Sparidae: L III D1

Lithognathus mormyrus (Linnaeus, 1758).

Sand steenbras


Egg diameter in µm

Number of oil globules

Diameter of oil globule in µm

Yolk texture

Perivitelline space

Position of oil globule at hatch

Gut length   at eye- pigment stage








40% of NL



Egg: The partly incubated egg has a number of yellow spots on the yolk, especially near the oil globule (A). The more advanced egg has 6 bright yellow patches on the embryo, and the stellate yellow spots on the yolk have reduced to just a few (B). The oil globule is clear to pale amber. Incubation is about 30 hours. The egg tends to sink during the later stages of incubation. Care is needed to separate it from Acanthistius, which often has obscure segmentation (FIIIA1).

Larva: The 1-day larva (C) has yellow pigment in the finfold and adjacent notochord, which reduces over the next 3 days (D-G), and has completely disappeared, except for small remnants around the anus, by day 5 (H). Black pigment concentrates over the gut, and in a dotted line ventrally along the notochord (H). C: 1 day, D & E: 2 days, F: 3 days, G: 4 days, H: 5 days (22-24°C).

Brownell (1979) illustrates an egg and larva which he attributes to this species, based on comparison with Varagnolo’s (1964) description of L. mormyrus from the Adriatic Sea. Both these descriptions do not include yellow pigment in the finfolds, which was originally described by Gilchrist (1903) and referred to by Brownell as “contradictory”. The meristics and shape of Brownell’s 56 day larva at 11.7mmSL (D XI,12; A III,11; P 16) could fit Rhabdosargus globiceps.

But for the position of the oil globule and clear yolk, the early larvae would be easily confused with EIIIA6, due to the finfold pigment. I did not manage to rear this species, despite good numbers of eggs in some samples. All 8 hatched larvae sequenced so far, have matched the sequences of 7 adult L. mormyrus from the KZN and Cape coasts (BOLD). A curious feature of this species is that it is the only sparid in our waters that does not reside with all our other sparids, including the other two South African Lithognathus species, in my barcode tree.


Linked samples Offshore Inshore
Eggs 471 943
Hits 75 185

This egg was fairly common off Park Rynie, and was seen in all months of the year (blue graph). The egg was not recorded in the DHM samples, which is surprising, in view of the species shallow water preference. Annual catches off Park Rynie, showed an increase 2000 to 2007, but have been less frequent recently (white graph). The Park Rynie linked samples showed the majority of eggs inshore (67%), suggesting this species is spawning inshore of the 20m contour. See Section 7.3 and Table 1 of the Introductory Notes, for more information on the linked samples.