Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Atlantic Tarpon

Atlantic Tarpons are large saltwater fish that live in the coastal waters of the (surprise!) Atlantic Ocean. They live on both sides of the ocean, are are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters, though their range extends into Nova Scotia and southern Argentina.

Megalops atlanticus
Atlantic Tarpon are slow growing fish, and don't reach sexual maturity until age 6 or 7. Males can live to around 30, while females can have lifespans of over 50 years! In those decades the fish can grow rather large. Fish measuring 8ft long and 350lbs have been recorded. As adults, Tarpon use their large size to hunt down and swallow other fish whole.

One really cool feature of the Atlantic Tarpon is that it has a modified swim bladder that allows it to gulp down air. This give the fish an advantage when swimming in waters that are low in oxygen. Studies have also suggested that as juveniles, the Tarpon MUST breathe atmospheric air in order to survive.

The Atlantic Tarpon is the State Saltwater Fish of Alabama. Have I mentioned how much I love the concept of official state animals? Not just the state fish (that's the Largemouth Bass), but the Saltwater Fish. My home state of Wisconsin has eight different official animals, including an official dog, and official "wildlife animal." Love it.

Atlantic Tarpon are also very popular with anglers. This is not only due to their large size, but also due to their fighting spirit when caught on a line. The Tarpon aren't fished commercially, but they do generate a great deal of the money for the sport fishing tourism industry. They are typically released after being caught, but there is some debate regarding the ability of the returned fish to successfully recover from the stress and oxygen depravation.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Atlantic Ocean
Size : Length up to 8.3ft (2.5m), Weight up to 350lbs (161kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Elopiformes
Family : Megalopidae -- Genus : Megalops -- Species : M. atlanticus

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