Striped Red Mullet – Mullus surmuletus

The Striped Red Mullet, also known as Surmullet, Woodcock Of The Sea, Mallette or Goatfish, is a species in the family of Syngnathidae and thus belongs to the superclass of the bony fish

Striped Red Mullet - Mullus surmuletus Osteichthyes bony fish diving canary islands species atlantic ocean
Striped Red Mullet – Mullus surmuletus


Mullus surmuletus has an elongated body. The colouration is sand-coloured, while the pattern can be variable. Sometimes it is red, yellow or brownish. On the sides the Striped Red Mullet has red or brown horizontal stripes. Under its mouth it has two barbels, with whom it is looking for food in the sand.

Mullus surmuletus reaches a maximum length of 40cm, whereby females are usually slightly larger than males.

Habitat and Distribution

The Striped Red Mullet can be found on sandy or muddy ground, down to a depth of 60m, in the Ionian Sea even down to 400m.

When diving in the Canaries you can observe it very often.

In addition, Mullus surmuletus is spread from Norway, via the British Isles, the North Sea, along the European and African coast, all the way to Senegal. This includes Madeira and the Canary Islands. There are also Striped Red Mullets in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.


Mullus surmuletus lives benthic and searches the ground for edible with its barbels, which are equipped with fine touch and taste cells. Their diet consists of crustaceans, worms, molluscs and small fish. When looking for food it is often accompanied by wrasses or seabreams, which eat the flushed creatures.

Young Striped Red Mullets live in larger groups, while adult animals are grouped together in smaller groups.


The propagation time of the Striped Red Mullet is from April to July. Populations that live further south in the Atlantic are moving to the English Channel for spawning. The eggs and the larvae, which hatch after about three days, live pelagic and are often driven away by the current. With a size of 3cm Mullus surmuletus starts its benthic life and at the age of three they reach their sexual maturity.

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