Description & Behavior
Great barracudas, Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards in Catesby, 1771), are curious, fearsome-looking, usually solitary predators common to reefs and shallows of Florida and the Caribbean. They are distinguished by a torpedo-shaped body, large eyes and mouth, formidable teeth, a double emarginate (notched) tail fin with pale tips on each lobe, and (usually) the presence of a few scattered black blotches on the lower sides. The top of the large head between the eyes is flat or concave. Maximum length 2 m; maximum weight: 50 kg. Environment: pelagic; brackish; marine; depth range 0-100 m. Climate: subtropical; 30°N-30°S.
World Range & Habitat
Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and east coast of Africa to Hawaii, Marquesas and Tuamotos Islands; throughout Micronesia. Western Atlantic: Massachusetts (USA), Bermuda, and throughout the Caribbean Sea to Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Senegal; Mauritania; St. Paul’s Rocks; Sáo Tomé Island.
Found predominantly at or near the surface though it has been recorded down to 100 m. Juveniles occur among mangroves, estuaries and shallow sheltered inner reef areas; adults occur in a wide range of habitats from murky inner harbors to open seas. Diurnal and solitary, but can also be found in small aggregations.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
The great barracuda is a top predator of reefs and feeds on a variety of fishes, cephalopods and occasionally shrimp.
Mode: dioecism (sexes are always separate), external fertilization, nonguarders, open water/substratum egg scatterers.
Conservation Status & Comments
The great barracuda very rarely attacks humans, usually with one quick, fierce strike, which, although serious, is rarely fatal. They are reportedly attracted to shiny, reflective things that look like dinner (silvery fishes) so wearing large rings or earrings or other jewelry should be avoided in their habitat. The world’s record on hook and line is a 1.7 m great barracuda taken in the Bahamas that weighed 46.72 kg.
Although this species is ciguatoxic elsewhere throughout its range, it has not been reported to be poisonous in the eastern Atlantic.
References & Further Research
Research Sphyraena barracuda @
Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ 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