Sea Creatures in Your Neighborhood – Atlantic Silverside
The Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia) is a resident species and is one of the most abundant fish found in NJ’s estuaries and nearshore habitats. They have long slender bodies that are grey-green above and pale colored below with a distinct silver band that runs along each side (giving it the name “silverside”). Silversides are small, growing only up to 6 inches in length, and can often be found schooling in shallow waters. Commonly called “spearing” or “shiners” by fishers that use them for bait, silversides are consumers in the marine food web because they feast on the tiny phytoplankton and zooplankton that drift with the currents. Their small mouths lack teeth and are positioned upwards at the end of their snouts so that they can grab food that floats or swims above them. Females are usually larger than males and during the spawning season (May, June, early July) will deposit egg clusters on sandy bottoms. Silversides are sensitive to fluctuations in salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature, so they are an important species in helping scientists study environmental change.
Did you know…
Atlantic silversides can live up to two years, but most only make it to one year.
Silverside eggs that hatch in cooler water will develop into females, and those that hatch in warmer water will develop into males.
Silversides are an important food source for other marine animals in the estuary, and are eaten by everything from bluefish and striped bass to sea birds and crabs.