Seriola lalandiCalifornia yellowtail(Also: Great ambejack; Jenny lind)

Geographic Range

Yellowtail have a circumglobal distribution in subtropical waters. The range of California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi dorsalis) extends along the Eastern Pacific coast, from Southern California to the Baja California Peninsula. ("Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)


California yellowtail tend to be found over rocky reefs, within kelp beds, and around offshore islands. During the summer, California yellowtail can also be found beneath floating kelp paddies off the coast of Southern California and Baja California. These fish may be found at up to 228 m in depth in water temperatures ranging from 18º to 24º Celsius. (Luna and Ortañez, 2008)

  • Range depth
    3 to 825 m
    9.84 to 2706.69 ft

Physical Description

Their fusiform body is blue-indigo, while their sides and belly are silver; with a narrow bronze stripe along the lateral line, becoming yellow as it nears the tail-end; most fins, including the caudal fin, are yellow. California yellowtail may grow up to 2.5 meters in length and may weigh up to 36.3 kilograms. The largest recorded individual was caught off Baja California and weighed 41.3 kilograms. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    70 kg
    154.19 lb
  • Average length
    2.5 m
    8.20 ft


Fertilized eggs develop into planktotrophic larvae, and eventually into juvenile fish. Older fish may only grow 0.5 to 1 kilograms per year, while younger fish tend to grow 1.5 to 2 kilograms per year. During their first year, California yellowtail average 50.8 centimeters in length and 1.75 kilograms; while at 5 years old, they average 83.82 centimeters in length and 7.25 kilograms; and at 10 years old, they average 111.76 centimeters in length and 16 kilograms. (Baxter, 1960)


California yellowtail are a broadcast spawning species. Courtship between the male and female starts 30 to 90 minutes before spawning commences. During courtship, a male positions himself beneath a female with his snout touching the female's gonoduct. The pair displays erratic swimming: sudden bursts of speed and sudden mid-water stalls with their snouts or bodies touching. Ten to fifteen minutes before spawning begins, the male begins to nip at the female's abdomen, while the female turns on her side and begins to swim in a circular fashion. As the female begins to spawn, the male follows suit. Spawning lasts approximately 20 seconds. (Moran, et al., 2007)

California yellowtail spawn every year between the winter months of December and January. While spawning, the female may release up to 150 eggs; however, approximately 100 eggs are fertilized at a time. Spawning only occurs when the water temperature is above 17° Celsius. Reproductive output is dependent on body size, with smaller fish producing 458,000 eggs annually, and up to 3,914,000 eggs for large females. Larvae begin to hatch approximately 103 to 108 hours after fertilization. The larvae lack eyes and a fully developed digestive system, but develop these features 4 days after hatching. After the eyes and digestive system have developed, the larvae begin to feed on planktonic organisms. Sexual maturity is usually reached at 2 to 3 years for both females and males. Females are mature at approximately 75 centimeters in total length. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; Moran, et al., 2007; Poortennar, et al., 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    California yellowtail spawn once a year.
  • Breeding season
    These fish spawn during the winter, from December to January.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average time to hatching
    105 hours
  • Average time to independence
    4 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 (low) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 (low) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years

As broadcast spawners, California yellowtail show no parental investment. (Moran, et al., 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Wild California yellowtail have an estimated maximum lifespan of 12 years. Although a longer lifespan is possible, as a prized gamefish, many members of this species will not reach an advanced age in the wild. Their average lifespan is 5 to 6 years. ("The status of the California yellowtail resource and its management", 1973; Baxter, 1960)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    unknown years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    unknown years


Schools of California yellowtail migrate along the coastlines of California and Mexico. During the summer, schools migrate south along the coast of the Baja California peninsula. During the winter, they move northwards. California yellowtail are well known around the Channel Islands, but they have been seen farther north near Washington. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010)

Home Range

This species has neither a home range nor a specific territory. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010)

Communication and Perception

Aside from sensory adaptations common to most bony fish species (such as eyes, nares, lateral line, and ear bones), little specific information is known about how California yellowtail communicate and perceive their local environment. However, during courtship, California yellowtail communicate their intention to mate by swimming erratically and touching the bodies of conspecifics. (Baxter, 1960)

Food Habits

Larval California yellowtail are planktivorous, while adults are carnivorous predators, known to consume round herring, sardines, squids, northern anchovies, and California flyingfish. (Baxter, 1960)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks


The body of California yellowtail has pelagic counter shading, with a bluish dorsum and silvery-white venter, which serves as an anti-predator adaptation. Eggs and larvae of California yellowtail are eaten by mollusks, echinoderms, crabs, and fish. Small juveniles can be eaten by any other organism larger than themselves. Although adults have few predators due to their speed, great white sharks and California sea lions are able to catch and consume them. Humans are primary predators, harvesting large numbers in recreational and commercial fisheries. ("Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

California yellowtail are secondary and tertiary consumers in coastal marine ecosystems, helping structure the populations of their prey. Furthermore, they serve as prey to larger marine carnivores. Yellowtail are known to harbor over 40 species of ecto- and endoparasitic symbionts on their gills and within their viscera. (Hutson, 2007; Moran, et al., 2007)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Mongenean flatworms (Monogea)
  • trematodes (Trematoda)
  • tapeworms (Cestoda)
  • copepods: Caligus spinosus, Caligus epidemicus

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

California yellowtail migrate to the Southern California coast during their spawning season. This generates sport fishing tourism to Baja California to catch this highly prized fish. This species is raised intensively in aquaculture operations in Australia; there is broad literature on their husbandry in captivity. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; Tanner and Fernandes, 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No negative effects have been reported from California yellowtail. They are non-aggressive towards humans.

Conservation Status

Marine protected areas (MPAs) established in southern California waters provide protection for critical habitat and spawning aggregation locations for yellowtail. California Fish and Game regulations have banned gill nets along coastal waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles offshore. However, while some regulations are in place within California waters, yellowtail bycatch in Mexican waters is not monitored adequately, and a general lack of knowledge about the population dynamics of California yellowtail make them a species vulnerable to overfishing. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012)

Other Comments

California yellowtail have two subspecies: Seriola lalandi dorsalis and Seriola lalandi lalandi. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960; Poortennar, et al., 2001)


Jose Sandoval (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats fish


an animal that mainly eats plankton


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


2012. "California Yellowtail Full Species Report" (On-line pdf). Blue Ocean. Accessed October 01, 2013 at

2010. "Seriola lalandi" (On-line). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed September 11, 2013 at

California Department of Fish and Game. The status of the California yellowtail resource and its management. 16. Long Beach, CA: California Department of Fish and Game. 1973. Accessed September 09, 2013 at

Baxter, J. 1960. "A study of the Yellowtail, Seriola lalandi (Gill)" (On-line). Calisphere. Accessed November 13, 2013 at;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&

Hutson, K. 2007. Parasite interactions between wild and farmed Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) in southern Australia. Adelaide: The University of South Australia. Accessed December 12, 2013 at

Luna, S., A. Ortañez. 2008. "Seriola lalandi" (On-line). Accessed September 10, 2013 at

McGrouther, M. 2012. "Yellowtail Kingfish, Seriola lalandi Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes, 1833" (On-line). Australian Museum. Accessed September 11, 2013 at

Moran, D., C. Smith, B. Gara, C. Poortennar. 2007. Reproductive behaviour and early development in yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi Valenciennes 1833). Aquaculture, 262(1): 95-104.

Poortennar, C., S. Hooker, N. Sharp. 2001. Assessment of yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi lalandi) reproductive physiology, as a basis for aquaculture development. Aquaculture, 201(3-4): 271-286.

Tanner, J., M. Fernandes. 2010. Environmental effects of yellowtail kingfish aquaculture in South Australia. Aquaculture Environment Interactions, Vol. 1: 155-165. Accessed September 10, 2013 at