Fauna

FISHES

Gurnard fish

Chelidonichtys lastoviza (Bonnaterre, 1788)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Triglidae

 

 

Damselfish

Chromis chromis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Pomacentridae

 

 

Morphology: this species can reach up to 12 cm in length. The back is dark brown and the flanks are lighter. The young are bright blue.

Distribution: Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. It forms small shoals in shallow water on or near rocky seabeds and above Posidonia oceanica meadows.

Reproduction: reproduction takes place in rocky environments and is preceded by a courtship behaviour. During the summer, the male demarcates a territory and prepares a spawning site within it. The female’s attention is drawn to the male with distinctive signal jumps and sounds. After laying, the female leaves the nest and the eggs are guarded by the male.

Dusky grouper

Epinephelus marginatus (Lowe, 1834)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Serranidae

 

Common dentex

Dentex dentex (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Mediterranean rainbow wrasse

Coris julis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae

Morphology: species with a body covered in very small scales, reaching a maximum overall length of 25 cm.

Distribution: the Mediterranean rainbow wrasse is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Reproduction: it is a hermaphrodite species, developing first as a female.

Interesting fact: the colour varies according to sex, age and season. The females have longitudinal whitish-brown bands and a white belly (“gioffredi” livery). Upon reaching sexual maturity, the livery has a longitudinal orange band with sinuous margins, often black behind the operculum (“julis” livery).

Peacock damsel

Thalassoma pavo (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae

 

European Conger

Conger conger (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Anguilliformes
Family: Congridae

 

 

Stand steenbras

Lithognatus mormyrus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Moray eel

Muraena helena (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Anguilliformes
Family: Murenidae

 

 

Morphology: an eel-like species that can reach up to 1 metre in length. Brown colour with yellowish-white spots. It hides among the rocks. It has no pectoral fin but has a low dorsal fin.

Distribution: widespread in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Reproduction: it reproduces in winter and lays pelagic eggs. The larva is a leptocephalus.

Interesting fact: the moray eel is often described as an aggressive creature; in reality, it only attacks humans if it is harassed or feels threatened. Many people think its bite is poisonous. This is not entirely unfounded, as the moray eel’s saliva contains a toxin that is secreted by specific glands on the palatal mucosa. The bite of the moray eel is very painful; it has sharp teeth that can cause deep lacerations.

Common pandora

Pagellus erythrinus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Red porgy

Pagrus pagrus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Comber

Serranus cabrilla (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Serranidae

 

 

Morphology: it has a very pronounced and large head compared to the rest of the body, which is elongated and slightly compressed. The mouth is large and the jaw prominent. It has a single dorsal fin, elongated, initially spiny, with 10 rays, while at the rear, it has 13–15 soft rays. The colouring is reddish with reddish-brown vertical stripes and two/three whitish horizontal bands. The colouring varies mainly according to age and habitat. The maximum length is 40 cm. It feeds on fish, cephalopods, worms and crustaceans.

Distribution: it inhabits muddy seabeds and is often found near coral shoals, down to a depth of 500 m. In the vicinity of the shore, it is found between rocks and Posidonia meadows. Common throughout the Mediterranean, especially in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Reproduction: the eggs are found in plankton in the months of May to August. Juveniles over 25 mm have the same shape as adults and can be recognised by a large longitudinal stripe running from the eye to the base of the tail.

Greater pipefish

Sygnathus acus

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Sygnathiformes
Family: Sygnathidae

 

 

Flying gurnard

Dactylopterus volitans (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Dactylopteridae

 

 

Greater amberjack

Seriola dumerili (Risso, 1810)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Caragidae

 

 

Transparent goby

Aphia minuta (Risso, 1810)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Gobiidae

 

Morphology: the body is elongated and laterally compressed. Its sexual dimorphism is clear. The male has: a taller body and caudal peduncle, a larger head, with a more obtuse snout and a more swollen throat; while the female has a slimmer body that tapers towards the tail and on the snout, which is more acute. In both sexes the mouth is wide, the jaws have a row of small, equal-sized teeth in the female, while the male has some larger, caniniform teeth. The colouring of the adults is pink; the body is transparent with a few black chromatophores. On the opercula, there is a red spot due to the colour of the gills, which are clearly visible. It feeds on planktonic organisms.

Distribution: it is found throughout the Mediterranean, including the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The highest concentration occurs on sandy, muddy seabeds at a depth of 5 to 40 m at the mouths of rivers and streams at the edge of Posidonia oceanica meadows.

Reproduction: these fish reproduce in summer (June–September) near rocky seabeds. The eggs adhere to the seabed and after reproduction, which occurs at the age of one year, the animal dies. Aphia minuta is a coastal, pelagic species during the larval and juvenile periods; during sexual maturity, individuals acquire benthic habits.

Interesting fact: the transparent goby is a species of significant commercial interest to certain fisheries such as those in the Ligurian Sea, Tuscany and the Adriatic.

Salema porgy

Sarpa salpa (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

Two-banded sea bream

Diplodus vulgaris (S. Hilaire, 1817)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Sargo

Diplodus sargus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

Annular sea bream

Diplodus annularis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae

 

 

Black scorpionfish

Scorpaena porcus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae

 

Red scorpionfish

Scorpaena scrofa (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Scorpaenidae

 

 

Morphology: can be recognised from all other species in the genus Scorpaena by the presence of small fleshy lobes on the chin. It can reach up to 50 cm in length. It has a massive spiny head covered with skin appendages. The colour is usually bright red but can also be pink, brown or yellow, variegated dark in various ways.

Distribution: it is common from a depth of 10 m; it favours reefy coralligenous shoals rising from a muddy seabeds. It is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the British Isles to Morocco, in the Canary Islands, the Azores and the Mediterranean Sea.

Reproduction: reproduction takes place between May and August and its eggs are emitted in floating mucous masses.

Interesting fact: it spends most of its time in a raised spot waiting for prey to pass in front of it.

Common sole

Solea solea (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Pleuronectiformes
Family: Soleidae

 

 

Thickback sole

Microchirus variegatus (Donovan, 1808)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Pleuronectiformes
Family: Soleidae

 

Shore clingfish

Lepadogaster lepadogaster (Bonnaterre, 1788)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Gobiesocidae

 

 

Ocellated wrasse

Symphodus ocellatus (Forsskal, 1775)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae

 

 

Peacock wrasse

Symphodus tinca (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae

 

 

Five-spotted wrasse

Symphodus roissali (Risso, 1810)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae

 

 

Morphology: Symphodus roissali, commonly known as the five-spotted wrasse, has an oval green, sometimes brown, body. It has a conical head, fleshy lips and scarcely protractile mouth. It is a generally solitary species, unlikely to venture into open waters.

Distribution: it prefers rocky seabeds rich in vegetation, from a depth of 8 to about 30 metres. It is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the Bay of Biscay to Gibraltar, in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Black Sea.

Reproduction: the spawning nest, which the fish do not leave very often, is built by the male between April and June with algae.

Red mullet

Mullus barbatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Mullidae

 

 

Striped red mullet

Mullus surmuletus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Mullidae

MOLLUSCS AND CRUSTACEANS

Chtamalids

Chtamalus stellatus (Poli, 1971)

Class: Maxillopoda
Order: Sessilia
Family: Chtamalidae

 

Morphology: chthamalids are sessile crustaceans that live by clinging to coastal rocks. They are found within a calcareous structure with a basal diameter of no more than 15 mm, which they secrete, consisting of several plates. They live mainly in the above-water reef or tidal zone and may therefore be subject to phases of immersion or emersion. During immersion, the creature can leave the structure with their cirri, which can catch small microorganisms. During emersion, the creature hermetically closes its valves, retracting the cirri inside the shell and retaining some water.

Distribution: chthamalids are found in mesolittoral rocks throughout the Mediterranean. They are also commonly found on the hulls of boats, animal shells or other floating objects.

Reproduction: the eggs are laid in the mantle cavity, from which they are released in the form of nauplius and cypris.

Interesting fact: like other crustaceans, chthamalids can also moult to grow their shells. It can live a few weeks in the dry and can withstand considerable temperature changes.

Pinna nobilis

Pinna nobilis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Bivalvia
Order: Ostreidea
Family: Pinnidae

 

 

Limpet

Patella sp. (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Gastropoda
Order: Patellida
Family: Patellidae

 

 

Hermit crab

Dardanus calidus/arrosor (Risso, 1827)

Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Family: Diogenidae

 

 

Octopus

Octopus vulgaris (Cuvier, 1797)

Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopoididae

 

 

Sea urchin

Paracentrotus lividus (Lamarck, 1816)

Class: Echinoidea
Order: Echinoida
Family: Echinidae

 

 

Morphology: ventrally flattened skeleton, few spines, length equal to skeleton diameter. The colour may be dark purple, brownish or green.

Distribution: very common throughout the Mediterranean Sea, on rocky seabeds. It is also found along the coasts of the eastern Atlantic. It lives at a depth of 0 to 80 m. Common and widespread on exposed rocky slopes and detritus, often numerous on rocky slopes without vegetation, which it uses. It exerts an abrasive effect on the rocks.

Reproduction: in sea urchins, as in all echinoderms, the sexes are separate and there is no sexual dimorphism as males and females are similar to each other. Reproduction takes place without mating as the eggs are laid in the water, where they are fertilised by the male seed.

Black sea urchin or “male sea urchin”

Arbacia lixula (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Echinoidea
Order: Arbacioida
Family: Arbaciidae

 

Morphology: species up to 6 cm in diameter; body slightly compressed along the vertical axis. Its entire surface is covered with numerous black spines, and its oral opening is on its ventral side.

Distribution: very common on all the rocky seabeds of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also found along the coasts of the eastern Atlantic.

Reproduction: this species is mistakenly called the “male sea urchin”, as it is often assumed to be the male individual of Paracentrotus lividus, another sea urchin. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the eggs of Arbacia lixula are inconspicuous compared to those of Paracentrotus lividus.

Interesting fact: the oral opening of the sea urchin is equipped with an organ known as an “Aristotle’s lantern”, which enables it to scrape algae from the seabed.

Cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Sepiida
Family: Sepiidae

 

 

Mediterranean red sea star

Echinaster sepositus (Retzius, 1783)

Class: Asteroidea
Order: Spinulosida
Family: Echinasteridae

 

 

Morphology: bright orange-red species. 15 mm spines embedded in the dermis. 5 arms.

Distribution: the red sea star is widespread throughout the Mediterranean and is found on all rocky seabeds down to a depth of 200 m.

Reproduction: species with separate sexes that release eggs and sperm into the water. No sexual dimorphism. Reproduction also takes place asexually by fission. Interesting fact: it moves along the seabed using small tubes with suction cups on the ventral side. These appendages are called “ambulacral pedicels”; they branch off from a system of water-filled channels, known as the water vascular system, which is unique to echinoderms. Sea urchins and sea cucumbers also use ambulacral pedicels to walk along the seabed.

CNIDARIANS

By-the-wind sailor

Velella velella (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Hydrozoa
Order: Chondrophora
Family: Porpitidae

 

 

 

 

Morphology: silver-blue floating species. Oval disc shape, 4–7 cm in diameter, crowned with a tall horny ridge resembling the sail of a boat (hence the name “velella” – from the Latin “velum”, sail).
It is a free-floating colony, below the sail is a central feeding polyp surrounded by numerous smaller feeding polyps and tentacles.

Distribution: cosmopolitan species.

Reproduction: reproduction may be polypoid asexual and/or medusoid sexual.

Interesting fact: the by-the-wind-sailor positions itself in the direction of the wind and floats downwind at about 40°. If overturned, it quickly regains its original position. They are often found in large floating colonies.

Mediterranean jellyfish

Cotylorhiza tuberculata (Macri, 1778)

Class: Scyphozoa
Order: Rhizostomeae
Family: Cepheidae

 

 

Precious coral

Corallium rubrum (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Anthozoa
Order: Gorgonacea
Family: Coralliidae

 

 

Morphology: colony of numerous animal organisms known as polyps, a few millimetres long and white in colour. These small animals have 8 tentacles, which can be completely retracted into special cavities (coenosarcs). Coral is usually red in colour but can also take on pink and white tones.

Distribution: precious coral grows in caves or crevices from a depth of 20–100 m down to 100 metres. It is a semi-darkness-loving species. It mainly grows above cave vaults to avoid being covered by sediment. Its range includes the Mediterranean and the eastern Atlantic (Portugal, Canary and Cape Verde Islands).

Reproduction: it reproduces sexually giving rise to a planktonic larva, which secondarily attaches itself to the substrate.

Interesting fact: it is the only Alcyonacea that has a completely calcareous skeleton. It is now extremely rare due to overfishing and marine pollution.

White gorgonian

Eucinella singularis (Esper, 1791)

Class: Anthozoa
Order: Alcyonacea
Family: Gorgoniidae

 

 

Moon jelly

Aurelia aurita (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Scyphozoa
Order: Semaeostomeae
Family: Ulmaridae

 

 

Pelagia noctiluca

Pelagia noctiluca (Forsskal, 1775)

Class: Schyphozoa
Order: Semaeostomeae
Family: Pelagiidae

 

 

Morphology: a pink-purple translucent jellyfish with a diameter of about 10 cm, with an umbrella consisting of 16 lobes, from which eight long, retractable, highly stinging tentacles extend up to 10 metres. The oral tentacles are up to about 30 centimetres long.

Distribution: it is common in the Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern Atlantic Ocean up to the North Sea.

Reproduction: P. noctiluca does not go through the polypoid stage and the adults have separate sexes: the female lays her eggs in the sea, which are fertilised by the males’ spermatozoa. The zygote develops into the planula, a larva equipped with cilia for movement and dispersal at planktonic level. These planulae directly develop into young jellyfish (ephyrae), which then grow to form adult jellyfish.

Interesting fact: jellyfish do not sting or bite but cause skin irritation through stinging tentacles. Jellyfish venom is thermolabile, i.e. it degrades with heat; simply placing the irritated skin close to a source of heat is enough to soothe the pain. Alternatively, an antihistamine- and cortisone-based cream can be applied.

Barrel jellyfish

Rhizostoma pulmo (Macri, 1778)

Class: Scyphozoa
Order: Rhizostomeae
Family: Rhizostomatidae

 

 

Beadlet anemone

Actinia equina (Linneaus, 1758)

Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Actiniidae

 

 

Morphology: the body is cylindrical with a diameter of about 7 cm. It can reach 6 cm in height. The tentacles are about 2 cm long and are rather short, arranged in a crown around the oral opening. A distinctive feature of this organism is the presence of stinging organelles located mainly on the tentacles and around the mouth. The body consists of two layers of cells (epidermis and gastrodermis) between which is a thin acellular mesoglea. Inside the body is a cavity known as the coelenteron, which serves mainly as the digestive cavity, and opens to the outside via a single opening that serves as both mouth and anus. Through its tentacles, it feeds on small fish and any suspended organic particles.

Distribution: coelenterate typical of all Mediterranean coasts. It is also found in the Atlantic. It lives almost everywhere along the coast: on cliffs, along harbour quays and in tide pools.

Reproduction: there are several reproductive hypotheses for this organism. However, there seems to be agreement on the possibility that there are two forms of A. equina. In particular, that one reproduces sexually, while the other asexually. In the first case, fertilisation is internal, after which the embryo, having left the parent, transforms into a planktonic ciliate larva. This develops to the planula stage. At this point the larva is aspirated by an adult actinia, completing its development in its gastrovascular cavity. Having left the adult actinia, after wandering briefly in the water, the A. equina is able to attach itself to the substrate and emit its tentacles.

BIRDS

Scopoli’s shearwater

Calonectris diomedea (Scopoli,1769

Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Procellariidae

 

 

Great cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo (Linnaeus, 1758)

Class: Aves
Order: Suliiformes
Family: Phalacrocorocidae

 

 

Black-headed gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus (Linnaeus,1758)

Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae

 

Audouin’s gull

Ichthyaetus audouinii (Payraudeau, 1826)

Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae

 

 

Morphology: Audouin’s gull differs from the Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans) due to two characteristics: the beak colour is not yellow but rather coral red with a black and yellow tip; the legs are not yellow but dark olive-green. Overall, it is smaller in size, averaging 50 cm in length and weighing 500 to 600 g.

Distribution: it lives on the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea, where the waters are less polluted.

Reproduction: it nests in late spring, a month after the Caspian gull, on small islands along rocky coastlines. It generally lays 2 or 3 eggs in a nest built during courtship and characterised by a hollow in the ground lined with plant material; they hatch almost a month after laying, with the male helping the female in hatching.

Yellow-legged gull

Larus michaellis (Naumann,1840)

Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae

 

 

European shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis (Linnaeus,1758)

Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae

 

 

 

 

Morphology: a species similar to the great cormorant, with black plumage, which in late winter and spring takes on iridescent hues in breeding adults. It can reach a length of 75 cm. The beak is thin, elongated and bright yellow. The young have whitish ventral plumage. The tuft from which the species takes its name is only present during the courtship phase, in winter.

Distribution: a typically maritime species that nests on small islands along the coast in steep and unreachable areas. It is often seen on rocks, where it generally rests with its wings spread. The European shag has permeable plumage and spends a lot of time in the sun to dry out. It is widespread along the Atlantic coasts of Europe, as far as Finland and Iceland, as well as in the Mediterranean basin and the Black Sea.

Reproduction: there are about 2,000 breeding pairs in Italy, mainly in Sardinia in the Pelagie Islands (Lampedusa). The laying of eggs (usually 3) takes place from mid-December until May. The eggs hatch after about a month, and the young fly off at the age of two months. After the breeding season, they gather in groups of hundreds and sometimes thousands of individuals in search of new, more favourable feeding sites.

European storm petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus (Linnaeus,1758)

Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Hydrobatidae