Black Snapper

Black Snapper, Apsilus dentatus

The Black Snapper, Apsilus dentatus, whose common Spanish name is pargo lamparita, is a member of the Snapper or Lutjanidae Family, known collectively as pargos in Mexico. Globally, there are only two species of the genus Apsilus, and only one is found in Mexican waters, this species from the Atlantic.

The Black Snappers have elongated oval fusiform compressed bodies with a depth that is 38 to 42% of standard length. They are dark brown with a violet tinge and transition to lighter brown ventrally. Juveniles are blue. They have a prominent white lateral line set high on their body. They have a small head, a short pointed snout that is convex between the eyes, and a small terminal mouth. The anterior teeth on their upper jaw are canine-like. They have a row of simple teeth on both jaws, an outer row of conical teeth, and small conical teeth on the front and sides of the roof of their mouth with the tooth patch in the center being triangular or V-shaped. Their gill covers are serrated. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 8 rays; their caudal fin is lunate; their dorsal fin is continuous with 10 spines and 9 or 10 rays; and, their pectoral fins are long. They have 15 or 16 gill rakers on their first arch. They are covered with small to mid-sized scales that run parallel to the lateral line on their back.

 The Black Snappers reside in and around coral reefs at depths between 30 feet and 1,000 feet. Juveniles are found in shallower waters than adults. They are medium-sized Snappers that reach a maximum length of 65 cm (26 inches) and weight of 3.2 kg (7.0 pounds). They are found as solitary individuals or in small groups and feed on small fish and bottom-dwelling species including crustaceans, squid, and large zooplankton. Reproduction occurs throughout the year with the release of pelagic eggs that are fertilized externally. They eventually settle out in suitable habitat that protects them from predation.

In Mexican waters the Black Snapper has a limited distribution being found only in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and north and east of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Due to its uniform drab color, elongated body shape, and prominent lateral line, the Black Snapper is not easily confused with any other species.

The Black Snappers, although fairly common in some parts of the Caribbean, are of limited interest to most. They are caught on a limited basis primarily by commercial fishermen with hand lines. They are considered a good food fish and sold occasionally fresh or frozen in local markets. From a conservation perspective they are currently considered to be of Least Concern being plentiful with a wide distribution and with limited fishing pressure.

Black Snapper, Apsilus dentatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Aventuras, Quintana Roo, January 2016. Length 27 cm (10.5 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Nick Morenc, Mission Viejo, California.