Monday, February 05, 2007

Animal of the Week February 05, 2007 -- Philistine fish

Good Monday mes petit choufleurs,

It is indeed that time of the week again. And while there have been plenty of animals in the news that I could opt for (turkeys[done], quagga mussels[there's still a couple of cm left in this barrel], and killer whales in Edinburgh), as they say on the internet, meh! This one hasn't been in the news but it (like all the animals) is worth it; this week's AOTW is Epinephelus itajara (itajara, goliath grouper, jewfish).

Goliath groupers are potentially huge reef fish that can be found in the eastern Pacific, the Caribbean, and the west coast of Africa. They can weigh in excess of 400 kg and reach lengths of well over 2 m, although 40 kg is a more typical weight. With their huge gaping mouths and impressive size, they eat pretty much what they like, although lobsters and other large crustaceans form a large part of their diets. In this week's picture, the fish has been placed next to an American to give you some impression of its size.

Most female goliath groupers are small, and most males are large, in fact, all the really large groupers are male. This observations suggests that like other several other species of grouper they are protogynous, that is, they start out their lives as females, and only when they mature or reach a certain size, do they become male. So there are a few very large males. Once a popular food and game fish, the goliath grouper has been protected since the early 1990s and is globally critically endangered. Where they are plentiful goliath groupers can still be caught. Although they are best approached with caution: a spear fisherman was dragged into a cave and drowned by a large one last year.

In 1991, the American Fisheries Society felt that the name jewfish might be offensive, so they renamed it the goliath grouper after the Philistine champion thwarted by the Hebrew hero in the story from the Old Testament and Qur'an. Perhaps they chose to name the fish after the famous philistine giant because of its size, although I like to think the rebranding is because of the fish's disregard for high-brow culture.

Until next week my dears,


At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good words.


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