White Marlin

Kajikia albida

Last updated: January 20, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

The white marlin is known for its speed and agility, with the ability to swim at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour in some cases!

White Marlin Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Istiophoriformes
Family
Istiophoridae
Genus
Kajikia
Scientific Name
Kajikia albida

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

White Marlin Conservation Status

White Marlin Locations

White Marlin Locations

White Marlin Facts

Name Of Young
Juveniles
Group Behavior
  • Solitary/Pairs
Fun Fact
The white marlin is known for its speed and agility, with the ability to swim at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour in some cases!
Biggest Threat
Overfishing and by-catch
Most Distinctive Feature
long narrow bill
Other Name(s)
atlantic white marlin
Litter Size
190,000 to 600,000
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Solitary
Slogan
speedy open ocean billfish
Group
school

White Marlin Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • White
Skin Type
Scales
Top Speed
77 mph

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View all of the White Marlin images!



A species of billfish with a long sword-like bill, the white marlin, lives in warm ocean waters around the world. They are a highly migratory species, moving between different regions in search of food and favorable conditions.

White marlins are apex predators of the ocean and are considered key species in the marine ecosystem. They are also widely recognized gamefish and are part of recreational fishing.

5 Incredible White Marlin Facts

Here are 5 interesting and fun facts about the white marlin.

  1. White marlins often exhibit the “tailing” technique. This is when a fish swims so that only their dorsal fin is visible above the water’s surface.
  2. In August 1980, a fisherman caught in Poor Man’s Canyon a white marlin that weighed 135 pounds. This set a Maryland state record for the species.
  3. The most active fishing for this species occurs in the summer in North Carolina, Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras, and Massachusetts. This is where you’ll find the highest numbers of the species.
  4. Marlins communicate through a combination of body language, movements, and occasionally sound to convey messages to one another.
  5. The white marlin is also called the marlin, skilligalee, and Atlantic white marlin.

White Marlin Scientific Name

The white marlin is also known by its scientific name, Kajikia albida. Another scientific name commonly used is Tetrapturus Albidus. It belongs to the family Istiophoridae, also known as the billfishes, and the genus Tetrapturus. While marlins share a lot of similarities with swordfish, they are not actually related. They belong to separate scientific families.

Appearance

White Marlin on a Fishing Hook
Because of their unique body structure, white marlins’ agility is unmatched.

©Neophuket/Shutterstock.com

White marlins are mid-size members of the billfish family. Their unique body structure that allows them to swim quickly and efficiently. They have a distinctively round bill, a forked tail, and a sleek, streamlined body.

These fish are sexually dimorphic, with females generally being larger. They can grow up to 9 feet long and weigh over 150 pounds. Countershading refers to their coloration. This coloration serves as camouflage, with a dirty white ventral side and a dark blue dorsal side.

The white marlin has an impressive dorsal fin, which runs the length of its body. Also, 28 to 46 rays compose the fin. This dorsal fin is especially striking and is distinguishable by its tall and curved shape that tapers as it reaches the back of the fish.

It is an iconic feature of this species and one that is often used to identify white marlins and differentiate it from other similar species.

Evolution and History

The original scientific name for the white marlin is Tetrapturus albidus, a classification first used by the scientist Felipe Poey in 1860. This scientific name groups the white marlin with other fish of the same genus, such as the Mediterranean spearfish, shortbill spearfish, longbill spearfish, and roundscale spearfish. The billfish species that has a range of morphological and biological characteristics characterize the genus Tetrapturus.

The white marlin’s evolutionary history has been traced back to the Langhian Age, around 15 million years ago, through the discovery of fossils from their ancestors. Furthermore, it has been revealed that extinct species of the genus Palaeorhynchus were present 56 million years ago.

In recent years, scientists proposed a new classification system for Indo-Pacific striped and white marlin. They suggested that they should be re-categorized as Kajikia. This re-classification was presented as a result of genetic testing that showed that Kajikia audax and Kajikia albida are significantly different from the species found within the genus Tetrapturus.

Behavior

White marlins, like blue marlins, are typically solitary creatures, spending most of their time alone in the open ocean. However, they also swim in pairs, possibly for mating or hunting purposes.

The behavior of gathering in large groups is very rare among white marlins, and it usually only happens when there is a lot of food in one area.

Habitat

White marlins are open ocean dwellers that inhabit deep waters, typically deeper than 325 feet (100 meters). However, while deep waters are common for them, white marlins often prefer to stay near the surface. They live in temperate and tropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean, swimming in regions with water temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

These predatory fish are pelagic, meaning they live in the middle of the ocean, not too close to the surface or the bottom. However, with that said, as they do like warm temperatures, they can often be seen close to the water’s surface. White marlins tend to change their locations depending on the seasons and may even swim close to coastal areas during some parts of the year.

Migration

White marlins have a distinct seasonal migration pattern. Their migration path is well established, heading north during summer and early fall, then moving eastward offshore, and finally southward to their wintering grounds.

Although they migrate over long distances, there are no known records of white marlins crossing the Atlantic or equator. The northern migration of white marlins appears to be linked to water temperature, as they move to higher latitudes as the water gets warmer.

Diet

White marlins are carnivorous predatory fish known for their large size; they primarily eat other fish. These fish have been observed using their bill to kill or stun their prey by piercing or cutting it.

What Eats White Marlins?

White marlins may be large fish, but they are not immune to predation. They have a few natural predators, including swordfish, great white sharks, and humans, who often target them for sport and commercial fishing. 

Besides the above, the cookie-cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis) has been known to attack marlins and take chunks of flesh from these fish.

What Do White Marlins Eat?

Squid is a crucial food source for white marlins, but these fish also consume a wide variety of other prey, including bony fish such as blue runners, tuna, flying fish, bonito, mackerels, and even dolphins. In addition, round herring, often found in large numbers along the central Atlantic coast, is a regular food source for white marlins in that region.

Predators And Threats

Like their blue marlin counterparts, white marlins fall prey to various predators, including pilot whales, swordfish, and great white sharks.

However, one of the biggest threats they face is human activity, particularly overfishing, which significantly reduces their population. White marlin deaths caused by recreational sport fishing are a small fraction of the total deaths. Instead, industrial-scale commercial fishing and trawling for swordfish and tuna using non-selective gear is the leading cause of deaths of white marlins. These practices, which don’t discriminate between target and non-target species, lead to many white marlins and other species being caught and killed as bycatch.

Reproduction

White marlin females can release a large number of eggs, which can range from 190,000 to 600,000 at once. In order to reproduce, these fish migrate to subtropical waters during the spawning season, which peaks in early summer, occurring in deep open ocean habitats.

White marlins breed mainly in several specific regions, such as the Mona Passage, Southwest Bermuda, and the Gulf of Mexico. They have a fast growth rate, and males reach sexual maturity earlier than females.

White Marlin Babies

The offspring of white marlins are known as juvenile white marlins or small billfish. Juvenile marlins have a dorsal fin that rises steeply at the third spine and then increases gradually before reaching a sloping point at the eleventh spine.

Lifespan

White marlins have a long lifespan, typically living for a period of 25 to 30 years.

They are prone to some parasites throughout their lives. For example, research has shown that the copepod species Pennella Filosa often infects white marlin. Additionally, the capsalid monogenean Tristomella laevis is frequently found in blue and white marlin as a parasite.

Population

In recent years, the population of Atlantic white marlins in the Atlantic Ocean has decreased considerably, currently comprising less than a tenth of its historical numbers. Since the initiation of monitoring in the mid-1980s, there has been a consistent yearly decrease of 3 percent in the population of this species.

However, currently, the conservation status of white marlins is Least Concern showing that this species is not in danger of extinction yet.

White Marlin in Cooking

The white marlin is a popular fish for cooking and cooks often use it in a variety of dishes. It is commonly consumed in the United States and countries along the Mediterranean and Caribbean regions.

The fish is lean, with a firm texture and a delicate flavor. You can prepare it using several methods, such as grilling, baking, and sautéing. White marlin meat is particularly good for sushi, sashimi, ceviche, and other raw preparations.

White marlin is a delicacy to many seafood lovers, and you can find it in some of the finest seafood restaurants.

Similar Animals…

  • Swordfish: Marlins often get confused with swordfish, as they look very similar.
  • Black Marlin: This fish is considered one of the fastest fish in the world!
  • Sailfish: This type of fish is a part of the billfish family and is also considered one of the fastest fish in the world.
  • Bluefin Tuna: The white marlin’s meat is often compared to that of a tuna.
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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

White Marlin FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are white marlins herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

White marlins are carnivores that primarily eat squid, fish, and dolphins.

What is the skin type of white marlin?

White marlin and other marlin species have very smooth and glossy skin. The skin is quite thin and delicate and is usually removed before the meat is consumed. The skin is covered with small, tightly-packed scales that are so small they are almost invisible to the naked eye.

Can white marlin cause an injury?

White marlins, like other marlin species, have a long, pointed bill that can be used to catch prey and defend themselves. As such, these fish can potentially cause injury if they are not handled properly while fishing.
During the fight of the catch, the marlin can thrash around, and if not handled carefully, the sharp bill can accidentally cause a deep puncture wound or a slash injury.

Does marlin taste like tuna?

Many people say marlin tastes like tuna but with a stronger taste.

Are marlins bigger than swordfish?

Marlins and swordfish often get confused as they look very similar, but marlins tend to be a lot bigger than swordfish in size.

How fast can white marlins swim?

On average, white marlins swim around 50 mph! But some sources state that this fish can reach up to 80 mph in some cases!

What is the biggest white marlin ever caught?

The biggest white marlin ever caught was 181 pounds, caught in 1979 off the coast of Vitoria, Brazil. This marlin was 107.5 inches long.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. American Oceans, Available here: https://www.americanoceans.org/species/white-marlin/
  2. Center for Biological Diversity, Available here: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_white_marlin/natural_history.html
  3. Florida Museum, Available here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/kajikia-albida/
  4. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Available here: https://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/pages/fish-facts.aspx?fishname=White%20Marlin
  5. ThoughtCo., Available here: https://www.thoughtco.com/worlds-fastest-fish-2291602#:~:text=Marlin%20(80%20mph)&text=It%20was%20said%20to%20have,could%20leap%20at%2050%20mph
  6. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_marlin

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