out of three trawlers and fisheries were found to overexploit this species of fish. Red mullet in the Mediterranean was earlier a bycatch of other fish, however now, it is fished for its taste alone. While it is not very popular within the UK, it is extremely popular in other parts of Europe. This fish is also heavily exploited in West Africa and Morocco. Most fish caught in nets are less than two years of age which is quite concerning and can lead to further population decline as they do not mature to lay eggs.
Red Mullet Fun Facts
What do red mullets look like?
With a red tint, chin barbells, and a striped dorsal fin, the striped red mullet is an easy fish to identify. Their bodies are covered in yellowish patches or spots. They have distinct lips that are gray in color. Their barbells are quite long and may reach almost to their belly. Their eyes are located on either side and their head forms a gently sloping hump along its back.
How cute are they?
Red mullets are cute enough as far as benthic zone fish go. Their color and barbells give them an aura of playfulness. The yellow patches also make them fascinating to watch as they cut through the water. The sloping head is an interesting feature that adds to their cartoonish shape.
How do they communicate?
Red mullet is a demersal fish and relies more on sound than sight. They have a lateral line running along their back that helps them to detect low-frequency vibrations. Instead of relying on their eyes, red mullet uses its chin barbells to feel around. The barbs have highly sensitive sensors all over them.
How big is a red mullet?
A red mullet size ranges from 8-12 in (20-30 cm). They are the same size as a small koi fish or half the size of a large gray mullet fish.
How fast can a red mullet swim?
Being a demersal fish, this species is not meant to swim extremely fast or across long distances. This is in contrast with the general mullet species which are quite active swimmers.
How much does a red mullet weigh?
A red mullet weighs an average of 1.2-2.2 lb (544-998 g).
What are their male and female names of the species?
Both males and females are called red mullet.
What would you call a baby red mullet?
A baby red mullet is called a 'fry' once they hatch from the egg and are able to feed.
What do they eat?
Red mullet eat worms and crustaceans that they find along the seabed. Young fish may scavenge on dead fish from rock beds.
Are they eaten by humans?
Red mullet is a popular food choice as it is considered to be very tasty and tastes similar to other shellfish. A red mullet fish taste comes from their fat content. This fat content means red mullet have high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, meaning they are quite healthy. Their bones are often kept even when cooked as they add to the overall red mullet taste. However, striped red mullet can be toxic if not cooked before consumption. Sometimes, red mullet is substituted for red snapper in meals. The best way to cook red mullet is by pan-frying, steaming or baking.
Would they make a good pet?
The Romans certainly seemed to think so! They even included this fish in their mosaics. Red mullet pets are small fish and can fit easily into a tank. However, they are extremely slow-learners and being demersal fish, they are quite lethargic.
Did you know...
In Ancient Rome, this fish was highly prized and very expensive. They were worth their weight in silver! In the 1880s, mullets also formed a huge part of the diet of people living in west Florida and North Carolina. Somehow, a Florida mullet dish has gained popularity for being the best-tasting one. However, overfishing has led the government to place certain restrictions on the usage of fishing gear like gillnets.
Some mullet species have teeth on their tongue along with several rows of teeth arranged inside their mouth.
Even though red mullet and red snappers are similar, they are two different types of fish. A red snapper is identified by its red eyes.
Why are red mullets also known as 'jumping' or 'happy' mullets?
Mullets often jump out of the surface of the water. There are two reasons for this. The first is to avoid aquatic predators. As they leap out of the water, they become momentarily invisible to aquatic predators, which gives the mullet time to escape. Mullet also jump out of the water regularly as this helps them to get oxygen from the air. This is quite helpful in the case of water bodies where the oxygen content in the water is low.
What does a red mullet's mating season depend on?
Mullets usually mate and lay eggs in shallow water, though detractors have been noted. Their mating season varies by species. Some species prefer fall while others prefer spring.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including drum fish, or Pacific salmon.
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