Sea Mullet, Mugil cephalus Linnaeus 1758

Other Names: Bully, Bully Mullet, Flathead Mullet, Grey Mullet, Hardgut Mullet, Hard-gut Mullet, Hardgut River Mullet, Mangrove Mullet, Poddies, Poddy Mullet, Poddy Mullet and Mullet, River Mullet, Sand Mullet, Striped Mullet

Sea Mullet, Mugil cephalus, in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. Source: Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


Bluish-grey to olive-brown above, and silvery-white or paler below, with a dark-bluish spot at the base of the pectoral fin.

Sea Mullet is currently thought to occur worldwide in tropical and subtropical coastal and estuarine waters. Recent molecular studies, however, indicate the Mugil cephalus may be a cryptic species complex.

Video of Sea Mullet scaling the Wolli fish ladder.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Mugil cephalus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jan 2019,

Sea Mullet, Mugil cephalus Linnaeus 1758

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Widespread in tropical and subtropical waters of coastal and estuarine areas of all oceans. Sea Mullet can tolerate a wide salinity range and often move into lagoons, lakes and the upper reaches of estuaries. Adults migrates back to the sea to spawn. Although usually found inshore, Sea Mullet may occur well offshore in depths greater than 330 m.


Meristic features.
Dorsal fin spines/rays: IV; I, 8-9
Anal fin spines/rays: III, 8
Caudal fin rays: 14
Pectoral fin rays: 16-17
Pelvic fin spines/rays: I, 5

Head and body: Body elongate, robust, moderately compressed, spindle-shaped; head small, dorsally broad and flat; snout short; mouth small, terminal, oblique; close-set row of slender monocuspid teeth in the edge of lips, three or four rows of bicuspid teeth in inner side of lips; adipose eyefold extensive over iris (except in specimens about 30 mm SL or less); posterior nostrils extending above level of upper rim of eye; anterior nostril entirely below vertical span of posterior; gill rakers long.
Scales pavement ctenoid, mucus canals straight, marked secondary squamation, no multicanaliculate scales; enlarged axillary scale at pectoral fin base; scales absent from head; mid-lateral scales 38-42; lateral line absent.
First dorsal fin origin on centre of back; 2nd dorsal fin opposite and similar in size and shape to anal fin; dorsal ray of pectoral fins developed as a short spur or ‘spine’ (not a true spine), not reaching origin of first dorsal fin; pectoral fins 16 to 21% standard length, 61 to 83% head length; upper insertion of pectoral fin at level of upper rim of eye; pelvic fins with I spine and 5 soft rays, inserted about midway between origins of pectoral fins and first dorsal fin.


Sea Mullet may grow to more than 70 cm in length, although most are around 40 cm; maximum weight 8 kg.


Variable in colour depending on the habitat. Individuals in the ocean are bluish grey on the back and upper sides, and silvery-white below. Sea Mullet in estuarine areas are an olive-brown with a pale belly.


Generally a bottom feeding detritivore. Juveniles feed on zooplankton and benthic amphipods and copepods. Adults often feed on algae covered rocks.


Mature Sea Mullet migrate along the coast or congregate in estuaries before moving offshore to spawn in surface waters over the continental shelf February to September depending on location. The pelagic larvae spend 2-3 months before moving back to estuarine and even freshwater areas at lengths of 2-3 cm. Fecundity is high with females producing between 300,000 and 7,200,000 pelagic eggs. Average egg diameter is 0.89 mm with an oil globule 0.39mm. Larvae are around 2.68 mm TL at hatching and feeding begins at 3-5 days post hatching


Sea Mullet are an important component of many coastal fishery and aquaculture programs.


EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed

IUCN Red List : Least Concern

Species Citation

Mugil cephalus Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturae.  Holmiae : Salvii 10th Edn  824 pp. [316].
Type locality: European Ocean.


Dianne J. Bray

Sea Mullet, Mugil cephalus Linnaeus 1758


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37381002


Habitat:coastal marine, entering freshwater

Max Size:70 cm

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