American Oceans

Cero Mackerel

The Cero Mackerel (Scomberomorus regalis) is a saltwater fish found in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Adult cero mackerels typically reach lengths of about 18 inches, but some individuals may grow as large as 30 inches.

cero mackerel scomberomorus regalis swimming under saltwater

This fish is a popular sport fish and used for commercial purposes. This article discusses the various features of the Cero Mackerel.

Characteristics & Appearance

The cero mackerel is a slender fish with a pointed head and a forked tail. Its body, genetically made for speed, can reach up to 30 mph when chased by a predator.

Weight & Length

The average weight for a cero mackerel is about 8 pounds, and the average length is about 18 inches.

cero mackerel species grow length under the sea

However, some fish may grow as large as 36 inches in length. There have been rare cases of this species being up to 72 inches long and 17 pounds.

Physical Characteristics & Color

The Cero Mackerel has a bluish green back and a silvery-white belly. Their backs tend to be a bit darker than their bellies, with shades of blue and green that fade into silver.

cero mackerel bluish-green back and silvery-white belly color

Distinguishing features include a lateral bronze stripe that starts right behind the pectoral fin that extends to the caudal fin.

Then, multiple rows of yellow stripes and spots form more lateral lines on its side. Part of the dorsal fin is bluish-black.

Cero Mackerels also have scaled pectoral fins, which is a determining differentiator between them and other mackerel species.

For example, the Spanish Mackerel doesn’t have stripes down its side, and the King Mackerel has a lateral line that dips at a 45-degree angle.

The slender body, pointed head, and forked tail of the cero mackerel is built for speed so that it can chase its food as well to escape predators. The markings on the Cero Mackerel are unique and beautiful.

Lifespan & Reproduction

The lifespan of a cero mackerel is typically around 12 years, but they can live up to 20 years. They reach sexual maturity at about two years of age.

Cero mackerels reproduce by spawning in open water between April and October in Jamaica and all year in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Florida.

When females reach sexual maturity, they are usually between 15 and 31 inches long. Cero Mackerel are an oviparous fish species that lay eggs.

Each female can release between 160,000 and 2.23 million eggs during a spawning season. They release their eggs while the males release their sperm.

The eggs get fertilized as they drift. The eggs are buoyant, which means they continue to float until they hatch.

In most cases, the eggs are about .048 inches in diameter. They typically hatch within a few days.

The development of the cero mackerel larva is interesting in that the caudal fin appears first. After that, the first and second dorsal fins begin to develop, followed by the pectoral pelvic fin.

Habitat

The cero mackerel is a solitary species. However, they occasionally form schools along coral reefs and ledges between 3 and 66 feet deep.

Cero mackerels usually swim closer to the water’s surface as they prefer coastal habitats. However, they take advantage of the Pelagic Ecosystems because it gives them easy access to their food.

They thrive in warm saltwater and populate in various places such as the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Where Do Cero Mackerel Live?

The cero mackerel lives in many different places where warm water is present. Many are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean, as well as in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

They are also found in Cape Cod, Florida, and even in the West Indies. It is also common to spot cero mackerel in parts of Massachusetts. 

They also live in the Gulf of Mexico. This makes sense as the Cero Mackerel loves warmer water climates and stays closer to the surface where the water is warmer.

Food & Diet

The cero mackerel is a predator and enjoys hunting for its food. It prefers to feed on clupeoides which are herring-like fish.

Fish in the clupeoid group swim fast and evasive swimming makes them a positive challenge for the cero mackerel.

What Do Cero Mackerel Eat?

The cero mackerel also feeds on anchovies, crustaceans, and squid. Cero mackerels are fast and agile predators that use their stripes to confuse their prey before attacking.

This makes the cero mackerel a quick and agile predator that can easily catch game. The cero mackerel collects its food by swimming through schools of fish and striking at their prey.

It has a slender body built for speed, enabling it to hunt its prey successfully. Clupeoides live in large schools and are an easy target for the cero mackerel.

Most crustaceans tend to live in the benthic zone near the bottom of the ocean. These include crabs, shrimp, and lobster.

While the cero mackerel enjoys hunting its prey, it also takes advantage of the readily available aquatic ecosystem.

This means that it will take advantage of schools of fish closer to the surface and easier to catch. They are aggressive predators who tend to force their prey into tight schools, making them easier to catch.

Specific feeding times vary, but they usually hunt closer to the water’s surface. Anglers have also noticed that they catch more cero mackerel during the full moon as well as the first and last few hours of the day.

Threats & Predators

The cero mackerel is a prey fish hunted by larger predators such as sharks, dolphins, and tuna. Humans also hunt them for their meat as well as their eggs.

Human Threats

The cero mackerel is considered a good sport fish and is often caught by recreational fishermen using light tackle.

It is also commonly caught by commercial fishers using nets and trawls. They usually get baited using cut herring or anchovies.

Since people love to eat them, the cero mackerel gets hunted for its meat. The meat gets prepared in various ways, such as sushi, fish oil supplements, sashimi, and even canned.

Climate Change & Global Warming

The cero mackerel is responding to global warming by moving northward into cooler waters.

It is causing the cero mackerel to be less common in its traditional southern range. While they prefer warmer waters, they can only adapt to a certain degree of change.

Not migrating can only have two results, a drop in numbers or an increase in numbers in cooler regions. The cero mackerel chooses to migrate.

Predators

The main predators of the cero mackerel are sharks, dolphins, tuna, and humans. One great thing about the cero mackerel is that its silver underside blends very well with the sun’s reflection shining on the earth’s surface. It makes it difficult for predators to detect from below when swimming in a school of fish.

Other Threats

As with most fish, the cero mackerel is susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change and global warming.

So far, they are responding positively by migrating to cooler waters. However, they are only able to adapt to a certain degree of change.

If the climate continues to change at the current rate, it is possible that the cero mackerel could face a drop in numbers if they reach the dilemma of not being able to migrate any further north.

Conservation Status

The cero mackerel is not currently listed as an endangered or threatened species by the IUCN despite being prey for larger fish and hunted by humans.

However, this fish is susceptible to the harmful effects of climate change and global warming, which could potentially impact populations in the future.

Fun Facts About Cero Mackerel

  • The cero mackerel is known as the “painted mackerel.”
  • The cero mackerel is a fast predator that enjoys chasing its game.
  • The diet of the cero mackerel also includes squid and shrimp.
  • The cero mackerel is a prey fish hunted by larger predators such as sharks, dolphins, and tuna.
  • Females lay between 160,000 and 2.23 million eggs during a spawning season fertilized externally.

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