Taxon profile


Modest Rockcod
Epinephelus chabaudi (Castelnau, 1861)

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

Scientific synonyms

Serranus chabaudi Castelnau, 1861
Epinephelus clarkei Smith, 1958
Epinephelus modestus Gilchrist & Thompson, 1909

Other names

= Moustache Grouper
= Moustache Rockcod

Data Deficient DD


Body depth contained 2.5 to 2.8 times in standard length (for fish 20 to 56 cm standard length). Head length contained 2.3 to 2.5 times in standard length; interorbital area convex; preopercle angular, the serrae at angle enlarged and on some specimens they continue onto posterior part of lower limb; upper edge of operculum convex; diameter of posterior nostrils 2 to 4 times larger than anterior nostrils; maxilla scaly, reaching to or slightly past vertical at rear edge of eye; midlateral part of lower jaw with 2 rows of teeth in fish 20 to 56 cm standard length and 3 or 4 rows in fish 70 to 90 cm staridard length. Gill rakers 8 or 9 on upper limb, 15 to 17 on lower limb, total 22 to 25. Dorsal fin with XI spines and 13 or 14 rays, the third or fourth spine longest and usually slightly longer than longest ray, the interspinous membranes deeply incised; anal fin with III spines and 9 (rarely 8) rays; pectoral-fin rays 17 to 18; pectoral-fin length contained 1.7 to 2.0 times in standard length; pelvic fins not reaching anus, their length contained 1.9 to 2.4 times in standard length: caudal fin truncate. Lateral-body scales ctenoid; auxiliary scales sparse or absent on body scales; lateral-line scales 61 to 69; lateral-scale series 100 to 114.
Colour: Fresh specimen, 33 cm standard length: head and body greyish brown, shading to pale purplish grey ventrally, with 3 broad dark bars between dorsal fin and lateral line, continuing faintly below lateral line; broad dark blotch dorsally on caudal peduncle, reaching about halfway to lateral line; nape and dorsal part of head faintly yellowish; prominent dark brown streak along edge of maxillary groove; fins greyish brown, the tips of spinous dorsal-fin membranes dark reddish brown; rays of median and pelvic fins paler than membranes; pectoral-fin rays brown, the membranes pale.Colour of fresh specimens, 88 to 115 cm standard length from deep water off Kenya (Morgans, 1982): rosy slate or chocolate brown; throat and hidden membranes of head pinkish grey; eye nondescript silvery; no bars, spots,blotches, marginal coloured bands, or conspicuous moustache streak.


E. chabaudi is known from the east coast of Africa (from Kenya to Knysna, South Africa, 34º3'S) and the Kerala coast of India; however, there are no records between Kenya and Durban, and none between Kenya and India. The record from Djibouti (Bouhlel, 1988, identified as E. modestus, in Bouhlel, M. 1988. Poissons de Djibouti. Dubai Printing Press, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 416 p.) is doubtful; the lower figure is a photograph of E. summana, and the count of 15 dorsal-fin rays is not known for E. chabaudi.


Along the coast of South Africa, E. chabaudi occurs on rocky bottom at depths of 9 to at least 55 m, but it is less common than E. marginatus; and juveniles have not been found in tidepools. Off the coast of Kenya, E. chabaudi occurs below the major thermocline at depths of 125 to 200 m (Morgans, 1982; Randall and Heemstra, 1991). It is also known only from deep water (250 to 300 m) off the Kerala coast of India (Taiwar and Kacker, 1984). The presence of this species off the coasts of Kenya and India appears to be an example of “tropical submergence” by which temperate species are able to live at tropical latitudes only in the cooler deep-water zone.


Attains, at least 137 cm total length and 40.8 kg (Morgans, 1982).

Interchangeable taxa

Heemstra and Randall (1993) found 9 anal-fin rays on the holotype of E. clarkei, not 8 as given by Smith (1958). Heemstra and Randall (1993) also disagree with Smith (1958:125) that “This species is closely related to E. morrhua Valenciennes, 1833 . ..” Heemstra and Randall (1993) believe that E. chabaudi is closely related to E. septemfasciatus (see Interchangeable Taxa under this species Taxon Description). Smith (1958) remarked of E. clarkei (his “new species”): “This fish is in some ways a surprising discovery, since it is apparently a not uncommon capture on lines in 5 to 30 fathoms off the coast between Bashee and Durban (30º to 33ºS) and must often have appeared among fishes sold in Durban.” in fact, this species was previously described by Gilchrist and Thompson (1909, as Epinephelus modestus) based on a specimen from the Durban market! Although Heemstra and Randall (1993) have not examined any specimens from India, the record of Talwar and Kacker (1984, as E. modestus) from the Kerala coast does seem to be E. chabaudi.


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

Links and literature

CH DE EN FR IT NL PR SP FishBase [7336]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/8477]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Epinephelus chabaudi (Castelnau, 1861)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [195291]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Epinephelus chabaudi (Castelnau, 1861)]
Data retrieved on: 2 August 2018
CZ Hanel L., Plíštil J., Novák J. (2011): České názvy živočichů V. Ryby a rybovití obratlovci (Pisces). 7. Paprskoploutví (Actinopterygii) Kostnatí (Neopterygii) [Ropušnicotvaří (Scorpaeniformes) – ostnoploutví (Perciformes) – Percoidei], Národní muzeum (zoologické oddělení), Praha, 148 str. [as Epinephelus chabaudi (Castelnau, 1861)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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