Tattler, Serranus phoebe

The Tattler, Serranus phoebe, whose common Spanish name is serrano dianna, is a member of the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-seven species in the genus Serranus, of which thirteen are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Tattlers have elongated moderately compressed bodies that are covered with large rough scales. Their head and body are dark chocolate and transition to white ventrally. They have a series of vertical dark brown bars on their body: the first being the width of the eye and extending through and under the eyes; the second being of modest width and extending from the front of the dorsal fin to the lower margin of the gill cover; the third being wide, prominent, and dark and located on the mid-body; and the fourth being shorter and under the posterior portion of the dorsal fin. They have a white patch under and a gold patch behind their gill cover, and a prominent white bar along their back interrupted by a bar. Juveniles have similar markings but with enhanced colors. Their head is relatively short with a large terminal mouth. They have three well-developed spines on their gill cover with the middle spine being large and straight. Their anal fin has 3 spine and 7 rays; their caudal fin has a straight margin; their dorsal fin has 10 elevated spines and 12 rays; and their pelvic fins are located before the pectoral fins. They have 17 to 20 gill rakers and are covered with large rough scales.

The Tattlers are a small deep water species found within reef and rocky structures at depths between 80 and 1,300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 20.0 cm (7.9 inches) and are virtually weightless. They are generally a non-schooling solitary species and feed on shrimps, crabs, and bivalves. Reproduction involves protogynous hermaphrodites that are capable of changing from female to male as needed. Very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Tattlers are found in all waters of the Atlantic.

Due to its unique markings, the Tattler cannot be confused with any other species, although it is similar in size and shape to the Saddle Bass, Serranus notospilus (four wide bars mid-body).

The Tattlers are fairly common, but due to their small size and location in very deep waters, are of limited interest to most.

Tattler, Serranus phoebe. Fish caught from waters of the Florida Middle Grounds, March 2015. Length: 15 cm (6.0 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.