Brevoortia tyrannus

Common Name

Atlantic Menhaden

Year Described

Latrobe, 1802


Dorsal Fin: 17-22
Anal Fin: 17-24
Pectoral Fin: 15-18
Pelvic Fin: 7 (6 branched)
Vertebrae: 45-50 (usually 47-49)
Lateral Line Scales: 40-58 (usually 45-52)
Ventral Scutes: 29-36 (usually 30-34)
Gill Rakers: 100-150 (lower limb of first arch in adults)

Body deep and compressed. Ventral profile extremely convex from pelvic fin to lower jaw. Head and gill cover large. Mouth large, extending to rare margin of eye. Upper jaw distinctly notched (unique to Brevoortia, Alosa, and Dorosoma. Lower jaw fits into upper jaw notch. Teeth absent. Dorsal fin at midbody with a strongly concave margin. Anal fin origin about under last dorsal ray. Pelvic fin under dorsal fin, with a slightly rounded posterior margin: Innermost rays about the same length as outermost rays. Pectoral fin well short (>4 scales) of pelvic base when extended. Tail forked. Body fully scaled. Predorsal scales present on midline from nape to dorsal fin: overlapping and with irregular rough edges.


Body silvery with a gray back. Sides often with a golden wash. A single black spot present but there are numerous other black spots behind it on flank forming many irregular stripes. Dorsal and caudal fins golden. Caudal fin with dusky margin. Rest of fins clear.


Maximum size to 50 cm SL. Common from 20-35cm SL.


Inshore pelagic, from fully saline coastal to estuarine. Juveniles in lower salinities. Forms large schools.


Nova Scotia to eastern Florida.


Hildebrand, S.F. 1948. A review of the American menhaden, genus Brevoortia, with a description of a new species. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. Vol. 107. No. 18: 1-39.

Munroe, T.A. & M.S. Nizinski. 2002. Clupeidaeidae (pp 804-830). In: Carpenter. 2002. The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Vol. 2: Bony fishes part 1 (Acipenseridae-Grammatidae). FAO Species Identification Guides for Fisheries Purposes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5.

Other Notes

This and the small-scaled B. smithi are the only Brevoortia on the U.S. Atlantic coast. The combination of scale size and dense spotting make it easy to distinguish.