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Goliath grouper

Epinephelus itajara

Description: Adult Goliath groupers can be dull green, gray or dark yellow to brown. There are small dark spots on the fins, body and head and some, have irregular dark, vertical bars on their sides. The body is large and stocky; the head is broad with small eyes; the jaw contains several rows of small teeth; the pectoral and tail fins are rounded; and the dorsal fins are joined together, with the first fin being shorter than the second. Juveniles are orange-brown or yellowish-brown with dark banding and blotching.

Size: They are one of the largest members of the sea bass family; reaching lengths up to 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and weights of 800 pounds (363 kg). Goliath groupers are long lived, up to 37 years or more and grow slowly.

Behavior: They are an ambush predator, catching their prey with a quick snap of their jaw and then swallowing their food whole. They are territorial and solitary until it is time to spawn.

Diet: Groupers feed primarily on crustaceans (crabs, shrimp and spiny lobsters). They also prey on juvenile sea turtles, octopus and a variety of fish.

Communication: They will quiver with an open mouth and produce a rumbling sound to defend their territory and to locate others of their kind.

Reproduction: During spawning, they form groups from tens to hundreds of individuals at specific
sites throughout their range. After spawning, the fertilized eggs hatch into larvae, spend about six weeks in open water and then settle in shallow mangrove habitats. The juveniles stay among the mangroves for about five to six years until they are mature enough to join the adults.

Habitat/range: Goliath groupers inhabit rocky shores, shallow reefs, ledges, dock pilings and wrecks, where caves and holes can protect them at depths of 15 -150 feet (4.6-45.6 m). They are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Congo and from Florida down to Brazil, the Caribbean Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Status: Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.