Mycteroperca phenax Jordan & Swain, 1884
photo by Cox, C.

Family:  Serranidae (Sea basses: groupers and fairy basslets), subfamily: Epinephelinae
Max. size:  107 cm TL (male/unsexed); max.weight: 14 kg; max. reported age: 21 years
Environment:  reef-associated; depth range 30 - 100 m, oceanodromous
Distribution:  Western Central Atlantic: Gulf of Mexico and east coast of US from North Carolina to Key West and along the southern shore of the Caribbean Sea. Juveniles are occasionally found as far north as Massachusetts.
Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): 11-11; Dorsal soft rays (total): 16-18; Anal spines: 3-3; Anal soft rays: 10-12. Distinguished by the following characteristics: four color patterns, first is brown phase with head and body pale brown covered with small reddish brown spots that extend onto median fins, second is cat's paw phase with pale brown body color with dorsolateral parts of body having several clusters of dark brown spots resembling the paw print of a cat, third is with large adults with grey-head phase with the rear two-thirds of the body dark, head and body anterior to the 6th dorsal-fin spine in silvery grey with dark reticulations and fourth is bicoloured phase with pale brown anteriorly and abruptly dark chocolate brown posteriorly; depth of body contained 3.0-3.4 times in SL; head length 2.6-3.0 times in SL; convex interorbital area; angular preopercle, angle with distinct bony lobe; serrate interopercle and subopercle; posterior nostrils of adults 2-4 times larger than anterior ones (Ref. 89707).
Biology:  Found over ledges and high-relief rocky bottoms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; at low-profile bottoms at depths of 30 to 100 m in North Carolina; this species was the most abundant grouper in areas of living Oculina coral formations at depths of 70 to 100 m off the east coast of Florida. This species apparently moved inshore when bottom temperature fell below 8.6°C. Juveniles found in shallow water at jetties and in mangrove areas.
IUCN Red List Status: Data deficient (DD); Date assessed: 22 November 2016 Ref. (120744)
Threat to humans:  harmless
Country info:   

Entered by: Luna, Susan M. - 17.10.90
Modified by: Sampang-Reyes, Arlene G. - 20.03.12
Checked by: Capuli, Estelita Emily - 29.04.94

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