Taxon profile

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Epinephelus Bloch, 1793

kingdom Animalia - animals »  phylum Chordata - chordates »  class Actinopterygii - ray-finned fishes »  order Perciformes - perch-likes »  family Serranidae - sea basses and groupers


Body elongate, robust (subcylindrical), oblong or deep and compressed; body depth greater than, subequal to or less than head length and contained 2.3 to 3.7 times in standard length, the body width 1.8 to 2.8 in the depth. Head length 2.1 to 2.8 times in standard length; preorbital depth 6.7 to 15 times in head length: preopercle rounded or angular, the posterior edge’ serrate, with the serrae at the angle more or less enlarged; a few species with small serrae (mostly covered by skin) on the ventral edge; canines present at front of jaws, but they may be small in some species: no distinctly enlarged canine teeth at midside of lower jaw; teeth present on palatines; maxilla of adults without a distinct bony knob on ventroposterior corner, but there may be an abrupt step or hook-like process (covered by the upper lip) on the distal part of the ventral edge; supramaxilla well developed. Dorsal fin usually with XI spines (X spines in E. analogus, E. exsul, and E. nigritus, IX in E. acanthistius) and 12 to 19 rays, the fin origin above the opercle; length of base of soft-rayed part of dorsal fin not more than base of spinous part; anal fin with III distinct spines and 7 to 10 (very rarely 7 or 10) rays; pectoral fin rounded, the middle rays longest; caudal fin rounded, truncate or concave, with 8 branched rays and 8 to 10 procurrent rays in upper part and 7 branched rays and 7 to 10 procurrent rays in lower part. Scales on body ctenoid or smooth. Supraneural bones 2; dorsal and anal fins without trisegmental pterygiophores; rear edge of first dorsal pterygiophore with or without excavation for tip of second neural spine; epipleural ribs on vertebrae 1 to 10 (except E. stictus with epipleurals on only the first 8 vertebrae). The diversity of cranial morphology of the many species assigned to Epinephelus makes it difficult to recognize diagnostic cranial characters for the genus. Characters of the larvae (Leis, 1986): pelvic-fin spines with 4 ridges; supraocular ridge with a single strong spine; spines on lower limb of preopercle serrate; posterior 1 or 2 dorsal-fin spines develop first as soft rays and all spines are present in larvae of 13.5 to 16.0 mm: all anal-fin spines are present prior to settlement at a length of 16 to 18 mm standard length.


The genus is represented in tropical and subtropical latitudes of all oceans. Most species are found in the vast Indo-West Pacific region. Eight species occur in the eastern Pacific, eleven species are known from the western Atlantic, and 9 species are found in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Of the two species that occur in both the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic oceans (E. itajara and E. mystacinus), only E. itajara, with its preference for shallow estuarine conditions, is likely to cross the Central American isthmus via the Panama Canal, Although Heemstra and Randall (1993) did not find any significant morphological differences in specimens of E. mystacinus from the two oceans, it would not surprise them if there are significant differences in biochemical features (enzymes, mitochondrial DNA, etc.) of specimens from these two oceans.


Epinephelus species are generally found on coral or rocky reefs, but a few species (e.g., E. aeneus, E. bruneus, and E. areolatus) are commonly taken with trawls over sandy, silty or mud bottoms. Some species occur in deep water (to at least 525 m), but most are found in depths of 10 to 200 m. The two largest species (E. itajara and E. lanceolatus, which grow to well over 2 metres in length and a weight of over 400 kg) are often found in estuaries and harbours. Most species of Epinephelus are epibenthic predators feeding on macro invertebrates (mainly crustaceans) and fishes on or near the bottom. E. undulosus, an unusual grouper with long numerous gill rakers, occasionally feeds on pelagic tunicates. The reproduction of a few species has been studied, and they appear to be protogynous hermaphrodites; but the picture is complicated in some species by the occurrence of males that are much smaller than some females. It may be that not all females change sex, and perhaps some males do not go through a previous female stage.


C.L. Smith (1971) demoted the genus Promicrops (comprising E. itajara and E. lanceolatus) to a subgenus of Epinephelus. Heemstra and Randall (1993) agree with this decision and his statement that these two species “are highly specialized and distinctive although their alliance with other species of Epinephelus is clear.” Heemstra and Randall (1993) disagree with Smith’s (1971) decision to include the genera Alphestes, Cephalopholis, and Dermatolepis in Epinephelus, because it appears that Epinephelus (as recognized in the below mentioned reference work) may be more closely related to the genus Mycteroperca. The species of both genera have the base of the soft-rayed part of the dorsal fin shorter than or equal to the base of the spinous part, they have only bisegmental pterygiophores supporting the dorsal and anal fins (some trisegmental pterygiophores are present in Cephalopholis), and (according to Smith-Vaniz et al., 1988) the scales of Alphestes and Dermatolepis are different from all other groupers.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1993, Heemstra, P.C.; Randall, J.E., FAO species catalogue. Vol. 16. Groupers of the world (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rock cod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date.
Author: Petr Čech

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Included taxa

Number of records: 90

species Epinephelus adscensionis (Osbeck, 1765) - Butterfish
species Epinephelus aeneus (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817) - Grouper

Epinephelus aeneus

species Epinephelus akaara (Temminck & Schlegel, 1842) - Garrupa
species Epinephelus albomarginatus Boulenger, 1903 - Captain Fine
species Epinephelus amblycephalus (Bleeker, 1857) - Banded Grouper
species Epinephelus analogus Gill, 1863 - Grouper
species Epinephelus andersoni Boulenger, 1903 - Captain Fine
species Epinephelus areolatus (Forsskål, 1775) - Areolate Grouper
species Epinephelus awoara (Temminck & Schlegel, 1842) - Banded Grouper
species Epinephelus bilobatus Randall & Allen, 1987 - Frostback Rockcod

Epinephelus bilobatus

species Epinephelus bleekeri (Vaillant, 1878) - Bleeker's Grouper
species Epinephelus bontoides (Bleeker, 1855) - Dusky Rock Cod
species Epinephelus bruneus Bloch, 1793 - Kelp Grouper
species Epinephelus caninus (Valenciennes, 1843) - Dogtooth Grouper
species Epinephelus chabaudi (Castelnau, 1861) - Modest Rockcod
species Epinephelus chlorocephalus (Valenciennes, 1830) - Tonga Grouper
species Epinephelus chlorostigma (Valenciennes, 1828) - Brown-spotted Grouper
species Epinephelus cifuentesi Lavenberg & Grove, 1993 - Olive Grouper
species Epinephelus clippertonensis Allen & Robertson, 1999
species Epinephelus coeruleopunctatus (Bloch, 1790) - Garrupa
species Epinephelus coioides Valenciennes, 1828 - Brown-spotted Grouper

Epinephelus coioides

species Epinephelus corallicola (Valenciennes, 1828) - Coral Grouper
species Epinephelus costae (Steindachner, 1878) - Goldblotch Grouper

Epinephelus costae

species Epinephelus craigi Frable, Tucker & Walker Jr., 2018
species Epinephelus cyanopodus (Richardson, 1846) - Blue Maori

Epinephelus cyanopodus

species Epinephelus daemelii (Günther, 1876) - Back Rockcod
species Epinephelus diacanthus (Valenciennes, 1828)
species Epinephelus drummondhayi Goode & Bean, 1878
species Epinephelus epistictus (Temminck & Schlegel, 1842) - Black-spotted Grouper
species Epinephelus erythrurus (Valenciennes, 1828) - Cloudy Grouper
species Epinephelus fasciatomaculosus (Peters, 1865) - Rock Grouper
species Epinephelus fasciatus (Forsskål, 1775) - Banded Reef Cod

Epinephelus fasciatus

species Epinephelus faveatus (Valenciennes, 1828) - Barred-chest Grouper
species Epinephelus flavocaeruleus (Lacépède, 1802) - Blue and Yellow Grouper

Epinephelus flavocaeruleus

species Epinephelus fuscoguttatus (Forsskål, 1775) - Black Rockcod

Epinephelus fuscoguttatus

species Epinephelus fuscomarginatus Johnson & Wilmer, 2019
species Epinephelus gabriellae Randall & Heemstra, 1991 - Multispotted Grouper
species Epinephelus goreensis (Valenciennes, 1830) - Dungat Grouper
species Epinephelus guttatus (Linnaeus, 1758) - Deady

Epinephelus guttatus

species Epinephelus heniochus Fowler, 1904 - Bridled Grouper
species Epinephelus hexagonatus (Forster, 1801) - Hexagon Grouper
species Epinephelus howlandi (Günther, 1873) - Blacksaddle Grouper
species Epinephelus indistinctus Randall & Heemstra, 1991
species Epinephelus irroratus (Forster, 1801) - Marquesan Grouper
species Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822) - Black Bass

Epinephelus itajara

species Epinephelus labriformis (Jenyns, 1840) - Flag Cabrilla

Epinephelus labriformis

species Epinephelus lanceolatus (Bloch, 1790) - Banded Rockcod

Epinephelus lanceolatus

species Epinephelus latifasciatus (Temminck & Schlegel, 1842)
species Epinephelus lebretonianus (Hombron & Jacquinot, 1853) - Mystery Grouper
species Epinephelus longispinis (Kner, 1864) - Long-spine Rock Cod
species Epinephelus macrospilos (Bleeker, 1855) - Bigspot Rockcod
species Epinephelus maculatus (Bloch, 1790) - Bloch's Rockcod

Epinephelus maculatus

species Epinephelus magniscuttis Postel, Fourmanoir & Guézé, 1963
species Epinephelus malabaricus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) - Greasy Grouper
species Epinephelus marginatus (Lowe, 1834) - Duskey Grouper

Epinephelus marginatus

species Epinephelus melanostigma Schultz, 1953 - One-blotch Grouper
species Epinephelus merra Bloch, 1793 - Dwarf Spotted Grouper

Epinephelus merra

species Epinephelus miliaris (Valenciennes, 1830) - Netfin Grouper
species Epinephelus morio (Valenciennes, 1828) - Brown Grouper
species Epinephelus morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833) - Banded-check Reef-cod
species Epinephelus multinotatus (Peters, 1876) - Rankin's Cod

Epinephelus multinotatus

species Epinephelus octofasciatus Griffin, 1926 - Convict Groper
species Epinephelus ongus (Bloch, 1790) - Wavy-lined Grouper
species Epinephelus poecilonotus (Temminck & Schlegel, 1842) - Dot-dash Grouper
species Epinephelus polylepis Randall & Heemstra, 1991

Epinephelus polylepis

species Epinephelus polyphekadion (Bleeker, 1849) - Camouflage Groper
species Epinephelus polystigma (Bleeker, 1853) - White-doted Grouper
species Epinephelus posteli Fourmanoir & Crosnier, 1964
species Epinephelus quoyanus (Valenciennes, 1830) - Barred-chest Rock-cod

Epinephelus quoyanus

species Epinephelus radiatus (Day, 1868) - Oblique-banded Grouper
species Epinephelus retouti Bleeker, 1868 - Brownback Cod
species Epinephelus rivulatus (Valenciennes, 1830) - Chinaman Rockcod
species Epinephelus sexfasciatus (Valenciennes, 1828)
species Epinephelus sicanus (Doderlein, 1882)
species Epinephelus socialis (Günther, 1873)
species Epinephelus spilotoceps Schultz, 1953 - Foursaddle Grouper

Epinephelus spilotoceps

species Epinephelus stictus Randall & Allen, 1987 - Black-dotted Grouper
species Epinephelus stoliczkae (Day, 1875) - Epaulet Grouper
species Epinephelus striatus (Bloch, 1792) - Day Grouper

Epinephelus striatus

species Epinephelus suborbitalis Amaoka & Randall, 1990
species Epinephelus summana (Forsskål, 1775) - Edgeblack Grouper
species Epinephelus tankahkeei Wu, Qu, Lin, Tang & Ding, 2020
species Epinephelus tauvina (Forsskål, 1775) - Greasy Rock Cod

Epinephelus tauvina

species Epinephelus timorensis Randall & Allen, 1987 - Yellowspotted Gouper
species Epinephelus trimaculatus (Valenciennes, 1828) - Black-saddled Grouper
species Epinephelus trophis Randall & Allen, 1987 - Plump Grouper
species Epinephelus tuamotuensis Fourmanoir, 1971 - Reticulate Gouper
species Epinephelus tukula Morgans, 1959 - Grouper

Epinephelus tukula

species Epinephelus undulatostriatus (Peters, 1866) - Maori Cod
species Epinephelus undulosus (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824)

Links and literature

CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [genus/1376]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Epinephelus Bloch, 1793]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera [1012404]

Rees, T. (compiler): The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera [] [as Epinephelus Bloch, 1793]
Data retrieved on: 30 November 2019

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