• European hake

Latin name

Merluccius merluccius

Other names

Сornish salmon, herring hake.


Body pronotal, moderately compressed at the sides, height 5,7-6,0 times less than body length. Head large, flattened at the top, 3.3-4.0 times smaller than body length. Occipital ridge low and V-shaped. Mouth terminal, jaws large. The lower jaw is longer than the upper, the antenna on the chin is absent. The length of the upper jaw is 1.9-2.1 times less than the length of the head. The snout is elongated and compressed, its length is 30.2-34.5% of the length of the head, the tip is broad and rounded. The interorbital space is large, slightly elevated, its width is 21.5-28.4% of the length of the head. The eyes are large. The diameter of the eyes is 4.3-5.5 times less than the length of the head. Canines are present. The first full ray of the dorsal fin is flexible and elastic. The caudal fin is separate from the dorsal and anal fins, the second dorsal and anal fins are approximately equal in height. The transverse processes of the vertebrae in the merlusa are widened and flattened. The first vertebra and the transverse process of the vertebra are attached to the skull. The gill stamens are well developed, thick, short, with blunt tips. There are 8-11 gill stamens on the first gill arch.

Two separate dorsal fins, the first is short, high and triangular in shape. The second dorsal fin is elongated and partially divided by a shallow notch located 1/3 from the end of the fin. The anal fin is similar to the second dorsal fin. The pectoral fins are long, thin and high. In adults they do not reach the beginning of the anal fin. The lateral line is almost straight, raised in the anterior part, and consists of 127-156 scales. The teeth on both jaws are well developed, large and sharp, arranged in two irregular rows. The upper teeth are fixed. The palatal teeth are absent. The caudal fin is smaller than the head, increasing in size with age. The caudal skeleton consists of a series of X- and Y-shaped bones. The dorsal surface of the body and head, except for the anterior tip of the snout, is covered with fine and thin cycloid scales. The first dorsal fin has 7-11 rays, the second dorsal and anal fins each have 36-40 rays, and the pectoral fins have 12-14 rays. The pelvic fins are in front of the pectoral fins. Number of vertebrae 49-54. Colouring silver-grey, dorsum and back of head blackish grey or brown, with a dark spot above the base of the pectoral fin. Mouth black. Belly silvery white. Iris golden, pupil blue-black.


Inhabits the northeastern and central-eastern Atlantic, reaching as far south as Mauritania and north to Iceland and the Lofoten Islands. It comes in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. 


Occurs in the middle and lower part of the continental shelf at depths of 30-1075m, most commonly between 70-400m. It remains near the bottom during the day and rises into the water column at night.


The maximum recorded length is 140 cm and weight is 15 kg. The average length does not exceed 30-60 cm. 

Life history and Behavior

The spawning season in European waters is very long - from spring to autumn. The maximum life expectancy is 20 years.

Food and feeding habits

Adults feed on pelagic fish (anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, cod) and squid; juveniles feed on small crustaceans, mainly euphausiids and amphipods.


Spawning is portion. The eggs are pelagic. The yolk contains a fat droplet. The released eggs float to the surface and the larvae live in the water column until the juvenile stage, after which they gradually become benthic. Spawning takes place at depths of 100-300 metres in the Mediterranean, and no deeper than 150 metres in the Celtic Sea. Males and females of the Atlantic population reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 and 7 years, respectively, at a length of 40 and 57 cm. Males and females in the Mediterranean reach sexual maturity at 26-27 cm and 26-40 cm respectively. At two years of age, the fish are 24-25 cm long, and at 20 years of age, the average length is 79 cm for males and 100.5 cm for females. Fish from the Mediterranean population grow faster. The fecundity of females is 2-7 million eggs.

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Gadiformes
Family Merlucciidae
Genus Merluccius
Species M. merluccius
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Littoral
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg 15
Maximum length, cm 140
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Predator

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European hake

Tags: european hake