Pluma Porgy, Calamus pennatula
The Pluma Porgy, Calamus pennatula, whose common Spanish name is pluma del Caribe, is a member of the Porgy or Sparidae Family, known collectively as plumas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Pluma. Globally, there are 13 species in the genus Calamus, nine of which are found in Mexican waters, eight in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
The Pluma Porgies are characterized by their “porgy-like” deep compressed bodies, which are deepest at the beginning of their dorsal fin and have a depth that is of 44% to 48% of standard length. They are silvery overall with purple or lavender iridescent tinges. Their scales have yellowish brown edges with vertically elongated iridescent blue-green spots. They have a conspicuous rectangular blue blotch behind their eyes and across the edge of their gill covers and alternating blue and yellow horizontal lines under their eyes. They have a bright blue stripe and a small orange spot on top of the base of their pectoral fin. The corner of their mouth is pale yellow and the front of their throat is salmon-colored. Some fish have diffuse bars on their sides. Their head is deep with a moderately steep upper profile, a deep snout, and a small terminal mouth. Their mouth does not reach the eyes and is equipped with one or two enlarged pairs of canines at the front, three rows of molars on the top jaw, and two rows of molars on the bottom jaw. Their anal fin has a short base with three short spines and 10 or 11 rays; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin is low with 12 or 13 spines and 12 rays; and their pectoral fins are long, reach the anus, and have 14 rays. They are covered with scales.
The Pluma Porgies are bottom dwellers found within rocky areas and reefs, over flat bottoms, and within seagrass beds at depths up to 280 feet. They reach a maximum length of 37 cm (15 inches). Younger fish are found in shallower waters than adults. They consume brittle stars, crabs, hermit crabs, mollusks, and sea worms. They are protogynous hermaphrodites with all fish starting out as females and changing to males at midlife. Each female releases thousands of eggs each year, which are fertilized externally by males and then become pelagic.
The Pluma Porgies are found in all Mexican waters of the Atlantic with the exception of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Pluma Porgy is very similar in shape to several other porgies found in the Atlantic including the Campeche, Jolthead, Knobbed, Littlehead, Saucereye, Sheepshead, and Whitebone Porgies, however it is easily identified by the bright blue stripe and small orange spot on top of the base of its pectoral fin. It is most similar to the Jolthead Porgy, Calamus bajonado, which has 15 pectoral fin rays
The Pluma Porgies are considered an excellent food fish and are targeted by commercial and recreational fishermen being marketed both fresh and frozen. They are a focused species caught by hook and line, longlines, bottom trawls, and fish traps and also as a by-catch of grouper and shrimp fisheries. They have been reported to contain Cigua Toxin. From a conservation perspective they are currently considered of Least Concern being widely distributed and common throughout their range. They are subject to habitat destruction and overfishing in some parts of their range.
Pluma Porgy, Calamus pennatula. Fish caught from coastal waters off No Name Key, Florida, December 2013. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Kenneth Tse, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.