|Florida Fish: Grouper (2)|
Grouper (Epinephelus morio) Red grouper are easily
recognized by their color and by the sloped, straight line of their
spiny dorsal fin. The fin has a long second spine and an unnotched
interpine membrane. Most epinepheline groupers have a notched dorsal
spine membrane and a third spine longer than the second. The body is
deep brownish-red overall, with occational white spots on the sides.
Tiny black specks dot the cheeks and operculum. The red grouper is most
closely related to the Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, which has
several verticle bars and blotches, and is found more commonly on coral
reefs in the West Indies. Red grouper are distributed from North
Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The
species is most abundant along Florida's east and west coasts, and
throughout the Gulf of Mexico. It inhabits ledges, crevices, and caverns
of rocky limestone reefs, and also lower-provile, live-bottom areas in
waters 10 to 40 feet deep. The red grouper is a protogynous
hermaphrodite, and females are capable of reproducing at 4 years of age.
Scamp (Mycteroperca phenax) The color of scamp grouper is a light gray or brown, with reddish-brown spots on sides that tend to be grouped into lines, and some yellow around the corners of mouth. Related to the gag and other slender-bodied groupers, the scamp are identified by their pronounced anal and soft dorsal ray extensions, a more concave profile of the head, and by color. Scamp have a tan to grayish-brown body covered with sharply defined, well-separated dark spots, which are approximately an eighth of an inch in diameter. The Scamp inhabits continental shelf waters from the Campeche Banks , in the Gulf of Mexico, to Florida and northward along the East Coast to North Carolina. Although the species occationally congregates over high-profile bottom, such as wrecks and rock outcroppings, the preferred habitat is low-profile, live bottom areas in waters 75-300 feet deep. These areas are characterized by profuse growths of soft corals and sponges populated by red grouper, white grunt, red porgy and numerous species of small, tropical reef fish. Scamp are sexually mature at the age of 3 years, or those larger than 16 inches. In offshore waters from April to May, scamp spawn thousands of pelagic eggs. They have been recorded at age up to 21 years, but may live up to 30 years. They may reach a length of up to 43 inches and weight of up to 36 pounds. Scamp can be aggressive predators, capturing crabs, shrimp, and fishes and swallowing them whole.
Yellowfin Grouper (Mycteroperca venenosa) The yellowfin grouper is a coral reef fish native to the western Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. It is generally a denizen of the deeper reef areas but it may venture into shallower waters, especially during the cooler seasons. The fish is variable in color but is usually similar in appearance to the Black Grouper. It is distinguishable by the bright yellow trim on the pectoral fins. The yellowfin grouper is a hearty fish, often reaching 10 kilograms. It is considered quite tasty and is one of the more popular Gulf gamefishes. It has been known to be a cause of ciguatera toxin poisoning, however. An attractive animal, the Yellowfin Grouper is a popular aquarium fish. This species is one of the main catches in the fishing industry in Bermuda. It is considered overfished, and is currently threatened in several areas. The record catch for a yellowfin grouper in Florida is 34 pounds, 6 ounces. Yellowfin grouper mainly feed on squid and fish.
Yellowmouth Grouper (Mycteroperca interstitialis) Yellowmouth grouper are tan or brown with darker spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines, and a distinct yellow wash behind the jaws, with yellow around the eyes and the outer edges of fins. Adult yellowmouth grouper are associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep, the young may occur inshore in shallow water. Not as common as scamp in the Gulf of Mexico, yellowmouth grouper's range is limited to southern Florida Common to 40 pounds, the yellowmouth grouper may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds. This grouper feeds on small fish and crustaceans.
Warsaw Grouper (Epinephelus nigritus) The warsaw grouper is the only member of the genus Epinephelous that has 10 dorsal spines, the second of which is much longer than the third. The color is a grayish brown to dark reddish-brown background with numerous small, irregular white blotches on the sides. The color appears much lighter around the nape and along the posterior margin of the operculum. All of the fins are dark brown, except the white-splotched spiny portion of the dorsal fin. Warsaw grouper range from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and throughout much of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to the northern coast of South America. The species inhabits irregular bottom, notches, valleys, and drop-offs, occurring in the continental shelf break in waters 350 to 650 feet deep. Other species inhabiting this productive deep-water zone are snowy and yellowedge groupers, tilefish, and silk snappers. Warsaw are long-lived, reaching up to 6 feet and over 300 pounds. The warsaw's huge mouth enables it to engulf prey whole after capturing it.
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