Taxon profile


Black Gouper
Hyporthodus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)

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

Scientific synonyms

Serranus nigritus Holbrook, 1855
Garrupa nigrita (Holbrook, 1855)
Epinephelus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)
Centropristis merus Poey, 1868

Other names

= Black Jewfish
= Jewfish
= Warsaw Grouper

Critically Endangered CR


Body depth less than head length, depth contained 2.4 to 2.6 times in standard length (for fish 11 to 58 cm standard length). Head length contained 2.1 to 2.5 times in standard length; interorbital area distinctly convex, wider than eye diameter for fish larger than 15 cm standard length; preopercle angular, but the corner rounded, with slightly enlarged serrae and 1 or 2 small spines on lower edge just in front of corner; interopercle and subopercle smooth; nostrils subequal, or rear nostril slightly larger; maxilla reaches well past eye; adults with 4 or 5 rows of teeth at midside of lower jaw, juveniles with 2 or 3 rows. Gill rakers 9 to 11 on upper limb and 14 to 16 on lower limb, total 23 to 25. Dorsal fin with X spines and 13 to 15 rays, the second spine distinctly longer than the others (in fish greater than 40 cm standard length) and the interspinous membranes deeply incised; anal fin with III spines and 9 rays; pectoral-fin rays 18 or 19; pelvic fins longer than pectoral fins in fish 7 to 58 cm standard length and inserted in front of vertical from lower end of pectoral-fin base; rear margin of caudal fin convex or truncate with rounded corners. Midlateral-body scales distinctly ctenoid, with auxiliary scales in adults; lateral-line scales 62 to 71; lateral-scale series 99 to 107. Pyloric caeca very numerous, in a large dendritic mass.
Colour: Dark reddish brown or brownish grey to almost black dorsally, dull reddish grey below. Juveniles with yellow caudal fin and a few randomly scattered whitish spots on body; no dark saddle blotch on peduncle.


Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, Trinidad, and Rio de Janeiro (Fig. 370). Reports of H. nigritus from the eastern Pacific (C.L. Smith, 1971) are apparently based on misidentifications of Epinephelus exsul. It seems to be rare in the West Indies, with single records from Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad; this rarity and its apparent absence from the western Caribbean shelf may be due to the dearth of deep-water fishing in this area.


Adults are usually found on rough, rocky bottom in depths of 55 to 525 m; juveniles are occasionally seen on jetties and shallow-water reefs. Adults feed on a variety of crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and fishes. According to Manooch and Mason (1987), H. nigritus is a long-lived, slow-growing species that may reach an age of 41 years. Average total lengths for fish aged 1, 5, 10, 25 and 41 years are 30, 92, 119, 188 and 233 cm respectively. The von Bertalanffy growth equation is: Lt = 2394( 1-e-0.0544(t+3616)) where Lt equals total length in millimetres at age (t) in years.


Maximum total length 230 cm; maximum weight 200 kg. The 1991 edition of World Record Game Fishes published by the International Game Fish Association lists the all tackle record for H. nigritus as 198.10 kg for a fish caught off Destin, Florida.

Interchangeable taxa

H. nigritus was reported from the Eastern Pacific by C.L. Smith (1971), but the eastern Pacific specimens that he listed are a similar species, H. exsul, which is known only from the Eastern Pacific. Although Heemstra and Randall (1993) have examined only 6 small juveniles (27 to 109 mm standard length) of H. exsul, they believe that this species is distinct from H. nigritus. It differs from H. nigritus in having 8 anal-fin rays, 87 to 92 lateral-scale series, body depth contained 2.3 times in standard length, and pelvic fins equal to or shorter than pectoral fins.

H. nigritus differs from H. niveatus in having X dorsal-fin spines (always XI spines in H. niveatus) and in the colour pattern (H. niveatus juveniles have the whitish spots in a regular grid-like pattern on the body and a large black saddle blotch on the caudal peduncle).


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 [1207]

Froese R., Pauly D. (eds.): FishBase []
CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [species/8501]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Hyporthodus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018-1 [7860]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [] [as Hyporthodus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)]
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 Hyporthodus nigritus (Holbrook, 1855)]
Data retrieved on: 19 August 2019

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