Taxon profile


Banded-check Reef-cod
Epinephelus morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833)

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 morrhua Valenciennes, 1833
Cephalopholis morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833)
Epinephelus cometae Tanaka, 1927

Other names

= Blue Grouper
= Comet Cod
= Comet Grouper
= Contour Rockcod

Least Concern LC


Epinephelus morrhua - Banded-check Reef-cod

Author: Pavel Zuber

Epinephelus morrhua - Banded-check Reef-cod

Author: Pavel Zuber

Epinephelus morrhua - Banded-check Reef-cod

Author: Pavel Zuber


Body depth contained 2.8 to 3.1 times in standard length (for fish 13 to 61. cm standard length). Head length contained 2.3 to 2.5 times in standard length; interorbital area flat to moderately convex, the dorsal head profile slightly convex; preopercle with a shallow indentation just above the enlarged serrae at the corner; upper edge of operculum almost straight; adults with posterior nostril diameter 2 or 3 times larger than anterior nostril; maxilla reaches to or past vertical at rear edge of eye; midlateral part of lower jaw with 2 rows of teeth. Gill rakers 8 to 10 on upper limb, 15 to 18 on lower limb, the longest gill rakers shorter than longest gill filaments. Dorsal fin with XI spines and 14 or 15 rays, the third or fourth spine longest, its length contained 2.6 to 3.3 times in head length and about equal to longest dorsal-fin ray; anal fin with III spines and 7 or 8 rays, the second and third spines subequal; pectoral-fin rays 17 or 18; pectoral-fin length contained 1.8 to 2.2 times in head length; pelvic fins not reaching anus, their length contained 2.0 to 2.7 times in head length; caudal fin convex to moderately rounded. Lateral-body scales distinctly ctenoid, occasionally with a few auxiliary scales; lateral-line scales 55 to 64; lateral-scale series 108 to 125.
Colour: Head and body buff, with dark brown bands as follows: a bifurcate band begins at rear edge of eye, the upper branch extending to a dark brown saddle blotch on nape just in front of dorsal fin, the lower branch running to lower opercular spine and continuing on body as a midlateral band that bifurcates above the pectoral fin, the upper branch running to a dark blotch at base of third to seventh dorsal-fin rays, the lower branch curving up to base of last 4 dorsal-fin rays; another dark band from upper edge of operculum to base of fifth to ninth dorsal-fin spines; narrow band from lower edge of eye to pectoral-fin base, continued as a broken band along lower part of body and curving up to dorsal part of peduncle; broad band from maxillary groove to rear end of interopercle. Small dark brown spots often present in pale areas between bands and usually arranged in series paralleling the bands; fins generally unmarked; pectoral fins hyaline yellow. In juveniles, the dark bands appear first as series of dark blotches.


E. morrhua ranges from the Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to the central Pacific Ocean. Heemstra and Randall (1993) examined specimens or verified records from the Sinai Peninsula, Quseir, Jeddah, Djibouti, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa (Natal), Comoros, Aldabra, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Chagos, Andaman Sea, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Philippines, Hong Kong, southern Japan, Ogasawara Islands, Mariana Islands, Palau, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Australia (Northern Territory to northern New South Wales), New Ireland, New Caledonia, Rotuma, Fiji, and the Cook Islands.


E. morrhua is a deep-water species that is usually found in depths of 80 to 370 m. Morgans (1982) reported a 46 cm standard length, 3.6 kg, mature male (as “Epinephelus cometae”) from north of Zanzibar Island.


Attains at least 61 cm standard length (73 cm total length) and 5 kg; Fourmanoir and Laboute (1976) gave the maximum total length for E. morrhua as 90 cm.

Interesting facts

Said to be dangerous (because of ciguatera) at Mauritius (Postel, et al., 1963).

Interchangeable taxa

The Persian Gulf records for E. morrhua and E. radiatus that were shown on the distribution map of Randall and Klausewitz (1986) should have been placed in the Gulf of Oman instead of in the Persian Gulf. E. morrhua is one of 4 deep-water groupers that are characterized by having the body depth distinctly less than head length, 2 to 5 distinctly enlarged serrae at corner of preopercle, 2 rows of teeth at sides of lower jaw, dorsal-fin rays 13 to 15, pectoral fins not fleshy, pelvic-fin length contained 2.0 to 2.8 times in head length, lateral-line scales 54 to 66, no auxiliary scales on body, and the colour pattern dominated by curving dark bands or longitudinal series of dark spots. The other 3 species of this E. morrhua species-complex are E. poecilonotus, E. radiatus and E. tuamotuensis. These 4 species have often been confused, and Heemstra and Randall (1993) were not able to find any meristic or morphological characters that would distinguish them. Juveniles of E. poecilonotus have a large dark brown or black saddle blotch on body at base of spinous dorsal fin: this blotch is isolated from other dark bands on the body and extends over front half of spinous dorsal fin; in adults this blotch breaks up into small dark spots, as do the dark bands on the body, and in large adults most of the dark spots and bands have disappeared; juveniles with a dark band from eye to lower opercular spine, continued as a dark curving midlateral stripe or series of spots to a dark saddle blotch on peduncle. On adults, the triangular interspinous dorsal-fin margins are brownish yellow or gold. J.L.B. Smith (1958) confused E. morrhua with E. poecilonotus; his fig. A is of a 33 cm total length E. morrhua from Mozambique and his fig. B is a 55 cm total length E. poecilonotus from Kenya. Juveniles of E. radiatus have 5 irregular, solid, dark brown bands (with age only the edges remain dark) that run down and forward from dorsal edge of body, the first from nape to eye, the second from base of middle dorsal-fin spines to upper end of gill opening, the third and fourth dark bands from anterior and posterior dorsal-fin rays, both branching as they pass ventrally, and the last dark band on caudal peduncle; with growth, the dark bands break into spots and disappear ventrally on adults; soft dorsal fin and dorsal part of caudal fin densely spotted. E. tuamotuensis has the dark bands on head and body forming a coarse reticulum that does not extend to ventral part of body.


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 [5353]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/8498]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Epinephelus morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [132745]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Epinephelus morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833)]
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 morrhua (Valenciennes, 1833)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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