Barracuda babies: Novel study sheds light on early life of prolific predator

December 16, 2011
In the journal Marine Biology, lead author Dr. Evan D’Alessandro and University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science colleagues Drs. Su Sponaugle, Joel Llopiz and Robert Cowen shed light on the larval stage of barracuda, as well as several other closely related species for the first time. Credit: Evan D'Alessandro

For anglers and boaters who regularly travel the coasts of Florida the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) is a common sight. Surprisingly, however, very little is known about the early life stage of this ecologically and socio-economically important coastal fish.

In the journal , lead author Dr. Evan D'Alessandro and University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science colleagues Drs. Su Sponaugle, Joel Llopiz and Robert Cowen shed light on the larval stage of this ocean predator, as well as several other closely related species.

"Due in large part to the expense and difficulty of collecting fish larvae from the open ocean, the larval ecology of were a mystery until now," said D'Alessandro. "A research study led by Dr. Robert Cowen, which sampled the Straits of Florida regularly for two years, provided a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the larval life of many fishes."

The study samples included great barracuda (92.8%) and their relatives Sphyraena borealis and Sphyraena picudilla (6.6%), commonly known as sennets.

In their larval stage, which generally lasts several weeks, barracuda and sennets remain in the upper 25 m of the ocean and live on a similar diet. They start out consuming copepods, or small crustaceans, but make an early switch to a diet of fish larvae, much like several larval billfishes and tunas.

"Barracuda are an important element in the marine food chain; they are voracious predators of other fishes as juveniles and adults on reefs and other nearshore habitats. Now we know this holds true for their larval stage before they reach an inch in length, as well," said D'Alessandro. "This novel study unlocks important aspects of the barracuda's life cycle. It also identifies an important size advantage within the larval stage (bigger larvae are more likely to survive) and provides insight that resource managers can use to better manage this species."

Explore further: Researchers evaluate the effects of warm waters on little fish

Provided by: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science


Related Stories

There's no scent like home

January 8, 2007

Tiny larval fish living among Australia's Great Barrier Reef spend the early days of their lives swept up in ocean currents that disperse them far from their places of birth. Given such a life history, one might assume that ...

How baby fish find a home

January 16, 2008

One of the most significant questions facing marine ecologists today, is just how much of an impact global variations in the environment are having on the dispersal of larval and juvenile marine species from open oceans to ...

Clue to mystery crustacean in parasite form

May 20, 2008

First identified in 1899, y-larvae have been one of the greatest zoological mysteries for over a century. No one has ever found an adult of these puzzling crustaceans, despite the plethora of these larvae in plankton, leading ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.