Mugil curema

Common Name

White Mullet

Year Described

Valenciennes, 1836


Dorsal Fin: IV, 9
Anal Fin: III, 9-10
Pectoral Fin: II, 14-16
Lateral Scale Rows: 34-39
Transverse Scales: 12-13
Circumpeduncular Scales: 17-18
Gill Rakers: 20-75 (lower limb of first arch)

Body elongate; cylindrical anteriorly and becoming more compressed posteriorly. Snout narrowly blunt. Top of head flat. Eye diameter slightly greater than snout length. Subterminal mouth reaches anterior margin of orbit. Teeth with slightly curved tips. Adipose eyelid present (absent in juveniles). Spiny dorsal fin situated at mid-point of body. Anal fin inserted slightly forward of or even with second dorsal fin. Dorsal and anal fins densely covered with small scales. Pectoral fin high on side and not reaching dorsal fin origin. Tail forked. Body scales with minute spines.


Body whitish grading to darker dorsally. Stripes faint or not apparent in life. A large gold blotch on upper opercle. Spiny dorsal fin with a diffuse dark blotch on the anterior and distal portion of fin. Soft dorsal fin and tail with dense dark melanophores and quite dusky. Tail with a thin dark margin. Pectoral fins with melanophores. Pelvic and anal fins yellowish to pale. A diffuse concentration of melanophores on the central anal fin. A large blotch on the pectoral base and axil. Eye dusky to yellowish.


Maximum size to over 90cm SL but more commonly under 30cm SL.


Found inshore and in estuarine waters.


Reported to be widespread in the western Atlantic, from Canada to S. Brazil, including the entire Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.


Durand, J.D., K.N. Shen, W.J. Chen, B.W. Jamandre, H. Blel, K. Diop, M. Nirchio, J.J. Garcia de Léon, A.K. Whitfield, C.W. Chang & P. Borsa. 2012. Systematics of the grey mullets (Teleostei: Mugiliformes: Mugilidae): Molecular phylogenentic evidence challenges two centuries of morphology-based taxonomy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 64, 73–92.

Fraga E., H. Schneider, M. Nirchio, E. Santa-Brigida, L.F. Rodrigues-Filho & I. Sampaio. 2007. Molecular phylogenetic analyses of mullets (Mugilidae, Mugiliformes) based on two mitochondrial genes. J. Appl. Ichthyol. 23: 598-604.

Harrison I.J., M. Nirchio, C. Oliveiras, E. Ron & J. Gaviria. 2007. A new species of mullet (Teleostei: Mugilidae) from Venezuela, with a discussion on the taxonomy of Mugil gaimardianus. J. Fish Biol. 71: 76-97.

Menezes, N.A., M. Nirchio, C. Oliveira & R. Siccharamirez. 2015. Taxonomic review of the species of Mugil (Teleostei: Perciformes: Mugilidae) from the Atlantic South Caribbean and South America, with integration of morphological, cytogenetic and molecular data. Zootaxa 3918 (1): 1-38.

Siccha-Ramirez, Z.R., N.A. Menezes, M. Nirchio, F. Foresti & C. Oliveira 2014. Molecular identification of mullet species of the Atlantic South Caribbean and South America and the phylogeographic analysis of Mugil liza. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 22 (11), 86–96.

Other Notes

Several recent studies (i.e. Harrison et al., 2007, Durand et al., 2012; Siccha-Ramirez et al., 2014; Menezes et al., 2015) have confirmed the presence and identity of three lineages of “white mullets” from the western Atlantic. Mugil curema (type locality: Brazil) is widespread in the western Atlantic, M. rubrioculus is found from Panama to N. Brazil, and M. margaritae off Venezuela. Mugil curema and M. margaritae can be distinguished by number of lateral scale rows (35-39 vs. 40-44) (Menezes et al., 2015), and M. curema from M. rubrioculus by eye color (dusky or pale vs. red), fin pigmentation, and chromosome number (Harrison et al., 2007).