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silversides

silversides, common name for small shore fishes, belonging to the family Antherinidae, abundant in the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific, and named for the silvery stripe on either side of the body. Silversides, known commercially as whitebait, eat insects and small crustaceans. The small (3 in./7.5 cm) tidewater silversides, Menidia menidia, is found along the Atlantic coast; the similar brook silversides is a freshwater species. Larger and better known is the California grunion (5–8 in./12.5–20 cm), which rides in on high tides to lay its eggs in the sand. Beached grunions are collected by hand in large quantities. Other Pacific silversides are the top smelts and jack smelts, important to California's smelt fisheries. The mullets (family Mugilidae), blunt-nosed warm-water fishes of both oceans, are closely related to the silversides. Small schools of mullets frequent shallow waters, feeding on aquatic plants and on mud, which is ground up in the gizzardlike stomach. The striped mullet, Mugil cephalus, is quite common, a bluish fish that attains a weight of 1 lb (0.45 kg). Mullets are good food fish and are preyed upon heavily by larger carnivorous fishes. Silversides and mullets are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, families Antherinidae and Mugilidae, respectively.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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