Atlantic Mackeral ( Scomber scombrus )

/ / Fish


S. scombrus are fast swimming pelagic fish, which have an iridescent bluish-green colouration on the upper half of their streamlined body, and on their ventral side they are silvery-white. They possess between 20-30 vertical black bars on their dorsal side a well as dorsal and anal finlets.  Like tuna, they are a commercially important species.  They swim by undulating their body and caudal fin; this mode of swimming is described as carangiform (1).


S. scombrus are pelagic fish with a very large depth range of 0-1000m (2).

Life Cycle

S. scombrus are batch spawners (3) that scatter their pelagic, spherical eggs in open water (4).   S. scombrus males and females reach maturity at approximately 2 years of age (5).  The oldest individuals recorded have been estimated as 17 years of age (1).


S. scombrus are found in the northern Atlantic (1).


S. scombrus migrate seasonally; in the spring, they migrate from cold deep water to coastal areas with water temperatures of 11-14oC (1).


S. scombrus are diurnal fish that travel in large dense schools.  Adults are more commonly found near the surface. These fish are unable to stop swimming as swimming is essential to pass water over their gills to absorb oxygen; this method of breathing is called ram ventilation (1).


S. scombrus feed upon small fish, gastropods, benthic crustaceans and jellyfish (1).

Conservation status

Not Evaluated under the IUCN Redlist (6).


Description written by Nikkita Lawton (2009)

(1) Fishbase. Scomber scombrus. [Accessed 29 June 2009]

(2) FAO-FIGIS (2005).  A world overview of species of interest to fisheries. Chapter: Scomber scombrus. Retrieved on 05 May 2005, from 3p. FIGIS Species Fact Sheets. Species Identification and Data Programme-SIDP, FAO-FIGIS

(3) Murua, H. and F. Saborido-Rey (2003).  Female reproductive strategies of marine fish species of the North Atlantic. Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science; 33:23-31.

(4) Collette, B.B. and C.E. Nauen (1983). FAO species catalogue.  Vol. 2.  Scombrids of the world.  An annotated and illustrated catalogue of tunas, mackerels, bonitos and related species known to date.  FAO Fish Synopsis; 125: 137

(5) O’Brien, L., Burnett, J. and Mayo, R. K. (1993).  Maturation of the nineteen species of finfish off the northeast coast of the United States, 1985-1990.  NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS; 113: 66

(6) IUCN (2009).  IUCN Red List.  [Accessed 29 June 2009]