Big-Scale Sand Smelt ( Atherina boyeri )

/ / Fish


Atherina boyeri is a small, grey fish with a noticeable silver line on the flanks, the body is white ventrally (1). Its body is four times the length of the head (2). They can reach a length of up to 13cm (2). They are amphidromous fish (3), migrating between lagoons and the sea (4).


This species is euryhaline, they are found in coastal and estuarine habitats but are also found in brackish and, sporadically, freshwater (7) (8).

Life Cycle

A. boyeri have a life span of 1 to 2 years, however it has been known for them to survive for four years (5). They mature in the first year of life and spawn in late spring and summer (6). The eggs have hairy appendages which allow them to attach to filamentous algae between 2 and 6m deep (5). The resulting larvae are pelagic, often found schooling in coastal waters (5).


The big-scale sand smelt is common in the Mediterranean and contiguous Atlantic Ocean, north to the coast of Scotland (9).


A. boyeri is considered a gregarious fish (5).


A. boyeri is carnivorous, feeding on small crustaceans, worms, molluscs (9) and fish larvae (10).

Conservation status

Least Concern under the IUCN Redlist (5)


Description written by Sarah Marjoram (2009)

(1) Anon., n.d. DISSEMINATION. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19 June 2009].

(2) Quero, J.-C., 2003. Guide des poissons de l’Atlantique europeen. Paris: Delachaux et Niestle.

(3) Riede, K., 2004. Global register of migratory species – from global to regional scales. Final Report of the R&D-Projekt 808 05 081. Bonn, Germany: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.