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DescriptionThe lesser sand eel is long and thin with a pointed jaw and a maximum length of 20 cm. They are yellowish green on the back with occasional bluish tint. The lower sides and belly are silver, giving the fish an overall silvery appearance. Body completely covered in scales, with the scales forming oblique lines of tight chevrons on the underside. There is a single long dorsal fin, and the anal fin is half the length of the dorsal fin. The tail fin is small and distinctively forked. The lower jaw is longer than the upper and there are no teeth in the roof of the mouth.Ammodytes tobianus is the most abundant species of sand eel found in British waters. It has been reported to spawn in spring and summer (Dipper, 2001) or spring and autumn (FishBase, 2000). Eggs are laid in the sand where they adhere to the sand grains. Each female produces 4000-20,000 eggs, which hatch after a few weeks. Their diet consists of zooplankton and some large diatoms as well as worms, small crustaceans and small fish. They swim in schools with heads down and dart into the sand immediately on sign of danger.
Sand eel species are difficult to distinguish underwater (Dipper, 2001). However, if specimens are available, the greater sand eel Hyperoplus lanceolatus can be distinguished from Ammodytes tobianus by presence of teeth in the roof of the mouth and by its inability to protrude its upper jaw. Individuals may reach 7 years of age but 4 years is more common.