Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goliath Grouper

Measuring in at lengths of up to 8ft (2.5m), the Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) certainly lives up to its name. This giant, which tips the scales at around 800lbs (360kg), is found in the tropical Atlantic waters off of West Africa and the Americas, and in the Pacific from California to Peru. They are the largest members of the family Serranidae.

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Goliath Groupers have large, stocky bodies that are nearly half as wide as they are long. Adults sport small spots across their greenish-brownish-greyish scales, and smaller individuals tend to have vertical bars down their sides.They have three to five rows of teeth in the lower jaw, though they are rarely used. Groupers are carnivores and consume fish and crustaceans, but they swallow their prey whole. While young, Goliath Groupers are preyed upon by other fish, but once full grown Sharks and Humans are their only real predators.

Goliath Groupers have a long lifespans; they reach sexual maturity around 6 years and it is believed they can live as long as 50. They are typically solitary fish, sometimes living in small groups, but during the breeding season they congregate in schools of 100 or more. Reproduction takes place via spawning, and the eggs are dispersed into the water currents. Newly hatched Goliath Grouper larvae are very small and kite shaped, and will reach juvenile form a month after hatching, when they reach about 1in (2.5cm) in length. Many other Grouper species exhibit hermaphroditic tendencies, with the fish ages as females before becoming male. This is not confirmed in the Goliath Grouper species.

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