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Animal Database
Atlantic Goliath Grouper
Atlantic Grouper
Information
Common Name Itajara and Jewfish
Range Carribean
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Serranidae
Genus Epinephelus
Species E. Itajara
Conservation Status
VUSpecies
Vulnerable

The Atlantic goliath grouper, or itajara, (Epinephelus itajara), formerly and still commonly referred to as the jewfish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 160 ft). Its range includes the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and practically all of the Brazilian coast as well as in Azores, where they are known as mero. On some occasions, it is caught in New England off Maine and Massachusetts. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from Congo to Senegal.

Description[]

The Atlantic goliath grouper, like most groupers, is an ambush predator and eats fairly large fishes and invertebrates and even small sharks. Reefs with large numbers of predators, like Atlantic goliath groupers, are known to be healthier than reefs with no predators, so this species may represent an important part of the reef food web. Atlantic goliath groupers feed by swallowing their prey whole; they do not chew. They use their very large mouths to create enough negative pressure to suck in whole fishes or large invertebrates, and they swallow them quickly and efficiently Throughout most of the year, low numbers of Atlantic goliath groupers are observed in any one place. They are at the top of their food web and are therefore naturally rare. However, during reproduction (immediately after the full moons between June and December), they come together in groups of at least 100 individuals. These groups are known as spawning aggregations, and they form at relatively few places throughout the species’ range. Individual Atlantic goliath grouper likely travel many miles to reach their preferred spawning sites and form part of the spawning aggregation. At these sites, the groupers reproduce by a method known as broadcast spawning, where females release eggs and several males release sperm into the water column above deep reefs all at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become successfully fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators on the reef surface.

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