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Species Name:    Scomberomorus regalis
Common Name:                 (Cero)



Kingdom Phylum/Division: Class: Order: Family: Genus:
Animalia Chordata Osteichthyes Perciformes Scombridae Scomberomorus

The Cero, Scomberomorus regalis.  Illustration by Diana Rome Peebles 1998. Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Marine Fisheries.




Species Name:
Scomberomorus regalis (Bloch, 1793)

Common Name:
Cero, cero mackerel, painted mackerel

The cero is an elongate, strongly compressed member of the Scombrid family that reaches 32 inches (81 cm) in length and may weigh up to 5 kg (11 pounds), though most average under 3 kg (6 pounds). Body color is typically dark blue to blue-green dorsally, becoming silver along the sides and ventrally.

The spinous portion of the dorsal fin is separated from the soft rays by a deep notch. The first dorsal fin is black in the anterior third, and white posteriorly. The second dorsal fin is somewhat falcate. Yellow to yellow-orange spots form ovals and streak-like lines on either side of a yellow-brown stripe that runs laterally from the pectoral fins to the base of the caudal fin. The lateral line curves downward at the second dorsal fin and oscillates somewhat as it extends to the narrow caudal peduncle, which has 3 keels on each side. Eight to nine finlets are set behind both the the second dorsal fin and the anal fin. The caudal fin is deeply forked.  Scales cover the entire body, including the pectoral fins. The head slopes gently to a short snout, and a large, terminal mouth. The maxilla reaches the rear edge of the eye. No swim bladder is present  (Collette and Nauen 1983).

Meristic counts of some key identifying traits:

Spanish Mackerel: Cero:
# Vertebrae: 41-43 52-53 47-49
Dorsal Spines: 12-18 17-19 16-18
Dorsal Rays: 15-18 17-20 16-19
Anal Rays: 16-20 17-20 15-20
Pectoral Fin Rays: 21-23 20-23 20-24
Gill Rakers (lower limb): 6-10 8-13 10-14


Scomberomorus plumierii
Lacepede, 1803;  Cybium regale Cuvier, 1829.

Potentially Misidentified Species:
Scomberomorus regalis is potentially confused with the Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus. The bronze, lateral stripe and the presence of scales on the pectoral fins distinguish the cero from the Spanish mackerel, which lacks both of these traits.  


Regional Occurrence:
The cero occurs in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts south to Brazil, including Bermuda, the Bahamas and West Indies. Cero are especially common in the southern reaches of the range in the Bahamas and West Indies (Collette and Nauen 1983).

IRL Distribution:
Cero are not common within the IRL, but occasionally enter the IRL at inlets. They are more common in nearshore and offshore waters in the vicinity of ledges and reefs.  


Age, Size, Lifespan:
Maximum recorded size for Scomberomorus regalis is 83.5 cm (2.7 feet) FL (fork length) and 4.9 kg (11 pounds) (Beardsley and Richards 1970).

Elongate and streamlined, the cero can swim at speeds up to 30 mph.
Though scombrid fishes are known for high performance locomotion, data are limited on the precise mechanisms that enhance their swimming abilities. Thrust is generated with lift-based swimming whereby the narrow caudal peduncle and high, lunate caudal fin produce more than 90% of the thrust, with few significant lateral movements in other areas of the body.  It has been hypothesized that the finlets on the posterior dorsal and ventral surfaces of scombrids aid locomotion, and may, in fact, be accessory locomotor structures that act to deflect water longitudinally to the area of the keels, where flow is then accelerated (Walters 1962). A study by Naeun and Lauder (2001) supported this hypothesis and showed that finlets do redirect cross-peduncle flow in the horizontal plane.

 Male Scomberomorus regalis mature at fork lengths of approximately 32 - 35 cm (1 - 1.2 feet). Females mature at approximately at 38 cm 1.3 feet). Erdman (1977) reported that spawning in S. regalis occurs year-round in Puerto Rican waters, with spawning restricted to between April and October in waters south of Jamaica. Spawning in Florida occurs offshore in midsummer.  Fecundity estimates for females ranging from 38 cm to 80 cm. ranged between 160,000 - 2.23 million eggs (Finucane and Collins, 1984).  


Trophic Mode:
Randall (1967) reported that in the West Indies, 96% of the cero diet consists of small schooling fishes, particularly clupeoids of the genera Harengula, Jenkinsia and Opisthonema. Atherinids such as Allanetta (Craterocephalus), squids and shrimps are also included in the diet.

Scomberomorus regalis is typically epipelagic. It is most abundant around reefs and other areas where waters are clear and depth ranges from approximately 1 - 20 m (3 - 66 feet). They can be common in the vicinity of coral reefs, ledges and shipwrecks. They occasionally form small feeding schools, but are typically solitary.


Special Status:

Fisheries Importance:
Though cero do not support a commercial fishery in the 5-county area that encompasses the Indian River Lagoon (Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin Counties), they are considered a valued coastal sportfish throughout eastern Florida, where they are often taken while trolling.

Figure 1 below shows survey data from the National Marine Fisheries Service for the period from 1997 - 2004.  Cero tend to remain in coastal and offshore waters, though they are occasional visitors to inland waters in eastern Florida. They are regularly captured in coastal waters to the 3-mile limit of the State Territorial Sea (STS), and to the 200 mile limit of the federal Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Tables 1 (number of fishes harvested) and 2 (percentage of total) below show summary data for the recreational harvest of cero. Approximately half the recreational catch comes from waters inside the state of Florida 3-mile limit; while the other half of the catch is taken in offshore waters to the U.S. 200-mile limit. Of note in the data is that years of high harvest in one body of water are generally offset by a low harvest in the other body of water.


Figure 1. Survey data for the cero recreational fishery showing the number of fish harvested
            in East Florida waters from 1997 - 2004.

Figure 2. Summary of the cero recreational harvest and percentage of total by area from
               1997 - 2004.


  To 3 Miles To 200 Miles Other Inland IRL TOTAL
1997   2,983     2,983
1998 1,453 4,501 323   6,277
1999 1,186 330     1,517
2000 4,559 4,493     9,052
2001 5,211 9,758     14,969
2002 4,150 963     5,113
2003 3,795 614     4,409
2004 3,658 607     4,265
Total: 24,012 24,249 323 0 48,585

                   Table 1. Summary data for recreational fishery in Eastern Florida waters for
                            the cero, Scomberomorus regalis, from 1997 - 2004.  Data provided by
                            National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division, NOAA.


  To 3
To 200 Miles Other E. FL Inland IRL
  % Total % Total % Total % Total
1997 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
1998 23.1% 71.7% 5.1% 0.0%
1999 78.2% 21.8% 0.0% 0.0%
2000 50.4% 49.6% 0.0% 0.0%
2001 34.8% 65.2% 0.0% 0.0%
2002 81.2% 18.8% 0.0% 0.0%
2003 86.1% 13.9% 0.0% 0.0%
2004 85.8% 14.2% 0.0% 0.0%

                      Table 2. By-county annual and cumulative percentages of the cero
                                     harvest for the years 1997 - 2001.
Data provided by National Marine
                                     Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division, NOAA.


  To 3 Miles To 200 Miles Other Inland IRL
No. Fish 24,012 24,249 323 0
% 49.4% 49.9% 0.7% 0.0%

                            Table 3. Summary of the cero recreational harvest and percentage of total
                                      fish captured in each area from 1997 - 2004. Data provided by National
                                      Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics Division, NOAA.



Beardsley, G.L. Jr. and W.J. Richards. 1970.  Size, seasonal abundance and
    length-weight relation of some scombrid fishes from southeast Florida. NOAA
    technical report. NMFS (Spec. Sci. Rep. - Fish. Ser.) (595):6 p.

Briggs, J.C. 1958. A list of Florida fishes and their distribution. Bull. Fla. State
    Mus. Biol. Sci. 2(8). 318 pp.

Collette, B.B. and C.E. Nauen. 1983. FAO Species Catalog. Vol. 2. Scombrids
    of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of tunas, mackerels,
    bonitos and related species known to date. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(2).
    137 pp.

Cooper, A.  1982. A preliminary study of the fishery for cero mackerel
    (Scomberomorus regalis, Bloch) in Jamaican waters. Proc. Gulf and Carib.
    Fish. Inst. 34:149-155.

Erdman, D.S. 1977. Spawning patterns of fish from the northeastern Caribbean.
    FAO Fisheries report. (200):145-169.

Finucane, J.H., and L. A. Collins. 1984. Reproductive biology of cero,
    Scomberomorus regalis
, from the coastal waters of south Florida. Northeast
    Gulf Science 7(1):101-107.

Godcharles, M.F. and M.D. Murphy. 1986. Species Profiles: Life histories and
    environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (South Florida)
    King mackerel and Spanish mackerel. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    Biological Reports. 82(11.58). U.S Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4.
    18 pp.

Nauen, J.C. and G.V. Lauder.  2001. Locomotion in scombrid fishes: visualization
    of flow around the caudal peduncle and finlets of the chub mackerel Scomber
. Journal of Experimental Biology.  204:2251-2263.

Randall, J.E. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Studies in Tropical
    Oceanography, 5:665-847.  

Smith, H.M. 1907. The fishes of North Carolina. N.C. Geol. Econ. Surv. 2.
    433 pp.

Walters, V. 1962. Body form and swimming performance in the scombrid fishes.
    Am. Zool. 2:143-149.


Report by: K. Hill, Smithsonian Marine Station
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Page last updated: April 10, 2005