French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum
The French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum, whose common Spanish name is ronco condenado, 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 French Grunts have oblong compressed bodies with a depth that is 35 – 39% of standard length. They have a bluish-white coloration and are covered with wide yellow stripes that are horizontal above their prominent lateral line and diagonal below from the gills to mid-body and then parallel. The ventral side of their head has yellow spots and their mouth is red. All their fins are solid yellow. Their head is blunt with a small to moderately-sized mouth, often with thick lips. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 8 rays; their dorsal fin is forked with 12 spines and 14 or 15 rays; their pectoral fins are moderately long; and their pelvic fins are located below the base of their pectoral fins. Juveniles have a series of brown longitudinal stripes and a dark spot at the base of their caudal fin.
The French Grunts are found in large schools over reefs and wrecks at depths up to 200 feet. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches). They are nocturnal carnivores scavenging sand flats and seagrass beds adjacent to coral reefs and feeding on benthic crustaceans, polychaetes, and mollusks. They are preyed upon by larger reef fish including several different groupers. Reproduction occurs via pelagic eggs. They are a poorly studied species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the French Grunts are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The French Grunt is easy to identify as it is the only Grunt with diagonal stripes and with enlarged scales below the lateral line.
Although small in stature, the French Grunts are viewed as excellent table fare. They have limited commercial value due to their small size, but are sold fresh with fish caught via nets and traps. They are often encountered by divers as they are common on inshore reefs but are generally unfriendly towards them. They are also utilized in the aquarium trade.
French Grunt, Haemulon flavolineatum. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key Largo, FL, December 2013. Length: 14.1 cm (5.6 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.