What is a Mojarra?

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The mojarra is a type of small fish that lives predominantly in tropical waters throughout the Caribbean and on the Atlantic coast of parts of South and Central America. The name mojarra is actually a family name and may be interchangeable with the official surname Gerridae. More than 50 species of fish can be included in the family. All are members of the scientific class Actinopterygii and the order Perciformes. There are some differences between the species, but in general all fish included are relatively small with glistening silvery scales; they often have deeply forked tails and protruding mouths, which they use to discover food buried deep in the sea. They are often eaten by humans, especially the larger varieties, although they are also very commonly used as live bait in fishing. The way fish are identified and their appearance can vary depending on the species and precise location.

Physical characteristics

These fish are almost always silver with striped spots that sometimes look like painted bars. They typically have a deeply forked tail and a dorsal fin that has a pronounced tip that extends down to the back. Family members have 24 vertebrae and a visibly pointed “snout”, more formally known as a “protractile mouth”; it is longer at the bottom than the top, which allows the fist to sift through the sand at the bottom of shallow areas of the sea to find food. Fish normally feed on small invertebrates such as worms and plant matter.

Most are small fish, although there can be some variety between species. In general, their maximum length is around 1.15 feet (about 35 cm), although males can reach up to 1.32 feet (about 40 cm).

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Where do they live

Members of this fish family live predominantly in the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean, including the islands of the Bahamas, Caymans, and Cuba, and much of Central and South America, including Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Mexico and the US Gulf Coast also see many species. They tend to be called different things in different places and can occur in different varieties in different types of water. Common names for mojarra in English include blinch, broad shad, sea patwa, and silver perch. Tilapia is also sometimes included, but this is not technically correct; Tilapia is a member of a different fish family, although it shares many of the same physical characteristics.

Mojarra are most commonly found in the ocean, but they also sometimes inhabit brackish water, which is a mixture of fresh and salt water. Inland marches and streams are good examples of brackish habitats, and these places are often home to younger fish or smaller varieties.

As the fish in this family mainly eat earthworms and algae that grow on the sea floor, they are often found swimming near the bottom of the water. They generally prefer naturally shallow island waters for these reasons, but have been found at depths of up to about 229 feet (70 meters).

Geographical Variations and Identification

It is common for different species and variations to live more commonly in one place than another, and local farmers and fishermen often have their own ways of classifying and identifying them. The coasts of Mexico have some of the widest varieties of this family of fish, including the dark spot, gilthead and flagfin. Gerridae fish in the Mexican region tend to have large rough scales that cover their bodies, while others have slender bodies without the dark bars on the side more typical of fish found elsewhere. Sometimes the best way to classify fish is to study characteristics other than their external appearance, including their skeletal structure and arrangement of teeth and fins.

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human uses

The biggest uses for these fish are as food and as bait. The larger varieties are often sold for human consumption and can be roasted, grilled or fried; they tend to have a delicate flavor that isn’t overly “fishy”. They are also a valuable food group for several larger fish, including sharks, and this makes them valuable as live bait. Fishermen catch smaller varieties while they are still alive and use them to attract larger fish. This is a particularly popular tactic in sport fishing.

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