Great barracuda ( Sphyraena barracuda )
|( Walbaum , 1792)|
The great barracuda ( Sphyraena barracuda ) is a predatory fish that occurs almost worldwide in warmer seas.
The great barracuda lives in the Red Sea and in the tropical Indo-Pacific from the east coast of Africa to Hawaii , the Marquesas and Tuamotu . It is absent in the eastern Pacific. In the western Atlantic it occurs from the coast of Massachusetts over the Bermuda , the Caribbean to the south coast of Brazil . In the eastern Atlantic, its distribution area extends from Mauritania to São Tomé .
Large barracudas grow to a maximum of two meters in length, but usually stay at four feet. The maximum weight is 50 kg. Only the Guinea barracuda ( Sphyraena afra ) occasionally grows a little larger with a maximum length of 2.05 meters. The body is covered with large scales and is elongated. The head is pointed and flat or concave between the eyes. The fish are gray-brown on top and silvery on the sides. Young fish have dark horizontal stripes. The anal and caudal fin of the fry can be black.
The wide mouth is studded with large, strong and razor-sharp teeth. The largest teeth are in the middle of the upper jaw. Together with the adjacent teeth and the lateral teeth of the lower jaw, they form a continuous saw-like cutting edge with which prey fish can be divided. The lower jaw protrudes. The two dorsal fins are short and far apart, the first above the pelvic fins, the second above the anal fin. The pelvic fins stand far in front, just behind the pectoral fins. The caudal fin is forked and may be patterned with some dark spots on the lower lobe. The sideline is clearly pronounced. There are no external gender differences.
Way of life
Large barracudas are diurnal and live from the surface of the water to a depth of 100, a maximum of 200 meters. Adult specimens are solitary and rarely found in small groups. They can be found near outer reefs, in river mouths and in lagoons and are mostly immobile in open water, lurking for prey. Young fish always live in schools, in inner reefs and also in mangroves or estuaries. Large barracudas feed 95% of fish, as well as cephalopods and sometimes shrimp. Young fish mainly prey on herring species , gobies , ear fish , small red mullets and lizard fish . Adult barracudas prey on larger fish in the open water such as mackerel , jackfish and golden mackerel . With their powerful bite, they are able to cut through large fish of their own diameter with one bite. They have been observed to drive prey fish into shallow water and then eat them.
The reproduction of the great barracudas is not well understood. Some scientists claim that they spawn in the spring, others claim they have observed that they reproduce under a full moon all year round, except in the cooler months. The breeding season may be different in different areas.
Large barracudas do not care for their brood and deposit spawn and sperm in open water. To do this, they seek out shallow coastal waters or estuaries. The larvae hatch after about one to two days and are then only 2 mm long. After three days they start to eat. At first they stay in protected areas and with a length of 30 to 50 cm they move on to a life in more open waters. The males become sexually mature after two years, the females after four years.
Large barracudas are caught as food fish and the meat is marketed fresh, dried, or salted. However, the meat of large specimens can be poisoned by ciguatoxins . Cigua-toxic specimens are particularly common in the Caribbean. They are less common in other parts of the range, and so far no poisoning has occurred on the coast of West Africa.
Large barracudas can tear deep wounds with their sharp teeth and, as with all large barracuda species, accidents can occur if the animal tries to steal a harpooned fish or mistakes glittering objects such as watches and jewelry for a wriggling fish. It is also dangerous in areas where the barracudas are used to being fed. Attacks occur suddenly and end again after an attack. Bites are usually in the arms or legs. A case is documented from a Florida marina where a woman trying to clean a boat below the waterline was attacked by a great barracuda right after she jumped into the water. The barracuda bit her arm, but immediately let go. The injury and the bleeding were so severe that there was a mortal danger and the woman had to be rescued in an expensive operation. It took several months to heal.
- Hans A. Baensch , Robert A. Patzner: Mergus Sea Water Atlas Volume 7 Perciformes (perch-like) , Mergus-Verlag, Melle 1998, ISBN 3-88244-107-0 .
- Ewald Lieske, Robert F. Myers: Coral fish of the world . Year publisher, 1994, ISBN 3-86132-112-2 .
- Bergbauer, Myers, Kirschner: The cosmos manual dangerous sea animals. Page 144, Kosmos Stuttgart, 2008, ISBN 978-3-440-10945-8