Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Sand Eel Ammodytes tobianus
Shimmering shoals of sand eels are a familiar sight in shallow sandy bays around northern Europe. These small, silvery fish have long, thin bodies with a pointed jaw and a single long dorsal fin. Large shoals patrol the waters just above the seabed, feeding on planktonic crustaceans, tiny fish, and worms. If threatened, they dive down and disappear into the sand. In winter, they spend most of the time buried. Sand eels form a very important part of the diet of larger fish such as cod, herring, and mackerel, and of sea birds, especially Atlantic puffins. When sand eels are scarce, local puffin colonies produce very few young. In some areas, overexploitation of sand eels for processing into fishmeal has been linked to seabird declines.