Sparus aurata

Super Group: 
Linnaeus 1758
Chrysophrys crassirostris (Valenciennes, 1830)


Diagnosis_Genus: Sparus Linnaeus. Caput: Dentes incisores vel laniarii robusti; molares obtusiusculi, conferti. Membr. branch. radiis V. Opercula squamosa. Corpus compressum.

Diagnosis_Species: Sparus aurata Linnaeus. S. lunula aurea inter oculo. D. II/24. P. I5. V. 6. A. 3/I5. C. I7. Art. gen. 25. Syn. 63. Sparus dorso acutissimo, linea arcuata aurea inter oculos. D. 24. P. I7. V. 6. A. I4. C. -- Gron. mus. I. n. 90. idem. D. I2/23. P. I6. V. 6. A. 3/I2. C. 20. Loeft. epist. idem. D. I2/22. P. I5. V. 6. A. II. C. I7. Hasselqv. itin. 337. idem. D. II/24. P. I6. V. 6. A. 3/I4. C. 22. Habitat in Mari Mediterraneo & Oceano inter Europam Americamque. In meo exemplari macula nigra ad caudam. Romanis olim pretiosissimus Sergi auctotitate; Veneri sacer.

Other description (FAO): Body oval, rather deep and compressed. Head profile regularly curved. Eye small. Total gill rakers on first arch 11 to 13, 7 or 8 lower and 5 (rarely 4) to 6 upper. Dorsal fin with 11 spines and 13 to 14 soft rays. Anal with 3 spines and 11 or 12 soft rays. Cheeks scaly, preopercle scaleless. Scales along lateral line 73 to 85. Colour silvery grey; a large black blotch at origin of lateral line extending on upper margin of opercle where it is edged below by a reddish area; a golden frontal band between eyes edged by two dark areas (not well defined in young individuals); dark longitudinal lines often present on sides of body; a dark band on dorsal fin; fork and tips of caudal fin edged with black. The longevity of gilthead seabream in the wild has been reported to be about 11 years, with a weight-length relation of Wt (g) = 0.0096 x Length (cm)3.02.

Body_adults: 20-50 cm (Wikipedia)
Body_adults_max: 70 cm (Wikipedia)
Body_sexual_maturity_male: 20-32 cm (FAO)
Body_sexual_maturity_female: 33-40 cm (FAO)
Weight_sexual_maturity_male: 350-400 g (FAO)
Weight_sexual_maturity_female: > 600 g (FAO)

Body_eggs_length: 0.9-1.1 mm (Fishbase)
Body_larvae_hatching_length: 2.5-3.0 mm (Fishbase)
Weight: 2 kg (Wikipedia)
Weight_max: 17.2 kg (Fishbase)
Sequence_MLC2: AF150904 (Moutou et al. 2001)
Sequence_MLC3: AF149756 (Moutou et al. 2001)
Sequence_12S: EF095565 (Meynard et al., 2012)
Sequence_16S: AF247432 (Meynard et al., 2012)
Sequence_CytB: AF240735 (Meynard et al., 2012), AF165085 (Jousson et al., 2000)
Sequence_Rhod: EU224181 (Meynard et al., 2012)
Sequence_RAG1: EF095657 (Meynard et al., 2012)


The name of the genus gets its origin from the Latin “sparus” = spear, due to the shape of the fish recalling the shape of the metallic glittering tip of this ancient weapon. The name of the species comes from the Latin “auratus” = golden, due to the typical golden band between the eyes (

Type species

The type species of the genus Sparus is Sparus aurata (Linnaeus, 1758).



Sparus aurata lives in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (rare), and in the Eastern Atlantic, from the British Isles, Strait of Gibraltar to Cape Verde and around the Canary Islands (Sola et al., 2007).

In the initial stages of its life the Sparus aurata migrate in spring to coastal lagoons where they arrive as juveniles being born in the open sea in October to December, they stay near the coast finding ample supply of food and milder temperatures. They are highly sensitive to temperature and anything lower than 4C is lethal to them. In late autumn they return to the open sea again where the now adult fish breed again. The Gilthead Sea Bream larvae are shown in the image below (Weheartdiving).

Substrate: water
Habitat: coastal
Habitat: estuarine
Habitat: seagrass bed (Fishbase)
Habitat: sandy bottom (Fishbase)
Habitat: surf zone (Fishbase)
Sociability_adults: gregarious
Sociability: solitary
Salinity: marine
Salinity: brackish
Depth: 1-150 m (Fishbase)
Depth_usually: 1-30 m (Fishbase)
Depth_adult: demersal (Fishbase)
Depth_egg: pelagic (FAO)
Temperature_preferred: 26°C (Fishbase)
Migratory: highly_migratory_species (Sola et al., 2007)
Causality_of_migration: trophic_migration (Sola et al., 2007)
Temporality_of_migration: seasonal (late autumn) (Sola et al., 2007)

Life cycle

The longevity of Sparus aurata in the wild has been reported to be about 11 years (FAO).
Ovarian development is also asynchronous, and females are batch spawners that can lay 20 000-80 000 eggs per day for a period of up to 3 months (Sola et al., 2007).
The planktonic larval stage lasts about 50 days at 17-18° C (Sola et al., 2007).
Sparus aurata is a non migratory species.
Sexual maturity develops in males at 2 years of age (20-30 cm) and in females at 2-3 years (33-40 cm) (FAO).

Reproduction_mode: sexual_hermaphrodite_protandrous
Longevity: more than 3 years
Generation_time: 1 to 3 years (FAO)
Fertility_period: seasonal (during fall, October to December) (Fishbase)
Fecondity_number_of_eggs_per_adult: 20000-80000 eggs (Sola et al., 2007)

Feeding behaviour


Mode of locomotion

Motility: motile_swimming

Observation site(s)


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