Gempylus serpens   Cuvier,  1829 (Fish)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Actinopterygii

Image copyrights: Cambraia Duarte, P.M.N. (c)ImagDOP

Size: Maximum about 100 cm standard length; common to 60 cm standard length.

Colour: uniformly dark brown with light metallic reflections; sometimes a few small black spots above pectoral fin base; fins dark brown, with darker margins.

Body is elongated and strongly compressed. The mouth is large with fang-like teeth. There are two lateral lines, both originating below the first spine of the dorsal fin. The upper lateral line follows the dorsal contour of the body to the end of the first dorsal fin base. The lower descends gradually posterior to about the tip of the pectoral fin and runs mid-laterally. Height 20, 22.2 in length with caudal. Head 5, 5.5 in length with caudal. Eye 6.1, 2.8 in snout. Inter orbital space somewhat less than eye, flat with a median longitudinal groove. Teeth in upper jaw longer than those in the lower jaw. A few large, compressed and slightly serrated canines anteriorly in the upper jaw. Origin of dorsal slightly before gill opening. Second dorsal and anal falcate, the longest rays of second dorsal 1.5 eye diameters. Origin of anal below that of second dorsal. Pectorals falcate. Ventrals very short, less than half eye, their origin half eye diameter behind that of pectorals, caudal deeply forked.

Dioecious, external fertilization, nonguarders, open water/substratum egg scatterers. Eggs and larvae are pelagic. Males mature at 43 cm SL, females at 50 cm.

Remarks: Values in above description denote proportions.

Synonym (s)
Gempylus serpens Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831
Lemnisoma thyrsoides Lesson, 1830
Gempylus serpens Gunther, 1875
Gempylus serpens Goode and Bean, 1895
Lemnisoma thryristoides Jordan and Evermann, 1905
Gempylus coluber Franz, 1910
Gempylus serpens Waite, 1913
Gempylus serpens Fowler, 1936
Gempylus serpens Cuvier, 1829
Acinacea notha Bory de Saint-Vincent, 1804
(Ambiguous synonym)
Gempylus coluber Cuvier, 1832
(Junior synonym)
Gempylus notha (Bory de St. Vincent, 1804)
(Ambiguous synonym)
Gempylus ophidianus Poey, 1860
(Junior synonym)
Lemnisoma thyrsitoides Lesson, 1831
(Junior synonym)

Common Name (s)
• Snake Mackerel (English)
• Balam (Malayalam)
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Commercial
(Fisheries, occasionally used as bait. Sold frozen, as sausages or fish cake, also dried.)

Habitat:  Pelagic, Reef Associated
Trophic Level:  Secondary Consumer
Prey:  Fishes, cephalopods and crustaceans


• Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andamans INDIA
• Lakshadweep Sea (Lat: 10.65) (Long: 72.7) INDIA
• Arabian Sea INDIA (Record: 02/1985-06/1987) (Depth: 1784-2250 mts)
• Bay of Bengal INDIA (Record: 02/1985-06/1987) (Depth: 1784-2250 mts)
• Lakshadweep Sea INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Letourneur, Y; Chabanet, P; Durville, P; Taquet, M; Teissier, E; Parmentier, M; Quero, JC and Pothin, K (2004) An updated checklist of the marine fish fauna of Reunion Island, south-western Indian Ocean Cybium 28(3) 199-216
  • Michel, P; Francis, M; Yves, C; Vincent, L; Richard, S; Olivier, M and Menard, F (2007) Forage fauna in the diet of three large pelagic fishes (lancetfish, swordfish and yellowfin tuna) in the Western equatorial Indian Ocean Science Direct (Fisheries Research) 83 60-72 Available at - NCL Information Division
  • Froese, R and Pauly, D (2000) Fishbase 2000: Concepts, design and data sources ICLARM 344 pp Available at -
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • Beaufort, LF and Chapman, WM (1951) The fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago A. J. Reprints agency, Karol Bagh, New Delhi 9 484 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Jones, S and Kumaran, M (1980) Fishes of the Laccadive Archipelago The Nature Conservation and Aquatic Sciences Service, Trivandrum, Kerala 760 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Fischer, W and Bianchi, G (Eds.) (1984) FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes. Western Indian Ocean (Fishing Area 51) FAO, Rome 2 Available at -
  • Balachandran, K and Nizar, MA (1990) A check list of fishes of the Exclusive Economic Zone of India collected during the research cruises of FORV Sagar Sampada Proceedings of the first workshop on scientific results of FORV Sagar Sampada CMFRI, Cochin 305-324 Available at -
  • Jones, S. (1969) Catalogue of fishes from the Laccadive Archipelago in the reference collections of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute. Bulletin of Central Marine Research Institute CMFRI, Cochin 8 1-35 Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -

Page last updated on:2011-12-07

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