|Atlantic croaker, Micropogonias undulatus|
The Sciaenidae are a family of fish commonly called drums, croakers, or hardheads for the repetitive throbbing or drumming sounds they make. The family includes the weakfish, and consists of about 275 species in about 70 genera; it belongs to the order Perciformes.
A sciaenid has a long dorsal fin reaching nearly to the tail, and a notch between the rays and spines of the dorsal, although the two parts are actually separate. Drums are somberly colored, usually in shades of brown, with a lateral line on each side that extends to the tip of the caudal fin. The anal fin usually has two spines, while the dorsal fins are deeply notched or separate. Most species have a rounded or pointed caudal fin. The mouth is set low and is usually inferior. Their croaking mechanism involves the beating of abdominal muscles against the swim bladder.
Sciaenidae are found worldwide, in both fresh and salt water, and are typically benthic carnivores, feeding on invertebrates and smaller fish. They are small to medium-sized, bottom-dwelling fishes living primarily in estuaries, bays, and muddy river banks. Most of these fishes avoid clear waters, such as coral reefs and oceanic islands, with a few notable exceptions (i.e., reef croaker, high-hat, and spotted drum). They live in warm-temperate and tropical waters and are best represented in major rivers in Southeast Asia, northeast South America, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of California.
They are excellent food and sport fish, and are commonly caught by surf and pier fishers. Some of them are important commercial fishery species, notably small yellow croaker with reported landings of 218,00–407,000 tonnes in 2000–2009; based on the FAO fishery statistics from 2009, it was the 25th most important fishery species worldwide. However, a large proportion of catches is not reported at species level; in the FAO fishery statistics, the category "Croakers, drums, not elsewhere included", is the largest one within Sciaenidae, with annual landings of 431,000–780,000 tonnes in 2000–2009, most of which were reported from the western Indian Ocean (FAO fishing area 51) and northwest Pacific (FAO fishing area 61).
Genera and selected species
Timeline of genera
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- Johnson, G.D. & Gill, A.C. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
- FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2011). Yearbook of fishery and aquaculture statistics 2009. Capture production. Rome: FAO.