Species S. sierra
The sierra, Scomberomorus sierra, also known as the Pacific sierra or the Mexican sierra, is a medium-sized fish that belongs to the Scombridae family and is a member of the Spanish Mackere tribe. It may be found along the coast of the eastern Pacific Ocean from southern California to Chile.
The body of the sierra, like that of many other members of its family that includes “real tuna,” is long, fusiform, and coated in microscopic scales. They may reach a length of 3–4 feet and a weight of 15 pounds. On the dorsal side, their bodies are bronze-green and black, fading to a silver-white hue ventrally. On their sides, most specimens feature rows of little orange dots, the bulk of which are below their lateral line.
The sierra has a white anal fin that is about the same length as their second dorsal fin and sits directly beneath their sail-like first dorsal fin. They also have tiny pectoral fins directly beyond their gill slits, as well as a series of 7–10 finlets between their posterior dorsal and anal fins and their caudal fin on both ventral and dorsal sides (tail fin).
Distribution and Habitat
The Sierra Nevada ranges from southern California to Chile in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It’s a pelagic species that spends most of its time along the coast, although it may also be found near offshore islands or undersea seamounts. They like to congregate with other sierra and smaller fish, such as immature tuna. Sierra is usually found near the surface, in less than 50 feet of water.
Sierra, like the rest of their family, are fierce predators. They will eat a variety of tiny fish, including anchovies, clupeids, and herring. They’ll ambush schools of these species with their speed, plucking out individuals as the group forms a tighter and tighter ‘bait ball’ in response.
As a result, numerous other marine predators are attracted to the sierra. Various marine animals, such as sea lions and seals, as well as toothed whales, such as orcas, dolphins, and porpoises, may be encountered throughout its habitat. Many sharks, including mako sharks, blue sharks, and bull sharks, will feed on the sierra. When the chance comes, bigger kinds of fish such as tuna and billfish will hunt for sierra and other similar species. Finally, in both recreational and commercial fisheries, the most prevalent predator of all—humans—will take the highly desired food fish.
Reproduction and Lifecycle
Spawning takes place throughout the summer, usually in shallow waters. Sierra, like other members of the Scombridae family, is a dispersed spawner. Females may discharge up to 1 million eggs per metre of water in the water column. During the spawning season, they are released in bunches. Males will also release sperm at the same time as females, allowing for external fertilisation of the eggs.
The embryo will float in the water as part of the zooplankton population after being fertilised. It will grow into a larval fish and then a juvenile sierra, after which it will begin schooling with other fish of the same size. Most people reach adulthood in 1-2 years and live for up to 12 years.
Despite being targeted by both commercial and recreational fisheries, populations of this widely spread species remain healthy. On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is now classified as The Least Concern.
Fun Facts about the Sierra!
The Sierra is not the most well-known member of its family. Studying this eastern Pacific species, on the other hand, provides many opportunities to learn about biological principles and interesting facts.
A Lot Like the Other
The Sierra belongs to the Scomberomorini tribe, which also includes numerous other species that are related. All of them are members of the Scombridae family, often known as the “mackerels.” However, this family also includes well-known fish species such as tuna and bonito.
There are multiple species in the Spanish mackerel tribe, which is also known as the Spanish mackerel. The Monterey Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus concolor), for example, lives in close proximity to the Sierra and has a comparable range, particularly in the Gulf of California.
Another species, the Atlantic Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), is exclusively found in the Atlantic Ocean, despite its similarities to Pacific species. These little differences between such similar species show how the occupancy of somewhat varied niches across a wide variety of environments may result in a high rate of speciation.
Not So Simple
While these variances and similarities across species are intriguing from a biological standpoint, they also pose several conservation concerns. The range of the Monterey Spanish mackerel, for example, has been reduced from what it was before. It can now only be found in the northern seas of the Gulf of California.
Alternatively, the Pacific sierra may be found all the way down the coast to Peru and southern California. However, when it crosses paths with the Monterey Spanish mackerel, the two species are readily mistaken and often coexist. Both are often referred to as’ sierra. ‘
While the populations of the Pacific sierra remain quite robust, the Monterey Spanish mackerel now only occupies a small section of its historical habitat. As a result, determining population estimates and organising conservation measures for this species has been problematic, since the species are difficult to differentiate and are often sold alike. Indeed, seafood mislabeling—sometimes purposefully, but more frequently unintentionally, as in the case of the Sierra and Monterey Spanish mackerel—poses a substantial challenge to global marine conservation and fisheries management efforts.
The majority of species are significant to the food chain because of their position at the top or bottom. The sierra, on the other hand, is classified as a mesopredator. This indicates that it is situated at the centre of the food chain. The sierra is noted for its capacity to pursue diverse species opportunistically as both predator and prey. As a result, it is prey for a broad range of bigger species.
It is not, however, the major prey item for any predatory species, and it exhibits a high degree of trophic flexibility. Some of its predators even feed on the same prey species as it. This knowledge of the species as a vital trophic link is essential for conservation and ecosystem-based fishing management activities over its entire range.