Family : Sparidae
Text © Giuseppe Mazza
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The well known and colourful Common pandora (Pagellus erythrinus Linnaeus, 1758), belongs to the class of Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes, to the order of Perciformes and to the family of Sparidae.
The genus name is the Latin diminutive of the Common seabream (Pagrus pagrus), a quite similar fish, even if usually bigger.
The name of the species comes from the Greek “erythros” = red, with obvious reference to the dominating colour.
It has a very vast distribution. Common in the whole Mediterranean, is present also in the Black Sea. The, passed the Gibraltar Strait, goes northwards along the Atlantic coasts up to the Scandinavian countries. Southwards, it reaches the Guinea-Bissau, after having colonized the Azores, Madeira, Canaries and Cape Verde Islands.
It is a coastal benthopelagic species living usually between the 20 and the 100 m of depth, but it can even reach the 300 m. We find it on the clean sandy bottoms, frequented mainly by the juveniles, and the bottoms mixed with rocks, stones and debris, and finally on the muddy-gritty ones, further offshore.
It can reach the 60 cm of length and exceed the 3 kg, but usually measures 20-25 cm. The body, flat as is suitable for a sparid, reaches the maximum height at the insertion of the spine column, and from here the profile goes down, straight, towards the pointed snout.The mouth is small but well armed. Both jaws have on the front several rows of pointed teeth, bent inwards, the longer ones in the front row, for seizing the preys, and then the others, smaller. On the rear part of the jaws follow 2-3 rows of molariforms, placed in increasing size, one close to the other, like a cobbled pavement.
The only one dorsal fin has 12 spiny rays, foldable in a special groove, and 10-11 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spiny rays and 8-10 unarmed, and the ventral 1 spine and 5 soft rays. The pectoral fins are triangular and elongated, the caudal is forked. The eye, with yellow iris, is big, for granting a good vision in the darkness of the bottoms.
Pink is the dominating colour, with bluish hues, and many blue small dots, glittering in the upper part of the sides, which become brighter in the reproductive period. The back is darker and the upper margin of the operculum is of red carmine colour. A red spot is noted also, at the base of the pectoral fins. It is easily distinguished from the Common seabream because the tips of the caudal fin are not white.
The common Pandora is carnivorous. It nourishes of small fishes and of all the animals living on the seabed. It is a protogynic hermaphrodite species, with females becoming males during the third year of life when they exceed the 1 cm of length. Even if along the Italian coasts it reproduces only in April-May, in the southern Mediterranean it may spawn even twice a year. The post larval stages and the juveniles have a completely different livery with vertical bands. The growth is fast till when they reach the sexual maturity, around the 11-12 cm and then slows down remarkably.
Even if much fished for its excellent flesh, the Pagellus erythrinus not an endangered species. Its population may in fact double in only 1,4-4,4 years. The vulnerability index of this species is of 40 over 100.
Pagellus canariensis Valenciennes, 1838; Sparus erythrinus Linnaeus, 1758.