Language English The Gulf of St. Lawrence Capelin OngletsDescriptionDistinguishing features Like its cousin, the smelt, the capelin is a small fish, slender and elongated, with a laterally compressed body that is covered with very small, silvery cycloid scales. Capelin can be distinguished from smelt by their broader and stronger pectoral fins as well as their longer anal fins. Reproduction Capelin begin to spawn around three years of age. When nighttime water temperatures reach between 6 and 10°C, hundreds of thousands of capelin gather inshore to spawn on sandy or gravel beaches, where it is said that they “roll”. Males generally arrive first, followed by the females. It is common to see a female flanked by one or two males as they wait for her to lay her eggs. When the eggs are expelled, the males fertilize them with their sperm. The adhesive eggs cling to the gravel and sand with which they are intermingled by the swash of the waves. This allows them to stay out of the sight of predators. The capelin larvae emerges 10-20 days later. Diet Capelin feeds primarily on planktonic organisms. They eat a great deal prior to spawning (in winter or early spring) and then stop feeding during the reproduction period. Predators At least ten species of fish, five species of marine mammals and nine species of birds are known to prey on capelin, but the Atlantic cod is by far its greatest predator. Minke whales and fin whales also eat large quantities of capelin. They are also an important food source for salmon, halibut, seals, mackerel, and seabirds. Habitat Capelin is found only in the Northern Hemisphere, in the cold waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. Ecology, behaviour Capelin is preyed upon by many marine species, making it an essential part of the Gulf of St.-Lawrence food chain. In fact, capelin abundance is so important that it affects the migration patterns of the Atlantic cod. Capelin is also consumed in large quantities by humans. Like most pelagic species, capelin travels in schools. French nameCapelan Scientific nameMallotus villosusPhylumChordataClassOsteichthyes (bony fish)OrderOsmeriformaFamilyOsmeridaeSizeAverage length: 13-20 cmWeightUp to 40-45 gramsLife spanMost capelin rarely live longer than 5 years.StatusVery abundant species.