Star Drum, Stellifer lanceolatus
The Star Drum, Stellifer lanceolatus, whose common Spanish name is corvinilla lanza, is a member of the Croaker or Sciaenidae Family, known collectively as berrugatas and corvinas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the American Stardrum. Globally, there are 24 species in the genus Stellifer, of which seven are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.
The Star Drums have oblong, robust, and moderately compressed bodies. They are silvery gray to olive dorsally and transition to pale ventrally. Their anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are yellow. Their caudal and dorsal fins are dark with the first dorsal fin having a wide black margin. Their head is deep with a short snout and large eyes set high and forward. Their mouth is large and strongly oblique; it opens at the front with the top lip reaching the lower edge of the eyes. They have no barbel and their chin has six pores. Their gill covers have four to six strong bony spines set at an angle. Their anal fin has two spines and eight or nine rays with the second spine being about two-thirds the length of the first ray. Their caudal fin is long and blunt or sharply pointed. Their first dorsal fin has 11 or 12 spines with a deep notch before the second dorsal fin, which has one spine and 21 to 25 rays. They have 32 to 36 densely packed gill rakers. Their lateral line extends into the length of the caudal fin. They are covered with smooth to rough scales.
The Star Drums are found demersal over muddy and sandy bottoms in coastal areas and estuaries at depths up to 60 feet. They reach a maximum length of 21.0 cm (8.3 inches). Juveniles inhabit waters with lower salinities and migrate to oceanic waters as they mature. They feed on small crustaceans. They are a poorly studied species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters, the Star Drums are found in all waters of the Atlantic being abundant in all coastal lagoons and estuaries, specifically in and around Campeche.
The Star Drums are not a targeted species and are of little interest to most. They are a frequent by-catch of the trawl fishery. From a conservation perspective, they are currently considered of Least Concern, being abundant and widespread. There is a new concern due to their susceptibility to predation by the invasive Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans, which was recently introduced to the Caribbean.
Star Drum, Stellifer lanceolatus. Fish caught off the pier in Folly Beach, SC, June 2015. Length: 15.0 cm (5.9 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ryan Crutchfield, Tampa, FL.