Contribution to the biology of the Lizardfish,
Saurida tumbil (Teleostei: Aulopiformes),
from the Persian Gulf
by Nasrollah M. Soofiani, Yazdan Keivany and Abdulhossein M. Shooshtari
Abstract. Some biological aspects of the Lizardfish, Saurida fUlI/bil, from the Persian Gulf, Iran,
were studied by regular monthly collections. A total of 173 specimens, including 17 imrnatures,
26 males, and 130 females from the Khozcstan coasts were collected with a bOllam trawl. Females
ranged from 26.1 to 59.0 em (38.7±6.8) in lotal1englh and from l26.5 to 15 109 (477.1±260.8) in
weight. Males ranged from 26.3 to 38.3 em (32.7±3.2) in lotallength and from 128.310450.5 g
(260.2±83.5) in weight. The slope of the regression line suggested an isometric growth for the
fish. The gut content consisted mostly of fish species and the relative length or the gut (RLG) was
0.45 on average. suggesting a carnivorous recding habit. Thc absolute recundity was 74,444-
250,452. The gonadosomatic index showed (wo peaks for the fcmales (March and October), per-
haps indicating that the species is a spring and autumn spawner.
Kurzfassung. Einige biologischc Aspekte des Eidechsenfisches, S(llIrid(l IlIlI1bil, aus dem Per-
sischen Golf(lran) wllrdcn anhand von regclma13igen, monatlich durchgefUhrtcn Aufsammlungen
untersuchl. Insgesamt wurden 173 Excmplare analysiert, und zwar 17 immature, 26 mannliche
und 130 weiblichc Excmplare, die mit eincm Bodcnnetz an dcr Kliste VOll Khuzcstan gesammclt
wurden. Die Wcibchcn waren 26.1 bis 59.0 cm (38,7±6,8) lang und wogen zwischen 126,5 und
1510g (477,1±260.8). Die Lange der Mannchen bewegte sich zwischen 26,3 und 38,3 cm
(32,7±3,2) und dcrcn Gewiclu zwischen 128,3 und 450,5 g (260,2±83,5). Die Sleigllng der Re-
gressiongeraden Hi.sst aufein isometrisches Wachstulll der Art schlie13en. Oer Oanninhalt hesland
vorwiegend aus Fischanen und auch die relative DarmHinge (RLD). die 0,45 bClrug, deutet auf
carnivore Emiihrung hin. Dic absolule Fruchlbarkeit betdigt 74.444-250.452. Ocr gonadosoma-
tische Index wies fiir die Weibchen zwei Spilzen auf (Marz und Oktober), evcntucll ein Anzci-
chen dafUr, dass die Art im Fruhling und irn Herbstlaicht.
Key words. Biology, gonadosotnmic index, Middle East, reproduclion, Synodontidae.
The family Synodonlidae (lizardfishes) is represented in the Persian Gulf by three genera
and at least four species (KURONUMA & ABE 1986, RANDALL 1995, CARPENTER et aJ. 1997),
some of which are ofsignificance to the trawler fishing industry in the northern part (ASSADI
& DEHGHANl 1997). The Lizardfish, Saurida lumbil (Bloch, 1795) is distributed in the Indian
Ocean (FISHER & BIANCHI 1984) and is one of the food fishes in the Persian Gulf region. Its
landing rate has increased from 36 metric (Dnnes in 1996 (PARSAMANESI-I el a1. 1996) to 150
metric tonnes in 2002 in Khuzestan province, and to 1854 metric lonnes in the Iranian part of
the Persian Gulf (VALINASAB, pel's. comm. 2004). The species is known in this region by
several names, e.g., Hasson, Karichoon, Keyjar, Keymar and Krisho. There is only fragmen-
Zoology in the Middle East 38, 2006: 49-56.
ISSN 0939-7140 © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg
Zoology in the Middle East 38, 2006
tary information on the biology of this fish. BLEGVAD (1944) was the first to mention the
species from this region. RANDALL et 31. (1978) discussed the morphology of the species.
RAO (1981) and BUDNlCHENKO (1974) studied the feeding habits ofthe species in the Bay of
Bengal and along the Oman Coast in summer and winter, respectively. Other features such as
spawning, length-weight relationship and growth were studied in the Bay of Bengal (RAo
19833, 1983h, 1984). The growth of S. lumbil was also studied in the Arabian Sea (BUD.
NICHENKO & NOR 1978). The reproductive biology ofS. tumbil and ofclosely related species
was investigated in the Arabian Sea (BUDNlCHENKO & DlMlTROVA 1979). DERAYATl (] 986)
studied its feeding biology in the Persian Gulf. The growth and feeding habits of the species
were studied in Fujian and the Taiwan Bank (ZHANG & YANG 1986, Xu & ZHANG 1988,
1989). In order to improve our understanding and to provide more information for the man-
agement of this relatively important species commercially, we studied some aspects of the
biometry, feeding, and reproduction of the species in the Persian Gulf.
Material and methods
One hundred and seventy three specimens were collected from Hendijan (between 29°53' to
30004'N and 49°24' to 49°43'E), Khuzestan province, using bottom-trawls, from July 1997 to
April 1998 on a regular monthly basis. Specimens were kept in ice and transferred to the labora-
tory. For long-term storage, the specimens were preserved in 10% formalin. Gilson solution was
used to preserve the eggs. Biometric measurements were carried out on all specimens. The total
length and weight were measured to the nearest 0.1 cm and 0.1 g, respectively, and used to calcu-
late their relationships.
After carrying out the length and weight measurements on all the specimens, the stomach was
opened to examine its contents. The relative length of the gut (RLG) was calculated monthly
following BlswAs (1993): RLG = GLrrL, where GL is the gut length (em) and TL is the total fish
length (em). The stomach emptiness index or vacuity index (CV) was calculated following EUZEN
(1987): CV = (ESrrS) x 100, where ES is the number of empty stomachs and TS is the total
number of stomachs examined. The condition factor (K) was calculated following BAGENAL
(1978): K = (WfL3) X 100, where W is the gutted weight (g) and L is the total length (em). Gutted
weight was used in order to exclude possible affects of season and feeding intensity on the K
The ovaries of mature females were examined visually and the absolute fecundity (total num-
ber ofoocytes) and the relative fecundity (number of eggs per gramme body weight) were calcu-
lated using BAGENAL's (1967) method. The stage of maturity was checked according to BUD-
NICHENKO & DIMITROVA (1979). The gonadosomatic index (GST) or maturity index, an indirect
method for estimating tbe spawning period, was calculated each month for both sexes (NIKOLSKY
]963, HOPKINS ]979): GSI ~ (GWrrW) x 100,where GW is the gonad weighl (g) and TW is the
total fish weight (g). Analyses ofdala were perfonned using the SPSS 10 statistical package.
Length-weight relationship. The total length of mature fish ranged from 26.1 to 59 em
(38.7±6.8) in females and from 26.3 to 38.3 em (32.7±3.2) in males. The weight of mature
fish ranged from 126.5 to 1510 g (477.1±260.8) in Females and from 128.3 to 450.5 g
(260.2±83.5) in males. The abundance of different size classes of S. tumbil sampled in this
Size classes (cm)
Fig. 1. Size classes for females, males, and immatures ofS. IIIII/bi!.
study is given in Fig. I. The most common total length was 29-33 cm for males and 34-38
for females. The length-weight relationship for males, females, and immatures was described
by the following equations:
0.00704 LJOO6, r ~ 0.97
0.00709 LJOII, r ~ 0.98
Immature: W= 0.00258 LJ·324, I' = 0.97
The general relationship for the total population sampled is given in Fig. 2, and is defined by
0.00548 LJ·082(r= 0.98)
The values for the condition factor ranged between 0.66-0.75 for males and 0.70-1.01 for
females. In addition, we found some female specimens infected by nematode worms, in
which the condition factor was generally lower (0.61-0.80) than in healthy ones.
Feeding_ Amongst the 173 speeimens, 148 (86%) had full stomaehs. The vaellily index (eV)
for each month was calculated separately. The highest value (45.4) was recorded in August
and the lowest (6.6) in February. The diet of the fish was mainly dominated by other fish in
79 stomachs, including fish species from the families Carangidae, Clupeidae, Synodontidae,
Trichuridae, and, to a lesser extent, penaeids and cephalopods. However, in the other speci-
mens, the food items were not idemifiable due to digestion of the material. No changes in
feeding habits or dietary performance in relation to the time of sampling were noticed. The
relative length of the gUl was calculated and ranged between 0.44 and 0.46 (0.45±0.01),
suggesting a carnivorous feeding habit in this species.
Spawning and reproduction. Amongst the examined fish, 130 (83.3%) were female and 26
(16.7%) males, representing a sex ratio of 1:5 male:female.
The mean monthly values of OSI are given in Fig. 3. [n females, the GSI showed the first
peak in October, followed by an evident decline, reaching a minimal value in December
(0.26). The second and the maximum peak occurred in March (4.20). The examination of
ovaries at this lime ofthe year revealed that most mature females are almost in stage IV-V of
maturity; the ovaries occupy most of the body cavity, and there is a large number of
Zoology in the Middle East 38, 2006
W =0.0063 L30458, R' =0.967, n=173
15 2025 3035 40 45
Fig. 2. The general length-weight relationship in S. tumbil.
transparent eggs. In males, the GSI remained low and quite steady from August until Janu-
ary, and then it increased, reaching a maximum peak in April (2.98). From late March, the
GSI decreased in females. The relative fecundity varied from 123.0 to 341.7. The absolute
fecundity varied between 74444 and 250452.
The correlation between absolute fecundity and tOlal length and weight was significant and
explained by the following equations:
F'b = 0.00004L'J86 (r = 0.55, p<0.02)
F'b= 3.917W 0.694 (r= 0.58, p<O. 01)
Where FUbis absolute fecundity, and Land Ware total length (em) and weight (g), respec-
The length and weight in females are generally higher than in males caught in the Hendijan
region. The greatest length recorded in this study was 59 cm, which is an unusually large
specimen as the maximum size reported for this fish by several other authors is 45 cm (BUD-
OR 1978, FISHER & BIANCHI 1984, RA DALL el al. 1978). However, speci-
mens of up to 61.5 cm SL, corresponding to about 70 em TL, have also been recorded from
Ihe GulfofOman (ANONYMOUS 1983).
In general, as shown by the length-weight relationship, the value of the b exponent is
close to 3 in mature males and females and more than 3 in immatures, suggesting an isomet-
ric growth for adults and an allometric growth for juveniles (RICKER 1979). This shows a
change in the growth pattern as the fish approaches the adult stage orits life. RAo (1983b)
reported similar results for the combination of male and female in S. tumbil from the Bay of
Bengal. He found the length-weight relationship to be W=0.0058 LJ·OJI, which closely
--- Females ---- Males
Fig. 3. Monthly variation in the gonadosomatic index for females (e) and males (0) orSalirida fUfl/bi! ( n t l m ~
bers indicate the standard deviation for each point).
matches our findings (W= 0.0055L3.082) and confirms an isometric growth. Other references
cited in FishBase (FRO£S!:: & PAULY 2006) also strongly support our results.
As for the feeding habits, the diet consisted mainly of fish. This result is in close a g r e e ~
ment with the findings of BUDNtCHENKO (1974). He found that fishes constitute 6 0 ~ 8 0 % of
the diet composition in similar sizes ofS. lumbil and S. undosquamis along the Oman Coast.
His report also shows changes in the feeding habits ofthe same species in summer and win-
ter, by analysing a large number of stomachs. However, we found no such changes in the
feeding habits of the fish. According to the high percentage of fish and, to a lesser extent, of
crustaceans (penaeids) and cephalopods found in the stomach and the relative length of the
gut (RLO, 0.45±0.01), S. fwnbil can be considered to be mainly a piscivorous fish. Similar
findings for the same species were also reported by BUDNlCH£NKO (1974) from the Oman
coast, RAo (1981) from 'he north-western Bay of Bengal, and ZHANG & YANG (1986) from
Fujian and the Taiwan Bank fishing grounds. In closely related species, Sauric/a
c/osquamis and Synodus saurus, identical feeding habits were reported from the Mediterra-
nean region (GOLANt 1993, SOARES 2001). These comparisons show relatively similar f e e d ~
ing habits for different populations ofS. fllmbil from different areas. Since the unidentifiable
food items constitute a good part of the stomach contents, a more comprehensive daily s a m ~
piing regime with shorter intervals is required for a better understanding of the feeding h a b ~
its. Moreover, studies on the digestion rate ofeach prey item may also be necessary to obtain
the daily food consumption rate (HAWKINS et al. 1985, SPECZIAR et al. 1997, ANDERSEN
GSI resulLs for females suggest two maturity periods, during autumn and early spring with
a peak in late March/April, the period which coincides with the peak of aSI for males (Fig.
3). At this time, the ovaries of most femaJes were in the gravid stage and occupied most of
the body cavity, with translucent eggs identical to the maturity stage V as reported by
BISWAS (1993). RAo (1983a) reported a spawning period for S. fumbil ranging from Sep-
tember to March with a peak in N o v e m b e r ~ D e c e m b e r
in the Bay of Bengal. The spawning
54Zoology in the Middle East 38, 2006
period for the same species from the fishing grounds of South Fujian and the Taiwan Bank is
from January to May (Xu & ZHANG 1988). The existing discrepancies can perhaps be ex-
plained by the ecological differences that exist among the habitats and/or the populations.
For males, the GSI remained low «1) throughollt most ofthe sampling period. It started to
increase in January, reaching the maximum in April. Nevertheless, the OSI results for males
did not strongly support the autumn spawning in S. tumbi!. However, as reported by some
workers, this fish spawns throughout the year, spawning 2 ~ 4
considered an intennittent spawner (BUDNICHENKO &
through visual and histological examinations, spawned and reccntly spawned individuals
were noted throughout the year within the population (BUDNICHENKO & DIMITROVA 1979).
These findings support our results for females but not for males. The discrepancy for males
carulOt be explained as the limited amount of data preclude a detailed discussion of the re-
production cycle in males. One possible suggestion that can be made for the low male GSI in
autumn is that males could have continuous sperm production cycles, which has been de-
scribed in other teleost fishes such as Synodus sallrus (SOUSA et al. 2003) and Ophidion sp.
(MATTEI et al. 1993), but perhaps at a lower quantity. The high ratio of females to males
found in this study (5:1) is supported by the results of BUDNICHENKO & NOR (1978). They
reported that the ratio increases in this species with age in favour offemales, and it could rise
to 11: I in 6-year-old individuals.
The present work may lead to new research possibilities that will be important for com-
plementing the information discussed above. It is now necessary to collect more specimens
over a longer period and to make a comprehensive histological study in order to confinn our
results and to dctect possible seasonal and/or interannual variations. For a better understand-
ing and for better management, it is also important to produce age-determination and growth
shldies for this species.The results presented in this paper should therefore be considered as
preliminary for S. tumbil in thc Hendijan region, Persian Gulf.
batches of eggs and hence is
Acknowledgements. We wish lO thank the staff of the Iranian Fisheries Company, Khuzeslan Headquarter,
for their assistance wilh field work and fish collection. This project was financially supported by the Shahid
Chamran University Research CouncIl. Further support for NMS and YK was provided by Isfahan University
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Authors' addresses: Nasrollah M. Soofiani and Yazdan Keivany, Department of Fisheries, Faculty of
Natural Resources, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan, 84156 Iran. - Abdulhossein M. Shoosh-
tari, Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Shahid Chamran University, Ahwaz, Iran. - Email