Caesar Grunt

Caesar Grunt, Haemulon carbonarium

The Caesar Grunt, Haemulon carbonarium, whose common Spanish name is ronco carbonero, is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty one species in the genus Haemulon, and all twenty one are found in Mexican waters, fourteen in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.

The Caesar Grunts have compressed tapering bodies with a depth that is 35 to 39% of standard length. They have a silvery white coloration with a series of horizontal orange-brown stripes that are wider and more prominent above the lateral line. They also have a characteristic black spot at the base of their caudal fin. Their anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are transparent and their caudal fin is dark. The first portion of their dorsal fin is transparent with an orange-brown margin and the second portion is transparent with a dark margin. Their head has bronze-yellow stripes and spots. They have fleshy lips and the inside of their mouth is orange. They have 3 anal spines (the second being thick) and 8 rays. Their dorsal fin has 12 spines and 15 or 16 rays.

The Caesar Grunts are a schooling species found inshore within reefs and mangroves normally at depths up to 80 feet. They reach a maximum length of 36 cm (14 inches). They feed at night and consume primarily benthic invertebrates including annelid worms, crabs, gastropods, and starfish. They are a very rare species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Caesar Grunts are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

The Caesar Grunt is fairly easy to identify due to its stripping pattern and the large black spot at the base of its causal fin and not easily confused with any other species.

Due to their rarity and small size, they are of minor importance for human consumption. They are utilized in the aquarium trade at a minor level.

Caesar Grunt, Haemulon carbonarium, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key West, Florida, March 2017. Length: 12.5 cm (4.9 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.  Note: the mid-dorsal broken line is atypical.

Caesar Grunt, Haemulon carbonarium. Fish caught off the Grand Mayan Pier, Riviera Maya, Cancun, March 2012. Length: 23.0 cm (9.1 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.