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Trichiurus lepturus:   (click for more)

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  • Clupea haumela  Forsskål, 1775
  • Trichiurus lepturus japonicus  Temminck and Schlegel, 1844
  • Trichiurus coxii  Ramsay and Ogilby, 1887
  • Trichiurus nitens  Garman, 1899
    FAO Names
    En - Largehead hairtail, Fr - Poisson-sabre commun, Sp - Pez sable.
    3Alpha Code: LHT     Taxonomic Code: 1750600302
    Diagnostic Features
    Anterior margin of pectoral-fin spine not serrated. Anal-fin origin situated below 39th to 41st dorsal-fin soft ray. Fangs in both jaws with barbs.  Body extremely elongate and strongly compressed, ribbon-like, tapering to a point (tip often broken); position of anus nearer snout than posterior tip of body (preanal length about 2/5 of standard length). Mouth large, with a dermal process at tip of each jaw; lower hind margin of gill cover, concave; eye large, its diameter 5 to 7 times in head length; 2 or 3 pairs of enlarged fangs with barbs nearer tip of upper jaw and another pair near tip of lower jaw;  a single series of sharp, compressed lateral teeth (often also fang-like in larger specimens) in both jaws; minute teeth on palatines.  Dorsal fin rather high and long, without a notch between the spinous and soft parts, with III spines and 130 to 135 soft rays; anal fin reduced to about 100 to 105 minute spinules, usually embedded in the skin or slightly breaking through, its origin situated below 39th to 41st dorsal-fin soft ray; pectoral fins medium-sized, about as long as snout, with I spine and 11 to 13 soft rays; pelvic and caudal fins absent.  Lateral line beginning at upper margin of gill cover, running oblique to behind tip of pectoral fins, then straight close to ventral contour.  Scales absent on body.  Excess ossification of supraoccipital, interhaemal and interneural bones often seen in specimens from Indian waters.  Colour: Fresh specimens steel blue with silvery reflection, pectoral fins semi-transparent, other fins sometimes tinged with pale yellow; the colour becomes uniform silvery grey sometime after death. 
    Geographical Distribution

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    Throughout tropical and temperate waters of the world.
    Habitat and Biology
    Benthopelagic,continental shelf to 350 m depth (from 55 to 385 m in the eastern Pacific), occasionally in shallow waters and at surface at night.Young and immature fish feed mostly on euphausiids, small pelagic planktonic crustaceans, such as Paracalanus, Acartia, Oncaea etc., and small fishes (anchovies, bregmacerotids etc.). Adults become more piscivorous and feed on anchovies, sardines, myctophiids, bregmacerotids, carangoids, sphyraenids, atherinids, sciaenids, Scomber, Trichiurus etc. and occasionally on squid and crustaceans . Adults and juveniles have opposing complementary vertical diurnal feeding migration. Juveniles and small adults form schools about 100 m above the bottom during daytime and form loose feeding aggregations at night-time near the surface where they prey on planktonic organisms. Large adults feed on pelagic prey near the surface during daytime and migrate to the bottom at night.
    In the Sea of Japan, this species matures at 2 years old at a size of about 30 cm preanal length in females and 28 cm in males. Some individuals of both sexes also mature at age 1 (Shiokawa, 1988).
    Egg production at 45 cm preanal length is estimated at about 130 000 over the entire spawning season around the central part of the Sea of Japan. Eggs are pelagic, have a diameter of 1.59 to 1.88 mm, and hatch after 3 to 6 days at a size of 5.5 to 6.5 mm total length. The spawning season is from April to August with a peak in June in the East China Sea, from July to October with a peak of September in Suruga Bay, from April to October with a peak in June in the Kii Channel, from May to November off the Kii Peninsula, and from June to October with a peak in July and August in the central part of the Sea of Japan (Shiokawa, 1988).  Shiokawa (1988) estimated the age at preanal length of this species in the Sea of Japan based on otolith readings. Females: 1 year at 24 cm, 2 years at 30 cm, 3 years at 34 cm, 4 years at 37 cm, 5 years at 40 cm, 6 years at 41 cm. Males: 1 year at 23 cm, 2 year at 28 cm, 3 year at 31 cm, 4 year at 33 cm, 5 year at 34 cm, 6 year at 35 cm. For the Californian population Fitch and Gotshall (1972) estimated the age of a 83 cm total length male as 4 years and the age of a 112 cm total length female as 7 years.
    Migration of this species is considered to be carried out between the wintering grounds in the East China Sea and the spawning grounds in the Yellow Sea (Misu,1961). In the Sea of Japan, the wintering grounds is situated in the coastal waters, mostly on the continental shelf (Shiokawa,1988).
    Maximum 120 cm total length, common from 50 to 100 cm.
    Interest to Fisheries
    The most important commercially caught trichiurid or gempylid with an annual catch of 752 711 t in 1990. About 85% of the catches reported are taken from FAO Fishing Area 61, and around 60% of the total yield is taken by China. Other areas from which are reported catches of Trichiurus lepturus are 34, 57, 71, 51, 31, 41 and 47. Caught mainly with bag nets in estuaries, with trolling, beach seines, boat seines, set nets and bottom or midwater longlines in inshore waters, and with bottom trawls in offshore waters throughout the world. The total catch reported for this species to FAO for 1999 was 1 418 944 t. The countries with the largest catches were China (1 222 454 t) and Korea, Republic of (64 445 t).
    Excellent taste when fried or grilled, also used for sashimi (sliced raw meat prepared with soysauce and horse raddish).
    Local Names
    AUSTRALIA : Australian hairtail .
    CANADA : Cutlassfish .
    FRANCE : Sabre .
    JAPAN : Hakuio ,  Hakuuo ,  Hakunagi ,  Hakuyo ,  Hiragatana ,  Katana ,  Saabera ,  Sawaberu ,  Shiraga ,  Tabinohimo ,  Tachiuo ,  Tachi ,  Tachio ,  Tachuo ,  Tachiio ,  Tachinoiyu ,  Tachinuiyu ,  Tachinja ,  Tachinouo ,  Tachinoyo .
    MALAYSIA : Selayar ,  Timah .
    RUSSIA : Sablja ryba .
    SPAIN : Espada ,  Sable ,  Savola .
    SRI LANKA : Largeheaded ribbonfish .
    KOREA : Mae-dom-gwa .
    UK : Cutlassfish ,  Hairtail .
    USA : Cutlassfish .
    Trichiurus japonicus was originally described by Temminck and Schlegel (1844) from Japan as Trichiurus lepturus japonicus, and synonymized with Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus by Tucker (1956). Two forms referable to the genus Trichiurus are recently recognized in Okinawa, Japan, and Dr. Tetsuo Yoshino of the University of the Ryukyus and I. Nakamura are currently studying these forms with respect to the validity of Trichiurus japonicus. Another nominal species synonymized with T. lepturus is Trichiurus nitens Garman, 1899 from the eastern Pacific Ocean (California to Peru) (Tucker, 1956). This form differs from all other populations of T. lepturus in having fewer numbers of dorsal-fin soft rays (116 to 128 versus 136 to 142) and vertebrae (141 to 158 versus 162 to 170), and is considered as a valid species by Hubbs and Hubbs (1941) and many subsequent authors, including most recently by Mikhailin (1982).
    Source of Information
    FAO species catalogue. Vol. 15. Snake mackerels and cutlassfishes of the world (FamiliesGempylidae and Trichiuridae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the snakemackerels, snoeks, escolars, gemfishes, sackfishes, domine, oilfish,cutlassfishes,scabbardfishes, hairtails, and frostfishes known to date.Nakamura, I. &  N. V. Parin 1993..  FAO Fisheries Synopis. No. 125, Vol. 15. 136 p., 200 figs.
    Fitch & Gotshall, 1972
    Franca, 1969
    Gloerfelt-Tarp & Kaiola, 1984
    Gupta, 1967
    James, 1961
    Mikhailin, 1982
    Nakamura, 1981, 1984a,b
    Ochiai and Tanaka, 1988
    Parin, 1986,1990c
    Sainsbury et al., 1985
    Shiokawa, 1988
    Tucker, 1956
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