A member of the Scombridae family of mackerel, bonito, and tuna, the black skipjack is commonly caught by anglers, usually while trolling or casting for other pelagic species. It is often used as a bait for big-game fish. Its food value has mixed ratings, although it is of some commercial importance. Its flesh is dark red and the taste is strong.
Other Nameslittle tuna, false albacore, spotted tuna, mackerel tuna, skipjack; Spanish: barrilete negro, bonito negro, pataseca.
IdentificationThe dorsal fin of the black skipjack has 13 to 15 spines and is high anteriorly. This distinguishes it from the bonito (Sarda), which has a relatively long and low first dorsal fin. The anal fin, which has 11 to 13 rays, is similar to the second dorsal fin in size and shape.
The body lacks scales, except on the anterior corselet and along the lateral line. This is the only species of Euthynnuswith 37, instead of the usual 39, vertebrae. Each jaw has 20 to 40 small, conical teeth. Bonito have fewer and larger conical teeth. Mackerel have flat, triangular teeth.
The black skipjack is distinguished from similar species by the four or five broad, straight, black stripes that run horizontally along the back and by its dark spots between the pectoral and the ventral fins.
In live specimens, stripes may be visible on the venter, as well as on the back, which has frequently led to confusion with the skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). The stripes on the belly rarely persist long after death in the black skipjack, however, whereas they remain prominent in the skipjack tuna.