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common name for a small, slender fish of the family Osmeridae. Most species are marine, but some ascend freshwater streams to spawn and others are landlocked in lakes. The rainbow or American smelt, Osmerus mordax, averages 10 in. (25 cm) in length and 1 lb (.45 kg) in weight. It is valued for its delicious, fragrant flesh, although its feeding habits are destructive and sometimes cannibalistic. The Pacific rainbow smelt, O. dentex, is found in Alaska and NE Asia. The candlefish or eulachon, Thaleichthys pacificus, a fish of the smelt family found from Oregon to Alaska, is named for the fact that it is so fat at spawning time that when dried and strung on a wick it can be burned as a primitive candle.

The top smelt, Atherinops affinis, and jack smelt are Pacific silversidessilversides,
common name for small shore fishes, belonging to the family Antherinidae, abundant in the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific, and named for the silvery stripe on either side of the body.
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 of the family Atherinidae, which belong to a different order. The deep-sea smelts, family Bathylagidae, and herring smelts, family Argentinidae, are closely related to each other but also belong to a different order (Argentiniformes); they were formerly classed with the true smelts.

True smelts are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Osmeriformes, family Osmeridae.

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any marine or freshwater salmonoid food fish of the family Osmeridae, such as Osmerus eperlanus of Europe, having a long silvery body and occurring in temperate and cold northern waters
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Cladoceran densities, day-to-day variability in food selection by smelt, and the birth-rate-compensation hypothesis.
Population Variability of Freshwater Smelt. Akademiya Nauk SSSR, IBVV, Rybinsk (in Russian).
Food selection and consumption of 0+ smelt (Osmerus eperlanus (L.)) and vendace (Coregonus albula (L.)) in pelagial zone of Finnish lakes.
Biology of smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) in Vesijarvi Lake (Finland).
Feeding of smelt (Osmeridae), in early ontogenesis in the Rybinsk Reservoir.
Seasonal bottlenecks in diet shifts and growth of smelt in a large eutrophic lake.
Group A consisted of fish from all regions and populations and included 87% of dwarf, 100% of normal, and 100% of anadromous smelt, respectively.
Again, however, there was no correlation between life-history type and mtDNA genotype as measured by net percent sequence divergence; anadromous and dwarf and normal lake smelt did not form distinct genetic clusters by UPGMA nor, for that matter, did lake (dwarf and normal) smelt cluster separately from anadromous fish (fig, 6).
Two pairs of closely situated lakes, however, contained smelt populations that were indistinguishable from one another in mtDNA genotype frequencies, one in Maine (Onawa Lake versus Lake George, [Chi.sup.2] = 11.9, df = 13, P = 0.65) and the other involving Skiff and North lakes of the upper St.
Haplotype and nucleotide diversities averaged 0.62 [+ or -] 0.00016, respectively, across all populations, characterizing smelt as somewhat intermediate in these parameters relative to other fish species examined (cf.
Mean ([= or -] SE) haplotype and nucleotide diversity (x 100) for smelt populations sampled in the study.