Definition of pelagic in English:



  • 1Relating to the open sea.

    ‘the kittiwakes return from their pelagic winter wanderings’
    • ‘Aquatic ecologists have many models for size distributions of pelagic communities.’
    • ‘Most deep-sea trenches in the Pacific are floored by normal basaltic oceanic crust overlain by pelagic sediments and ash.’
    • ‘The pelagic environment is further divided based on water depth.’
    • ‘Here we report the results of an unusually early springtime study of pelagic microbial activity in the coastal Alaskan Arctic.’
    • ‘Mirrored and colored surfaces are common adaptations for crypsis in pelagic habitats.’
    1. 1.1 (chiefly of fish) inhabiting the upper layers of the open sea.
      Often contrasted with demersal
      • ‘The young pelagic fishes look different enough from their adult form that they were classified at one time as a separate subfamily.’
      • ‘Under such conditions, we predict that more social otters would have diets higher in better quality pelagic fishes, compared with otters that exhibit low levels of sociality.’
      • ‘Eleven companies each with a 15-year term will catch large pelagic fish.’
      • ‘Each year, every migration of every pelagic fish depends on where the plankton is and this is purely down to drift and current.’
      • ‘The silvery sheen displayed by many pelagic fishes is an example of structural color.’
      • ‘Among coastal river otters in this region, sociality could be explained by the benefits obtained from cooperative foraging on high-quality schooling pelagic fishes.’
      • ‘On calm days, dive trips go to the windward side of the island to search for large schools of pelagic fish: bronze whaler sharks, hammerheads, mantas and sometimes oceanic white tips.’
      • ‘While blue whales may occasionally feed on pelagic crabs and small fishes, their diet is almost exclusively euphausiid shrimps commonly called krill.’
      • ‘These sites provide the most exciting diving, with shoaling barracuda and other pelagic fish, but sadly they tend to be few and far between.’
      • ‘They hunt small schooling fish, squid and octopus, and are an important predator of large pelagic fish including tuna and swordfish.’
      • ‘The hors d' oeuvres consist of the small pelagic fish that swim in the natural eddy created by the country's jutting landmass.’
      • ‘However, aside from anecdotal reports of color changes in various pelagic fish, particularly billfish, little else is known.’
      • ‘And sharks that range across the open ocean, known as oceanic or pelagic sharks, have been an even bigger mystery.’
      • ‘Of the fishes, several pelagic species were found in many of the habitats sampled.’
      • ‘Advances will soon lead to using these listening stations for fish as pelagic receivers where physiological data sets can be archived and downloaded as the fish swim by.’
      • ‘Their diet includes squid, skates, ratfish, rockfish, and octopus, as well as pelagic fishes such as mackerel and sardines.’
      • ‘He wanted to target lucrative species that lived near the surface, the pelagic fish, such as sardinella, mackerel and horse mackerel.’
      • ‘Adult beluga sturgeon are mainly piscivores, swimming at middle depths and preying mostly on pelagic fish species.’
      • ‘Farmed salmon eat two to five pounds of protein for every pound of weight gained - protein that comes from small pelagic fish like anchovies, mackerel, herring, and sardines.’
      • ‘The pelagic fish community is dominated by whitefish.’


Mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek pelagikos, from pelagios of the sea (from pelagos level surface of the sea).