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Common Name: Swordfish

Scientific Name: Xiphias gladius

 

 Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Osteichthyes

Order: Perciformes

Family: Xiphiidae

Genius: Xiphias

Species: X. gladius

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Do you know that the swordfish has no teeth? The swordfish are in the Actinopterygii class. They are also known as the broadbill and the gladiator. This class makes up half of all living vertebrates and the most successful group of fish. This class also lives in the most extreme environments like high altitude lakes and rivers, desert springs, caves, and the depths of the oceans. The swordfish have the sword that makes them so different from other fish. It helps them hunt because some of their food is too big to swallow.

 

The sword is also a defense mechanism and is composed of hardened bone and there are rumors that they have killed whales by slashing and stabbing them to death. The swordfish are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Indian Oceans. They like tropic, temperate, and cold water. Some of them migrate and some of them don’t. The ones that do migrate go to cold water during the summer and tropical waters during the winter. They can live from depths of 200 to 650 meters deep. The temperatures they live in vary from 5 to 27 degrees Celsius.

 

Squids are the swordfish’s main diet but they will also eat other fish. When the swordfish goes through a school of fish, they slash their sword side to side and then eat the fish that are killed or stunned. They do most of their hunting at night. They have no teeth and swallow their prey whole. Prey that is too big for them to swallow, they use their sword to cut up the animal and then eat up the pieces that are small enough to swallow. Preditors of the swordfish are the killer whale and humans. When they are larvae they are eaten by many types of fish, like sharks, marlin, sailfish, yellow fin tuna, and dolphins.

 

Swordfish don’t reach sexual maturity until they are about 5 years old. They usually mate during spring or summer but places closer to the equator have swordfish spawning all the time. Most spawning goes on in the Mediterranean. The females carry 1 to 29 million eggs. Male and female swordfish look the same on the outside so you won’t be able to tell what gender they are. One way to find out if a swordfish is a male or a female is that females are usually heavier than males.

 

The swordfish are important to humans because we hunt them and eat them. They are healthy for us because they are low fat, have omega 3 fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals. We also have fisheries that catch about 55,000 tons of swordfish a year. About 40% of swordfish caught come from the Pacific and 10% of that comes from California. They are also game fish for fishers.

Author: Kris I.

Published: April 2006

 

Sources: Pic 1: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/speciesid/fish_page/images/fish46.jpg Campell, David. “Swordfish Information” http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=240, 1998 Froese, Rainer. “Swordfish Information” http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=226, 1990 McCrae, Jean. “Swordfish Information” http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/odfw/devfish/sp/sword.html, 1994 Scott, Kim A and Hargis, Nancy. Life Science Texas: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2001 Carter R. Gilbert. Fishes pgs. 537 and 538 New York: National Audubon Society, 1983 

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