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Jewfish
Epinephelus itajara
(Lichtenstein, 1822)

Description:
Body strong and stout, with a long head and large mouth. Body yellowish brown to olive green in color, with small dark spots. Can pale or darken. Tail fin rounded. Ventral fins smaller than pectoral fins (E. itajara).
Juveniles tawny with irregular vertical bands.
Size up to 2.5 m.

Habitat:
A solitary carnivore that lives near the bottom. Most of their days are spent lurking in the shadows of reefs, ledges and wrecks, down to 100 m. Adults appear to occupy limited home ranges with little inter-reef movement.
Juveniles inhabit mangrove areas and brackish estuaries.
Although awkward in appearance, groupers can cover short distances quickly. Fish or crustaceans are drawn into their gullets by a powerful suction created when they open their large mouths. Held securely by thousands of small, rasp-like teeth that cover the jaws, tongue and palate, the prey is swallowed whole. But also animals as big as turtles and stingrays are eaten.
Groupers are hermaphroditic, beginning life as females, but changing to males with maturity.

Distribution:
Uncommon Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.

Remarks:
The smaller Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) lacks the small black spots on the body, but has a black saddle spot on the base of the tail. Vertical bands are remaining visible in adults and the dorsal fin notched between the spines.

Jewfish (Epinephelus itajara)