Atlantic salmon (Salmo)
Atlantic salmon are long, sleek fish with bodies five times as long as they are deep. They are covered with round or cross-shaped spots. Atlantic salmon are bluish black on top and bright silver on the sides. The scales are large and there are 120 to 130 on the lateral line.
Atlantic salmon feed on plankton when young before moving on to insects, insect larvae and small fish, such as minnows. When the young atlantic salmon reach the ocean, they initially eat insects and crustaceans, but turn to herring, shrimp, capelin, and sardines for food as they age.
Atlantic salmon are found in rivers and streams on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean from Greenland to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the western hemisphere and from Russia to Portugal in Europe during spawning runs, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean during the rest of their adult life. Atlantic salmon have also been successfully introduced to the Great Lakes region and parts of South America.
Atlantic salmon are anadromous fish; they live in the ocean as adults, but return to fresh water to spawn. The freshwater habitats are almost always rapidly flowing, clear streams that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The streams are cool to cold in temperature with gravel and rock bottoms that, combined with the strong current, provide enough oxygen for proper spawning.
While at sea, atlantic salmon undergo migrations of various length and destinations. Maine atlantic salmon, for instance, can migrate to the waters around Greenland, off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, or remain in the waters near Maine, a variety of habits that help sustain the species.
- At one time, atlantic salmon were referred to simply as salmon; but are now distinguished from their cousins in the Pacific salmon family.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services put the atlantic salmon of seven Maine Rivers on the list of endangered species in November 2000.
- During the transition from freshwater to saltwater the atlantic salmon's kidney changes so that it can excrete salt rather than retain it.
- Sebago (lake salmon), Salmo salar ouananiche, is a subspecies of the Atlantic salmon.