Family : Sciaenidae
Text © Giuseppe Mazza
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The Shi drum (Umbrina cirrosa Linnaeus, 1758) belongs to the class of the Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes, to the order of the Perciformes and is inserted, like the Brown meagre (Sciaena umbra) in the family of the Sciaenidae, present in all oceans with about 70 genera and 300 species.
The name of the genus Umbrina originates from the Latin “umbra”, shade, ghost, because it is a mimetic animal and quick in its movements who suddenly appears and disappears.
The specific term cirrosa, always in Latin, from “cirrus”, curl, curled lock of hair, with reference to the odd drawings on the sides.
It is present in the Mediterranean, Black Sea included, and, past Gibraltar Strait, along the European and African Atlantic coasts, up to Brittany and Morocco. In Italy, it has become rare in the Ligurian and northern Tyrrhenian Seas.
Through the Suez Canal Umbrina cirrosa is nowadays found even in the Red Sea waters, and is one of the few fishes who has done the reverse route of the increasing invasive species of the Mediterranean, called Lessepsian, from the name of the engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps who planned and followed the realization of the Canal.
It lives solitary or in small sedentary schools along the coasts, on the sandy shallows, but often also on gravelly structures among the rocks.
It is not affected by brackish water and, therefore, it is found also in the lagoons and the estuaries. It may go down up to 100 m of depth.
It can reach, exceptionally, 1 m of length and 12 kg of weight, but, usually, it does not exceed the 70 cm.
The body, compressed on the sides, is elongated with a much arcuate profile towards the head, whilst the belly is straight. The mouth is placed at the bottom, with a short barbel under the chin. The teeth are tiny, placed in bands on the jaws and on the pharyngeal bones.
The opercula show modest flat spines. The dorsal fns are two.
The first, high and triangular with spiny rays, and the second, lower, and elongated to almost reach the tail, which has an unusual profile, slightly concave only in the upper part, more evident in the adults.
The anal is short and almost triangular, and modest are also the pectoral and the pelvic ones, which we find in ventral position.
The silvery livery is unique indeed, with yellow oblique bands blue-violaceous edged. Behind the operculum is located a vast black border.
It nourishes of molluscs, worms, crustaceans and echnidoerms, rooting in small schools the seabed.
The shi drums are able to reproduce once reached the 37-40 cm. The females, synchronized, lay in group between May and July, and the only 0,8 mm pelagic eggs are at once fecundate by the males. The young, up to 3 cm, are blackish with white fins.
Attempts of breeding are underway, as its flesh is very valuable and demanded.
The index of resilience of the species is average, with a possible doubling of the populations in 1,4-4,4 years, and the juveniles could, theoretically, reach the age of 18 years, but Umbrina cirrosa is too much fished, with a fishing vulnerability index of 43 on a scale of 100, and already appears as “Vulnerable” in the Red List of the endangered species.
Asperina improvisa Ostroumoff, 1896; Cheilodipterus cyanopterus Lacepède, 1801; Coracinus boops Pallas, 1814; Perca umbra Lacepède, 1802; Sciaena cestreus Gronow, 1854; Sciaena cirrosa Linnaeus, 1758; Sparus coracinus Asso, 1801; Umbrina cirrhata Linnaeus, 1758; Umbrina vulgaris Cuvier, 1830.