Act! Support Our Efforts
Ocean Conservation Marine Life Species Database Education+Careers Projects Contributors Photos Videos News Connect

Pacific Barracudas, Sphyraena argentea

Pacific BarracudasPacific BarracudasPacific BarracudasPacific BarracudasContribute Photos or VideoContribute Photos or Video

Description & Behavior

Pacific barracudas, Sphyraena argentea (Girard, 1854), aka California barracudas and silver barracudas, are thin barracudas rarely exceeding 4.5 kg, they grow to a maximum length of 1.2 m. They can be distinguished from Mexican barracudas, Sphyraena ensis, by their silvery sides and a general lack of bars or spots. Pacific barracudas are slender, predatory fishes with small scales, a large mouth with fang-like teeth, and a protruding lower jaw. The tail fin is forked and the two dorsal fins are widely separated.

World Range & Habitat

Pacific barracuda are prevalent from Point Conception, California to Panama.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Pacific barracudas have well-deserved reputations for being a voracious hunters. Fish, such as groupers, grunts, snapper, bream and even young barracudas are among its prey. The barracuda attacks swiftly, charging at its prey at great speed and taking a large snapping bite with its powerful jaws. The barracuda uses its acute eyesight to hunt and will usually move quickly toward light or sudden movement that might indicate the presence of prey. In murky water, it tends to attack an object even before identifying it. When several barracudas hunt in a group they will often herd their prey together into a dense shoal, forcing the fish towards shallow water so that they can feed on a greater number of fish.

Life History

The nature, timing and location of spawning of Pacific barracudas has not yet been documented. Barracudas do not care for their young. They mature around 2 years of age. Distinctions between males and females have not yet been documented either. No one knows the life span of Pacific barracuda with certainty, but it is estimated at 14 years of age.

Conservation Status & Comments

Smaller barracuda species swim in schools, but larger species tend to be solitary. Although barracuda attacks on humans are rare, they are feared by swimmers in some places. Evidence shows that the barracuda can be dangerous when provoked by humans, by erratic movement and by bright and/or shiny colors. Barracuda flesh can become poisonous when they feed on reef fish which in turn feed on algae or smaller fish which have fed on toxin-containing micro-alga such as Gambierdiscus toxicus. See more about ciguatera poisoning.

References & Further Research

Big Fish - West Coast Fish
Marine Sportfish Identification - CA Dept. Fish & Game

Research Sphyraena argentea » Barcode of Life ~ Taxonomy ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species + Database ~ WoRMS

Search for Pacific Barracudas » ARKive ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ Creative Commons search ~ Wikipedia ~ YouTube

Feedback & Citation

Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!

~^~ surface

Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life

Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences.

Show your support with a monthly donation today.

With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.