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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ANIMAL TRACKER

Red-spotted grouper


Japanese name: Kijihata

Scientific name: Epinephelus akaara

Description: A large, robust fish, with an elongated body. The caudal fin (the one on the side of the body near the head) is rounded, and it has a spiny dorsal fin with an orange margin and yellow-orange spots.

Similar gold-orange-red spots cover the body, which grows up to 50 cm long. The head and the body are a brownish gray, with faint bars as well as spots. It has large eyes and a meaty, powerful mouth. The lower jaw has two rows of teeth.

Where to find them: In rocky marine waters from Okinawa, north through Kyushu and some southern parts of Honshu. The red-spotted grouper can also be seen in good fish markets in Japan, as it is a highly prized food fish. Groupers are related to sea bass, which might explain why the fish is considered delicious to eat. It is difficult to grow in fish farms, so most fish you see in the market are caught by hand lines cast over rocky waters.

Food: Fish and crabs. The fish lies in wait, darting out and attacking its prey. Some groupers are huge, 100 kg in weight, and there is even a report of one — not a little red-spotted grouper, but a larger relative — killing a human.

Special features: The red-spotted grouper, like others in its family, is built for sustained, rapid swimming. The powerful mouth can be used to dig in sand, and the fish makes shelters under rocks in order to hide from predators such as sharks and seals, jetting sand out of its gills as it digs. It can wedge itself into cracks in rocks using its powerful gill muscles. Interestingly, the fish is a special kind of hermaphrodite. The young fish start off as females but turn into males as they grow larger. Sexual maturity is reached when the fish grows to about 30 cm long.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET



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