Grouper Family Photos and Information – Epinephelidae

The Grouper Family – Epinephelidae

Leopard Grouper, Mycteroperca rosacea, a representative member of the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family.

The fish of the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as cabrillas and garropas. The Epinephelidae Family is very new, having recently been separated from the Serranidae Family, and has four hundred forty-nine global members that have been placed in sixty-two genera. The largest member is the Giant Grouper, Epinephelus laceolatuss which can grow to about 3 meters (10 feet) in lenght and up to 600 kg (1,320 pounds) in weight. Most of the important groupers utilized for human food consumption are smaller and in the range of 40 cm (16 inches) to 50 cm (20 inches) and 500 grams to 1 kg (1 to 2 pounds) in weight. The Groupers represent one of the most important commercial families inhabiting coastal areas of the tropics and subtropics and are found in and around reefs. They are heavily overfished; many species have become endangered and are currently the focus of significant conservation efforts.

The Groupers vary greatly in  morphology but most have a wide body with a large head and mouth. Most are well camouflaged with spots of yellow, green, and brown. They are slow swimmers over long distances and are classic ambush predators lying in wait for their prey to pass by. They consume fish, small sharks, juvenile sea turtles, octopuses, and spiny lobsters.

Most groupers have slow growth rates and live between five and fifteen years. Groupers are hermaphroditic starting out life as females and changing to males when they reach about half their lifespan. Most adults have relatively small areas in which they live and feed and one male may have a group of several females. They generally reproduce by spawning at night at certain times of the year and in aggregations. Each female can release up to one million eggs which are fertilized by the males. The fertilized eggs hatch into very small larval forms that drift in oceanic currents for one to two months. Less than one in 1,000 of the larval forms survive before they settle out as juveniles in shallow water near reefs. As the juveniles mature they move onto coral reefs and less than one in every one hundred survive to become adults. The adults spend the majority of their time on the ocean bottom.

Groupers are caught using baited hooks and lines, baited traps (primarily for the aquarium trade), gill nets, and spears. Their size, aggressive strikes, and rapid retreats into coral crevices make them a fierce foe for recreational sports fishermen. When they congregate for breeding they become very vulnerable to fishermen. New regulations and restrictions are being implemented which include area closures during spawning season, daily catch limits, rules on fish gear employed, bans on gill nets, bans on night-time spear fishing, and minimum size limits (which is not helpful as it reduces the populations to predominately females).

Thirty members of the Grouper Family found in Mexican waters, ten from the Atlantic and twenty from the Pacific, are currently presented in this website:

Atlantic Creolefish, Cephalopholis furcifer
Atlantic Giant Grouper, Epinephelus itajara 
Broomtail Grouper, Mycteroperca xanarcha
Clipperton Grouper, Epinephelus clippertonenensis
Coney, Cephalopholis fulva
Flag Cabrilla, Epinephelus labriformis
Gag Grouper, Myceteroperca microlepis
Graysby, Cephalopholis cruentata
Gulf Coney, Hyporthodus acanthistius
Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani
Leopard Grouper, Myceteroperca rosacea
Mottled Soapfish, Rypticus bicolor
Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus
Olive Grouper, Epinephelus cifuentesi
Pacific Creolefish, Cephalopholis colonus
Pacific Goliath Grouper, Epinephelus quinquefasciatus
Pacific Mutton Hamlet, Alphestres immaculatus
Panama Graysby, Cephalopholis panamensis
Rainbow Basslet, Liopropoma fasciatum 
Red Grouper, Epinephelus morio
Rivulated Mutton Hamlet, Alphestes multiguttatus
Rock Hind, Epinephelus adscemsionis
Sawtail Grouper, Mycteroperca prionura
Scaylfin Basslet, Liopropoma longilepis
Scamp, Mycteroperca phenax
Snowy Grouper, Hyporthodus niveatus
Spotted Cabrilla, Epinephelelus analogus
Star-studded Grouper, Hyporthodus niphobles
Twice-spotted Soapfish, Rypticus nigripinnis
Yellowedge Grouper, Hyporthodus flavolimbatus