Biology of the genus Ammodytes, the sand lances

By:  and 
Edited by: Martin D. RobardsMary F. WillsonRobert H. Armstrong, and John F. Piatt



Although much taxonomic confusion exists within the genus Ammodytes, six species are currently recognized: personatus, hexapterus, americanus, dubius, tobianus, and marinus. Sand lance are both euryhaline and eurythermal, as well as tolerant of reduced oxygen concentrations. The absence of a swim bladder allows this narrow, elongate fish to spend much time buried dormant in intertidal and shallow subtidal substrates, venturing out only to feed or spawn. All Ammodytes species appear to be relatively dormant in the winter and one (A. personatus) also estivates during summer. Copepods are their primary food source, allowing for rapid energy accumulation during secondary production blooms. Life spans range from 3 to 12 years within the genus. Spawning usually occurs in fall or winter (although some species spawn in spring) with the production of demersal, slightly adhesive eggs. Early development is oxygen and temperature dependent. Larval sand lance hatch before spring plankton blooms and have several mechanisms to resist starvation. Density-dependent conditions are common for both adults and juveniles. Sand lance are host to a wide variety of parasites, although prevalence is unclear. Because of their abundance, schooling behavior, energetic content, and size, sand lance are an important forage species throughout their range for a wide variety of marine predators.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Biology of the genus Ammodytes, the sand lances
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Publisher location Portland, OR
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 17 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title Sand lance: A review of biology and predator relations and annotated bibliography (USDA Forest Service Research Paper PNW-RP-521)
First page 1
Last page 16
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