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Temporal range: Early Eocene–Recent
Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Clupeiformes
Family: Clupeidae
G. Cuvier, 1817

See text

The Clupeidae (Latin: "sardine") are the family of the herrings, shads, sardines, hilsa, and menhadens. It includes many of the most important food fishes in the world, commonly farmed and caught for use with fish oil, food and fish meal.The family also contains the Sundalangidae (1 genus, Sundalanx, and 7 species), which after future studies since its creation determined it was a paedomorphic species deeply nested in Clupeidae. Many members of the family have a body protected with shiny cycloid scales (very smooth and uniform scales), a single dorsal fin, with a fusiform body built for quick evasive swimming and pursuit of prey composed of small planktonic animals. Due to their small size, and placement in the lower trophic level of many marine food webs, the levels of methylmercury they bioaccumulate are very low, reducing the risk of mercury poisoning when consumed.

Description and biology[edit]

Originating in the early Paleogene, Clupeids are mostly marine forage fish, although a few species are found in fresh water. No species has scales on the head, and some are entirely scaleless. The lateral line is short or absent, and the teeth are unusually small where they are present at all. Clupeids typically feed on plankton, and range from 2 to 75 cm (0.8 to 30 in.) in length.[1]

Clupeids spawn huge numbers of eggs (up to 200,000 in some species) near the surface of the water. After hatching, the larvae live among the plankton until they develop a swim bladder and transform into adults. These eggs and fry are not protected or tended to by parents. The adults typically live in large shoals, seeking protection from piscivorous predators such as birds, sharks and other predatory fish, tooth whales, marine mammals and jellyfish. They also form bait balls.[2]

Commercial species[edit]

Important commercial species include:


See also[edit]

List of fish families


  1. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2008). "Clupeidae" in FishBase. December 2008 version.
  2. ^ Nelson, Gareth (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 91–92. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.