Taxon profile


Blacksaddle Grouper
Epinephelus howlandi (Günther, 1873)

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 howlandi Günther, 1873
Epinephelus spilotus Schultz, 1953

Other names

= Blacksaddle Rockcod

Least Concern LC


Body depth contained 2.9 to 3.3 times in standard length (for fish 10 to 31 cm standard length). Head length contained 2.2 to 2.5 times in standard length; interorbital area flat, the dorsal head profile convex; preopercle rounded, the serrae at “angle” slightly enlarged; upper edge of operculum almost straight; nostrils subequal; maxilla reaches past vertical at rear edge of eye; midlateral part of lower jaw with 2 to 4 rows of teeth. Gill rakers 7 to 9 on upper limb, 15 to 17 on lower limb, total 23 to 26; gill raker at angle distinctly longer than adjacent rakers. Dorsal fin with XI spines and 15 to 17 rays, the third or fourth spine longest, subequal to longest rays and contained 2.7 to 3.6 times in head length, the interspinous membranes incised; anal fin with III spines and 8 rays, the second and third spines subequal; pectoral-fin rays 17 to 19; pectoral-fin length contained 1.6 to 2.1 times in head length: pelvic fins not reaching anus except in small specimens, their length contained 2.0 to 2.4 times in head length; caudal fin rounded. Lateral-body scales usually smooth (a few ctenoid scales may be found in area covered by pectoral fin), with numerous auxiliary scales; lateral-line scales 49 to 52; lateral-scale series 85 to 102. Pseudobranch pocket well developed; pyloric caeca 13.
Colour: Head and body pale grey or brownish grey, covered with small brownish black spots (centre black, edges diffuse and brownish) separated from adjacent spots by spaces equal to or greater than width of spots; black saddle blotch on body and dorsal fin at base of last 3 spines and a smaller black saddle blotch on caudal peduncle; no dark spots on belly, chest or underside of head; median and pelvic fins with dark spots as on body, the margins of soft dorsal, caudal, and anal fins dusky, with a white-line along the edge; pectoral fins dusky with a few dark spots basally.


E. howlandi occurs in the tropical western central Pacific from the Ryukyu Islands to New Guinea, the Great Barrier Reef and eastward to Lord Howe Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Caroline Islands, Palau, Marshall and Mariana Islands, Howland Island, and the Samoa Islands.


Usually found in rocky areas or on coral reefs at depths from 1 to 37 m. Nothing has been published on the biology of E. howlandi.


Attains at least 44 cm total length (35 cm standard length).

Interchangeable taxa

Boulenger (1895) synonymized Serranus howlandi Günther and S. macrospilos Bleeker with E. corallicola (Valenciennes), and these three species have been confused ever since. Katayama (1960,1988) and Shirai (1986) misidentified E. howlandi as E. corallicola. Hoese (1976) was the first author to recognize E. howlandi as a valid species and distinguish it from E. corallicola. Schultz (1953) shifted E. howlandi to the synonymy of E. macrospilos, and Randall (1987), Masuda and Allen, (1987) and Myers (1989) also misidentified it as E. macrospilos. The colour pattern of adult E. corallicola is similar to that of E. howlandi, but the latter lacks dark spots on the belly, chest, underside of the head, and on the dorsal part of the eye (these areas spotted in E. corallicola); and E. howlandi has a white line along the edge of the anal and caudal fins, which is absent in E. corallicola. Other characters by which E. corallicola differs from E. howlandi are the ctenoid lateral-body scales, 53 to 63 lateral-line scales, posterior nostrils vertically elongate in adults, absence of a pseudobranch pocket, and the gill raker at the angle of the first gill arch subequal in length to adjacent rakers. E. macrospilos differs from E. howlandi in lacking a black blotch on body at base of last 3 dorsal-fin spines, and in having a submarginal series of dark spots paralleling rear edge of caudal fin, usually fewer gill rakers (total 21 to 25), pectoral-fin rays 17 to 20 (usually 19), and a strongly projecting lower jaw.


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 [7348]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/8476]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Epinephelus howlandi (Günther, 1873)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [132829]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Epinephelus howlandi (Günther, 1873)]
Data retrieved on: 3 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 howlandi (Günther, 1873)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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