Mediterranean barbel (Barbus meridionalis)

Mediterranean barbel
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Mediterranean barbel fact file

Mediterranean barbel description

GenusBarbus (1)

A little-known freshwater fish of coastal France and Spain, the Mediterranean barbel (Barbus meridionalis) is rather plain in appearance, except for black mottling and spotting across the head, back, sides and fins. There are 7 to 9 soft rays in the spiny dorsal fin, and the tail fin has 16 to 19 rays. The lower lip is rather thick (2).

Also known as
southern barbel.
Male length: up to 27 cm (2)
Female length: up to 25.3 cm (2)

Mediterranean barbel biology

The Mediterranean barbel is a little-studied species, and there is very little information available on its biology and behaviour. However, it is thought to breed between May and July (1)

Like other Cyprinidae species, the Mediterranean barbel lacks teeth. Instead, it has a pair of enlarged bones in the throat which possess structures known as ‘pharyngeal teeth’ (3), which are used to help this species process its invertebrate diet (2).


Mediterranean barbel range

The Mediterranean barbel is found in rivers that drain into the Mediterranean Sea, from Barcelona in north-eastern Spain, to Nice in south-eastern France. It is also found in the southern part of the Rhône River Basin (1) (2).


Mediterranean barbel habitat

The Mediterranean barbel inhabits the middle and upper stretches of mountainous, fast-flowing, well-oxygenated, clear rivers near coastal areas (1) (2).


Mediterranean barbel status

The Mediterranean barbel is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Mediterranean barbel threats

Although the Mediterranean barbel has a relatively large range, its distribution is extremely fragmented. It is therefore vulnerable to the effects of habitat loss and degradation, and river damming and water extraction also threaten this species (1). The Mediterranean barbel is very sensitive to the pollution of its habitat from urban, agricultural and industrial sewages. Increasing water temperatures due to global climate change may also cause increased mortality (4)

The Mediterranean barbel is further threatened by hybridisation with Barbus barbus and Barbus haasi (1).


Mediterranean barbel conservation

While the Mediterranean barbel has not been the target of any conservation measures, it is listed on Annexes II and V of the European Union Habitats Directive and on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats (1) (5) (6). It is also listed as Vulnerable in Spain (7) (8).


Find out more

Find out more about the Mediterranean barbel:



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Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
Cross-breeding between two different species or subspecies.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms, spiders and corals.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
  2. FishBase - Mediterranean barbel (May, 2011)
  3. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Climate Change and Freshwater - Barbus meridionalis (May, 2011)
  5. EC Habitats Directive (May, 2011)
  6. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (May, 2011)
  7. Elvira, B. (1995) Conservation status of endemic freshwater fish in Spain. Biological Conservation, 72: 129-136.
  8. Doadrio, I. (2001) Atlas y Libro Rojo de los Peces Continentales de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid. Available at:

Image credit

Mediterranean barbel  
Mediterranean barbel

© Joël Berthonneau

Joël Berthonneau
81 rue Paul Langevin
Tel: 0467224999


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