Often named ‘The Golden Grouper’.
Distributed throughout the Mediterranean Basin and the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Golden Blotch Grouper, (Epinephelus costae), are quite popular in Gozo’s waters. We encounter them on many occasions whilst scuba diving around the coastal areas on Gozo.
The genus Epinephelus originates from the Greek word Epinephelos, meaning ‘cloudy.’ The sub-family goes by the name of Epinephelinae, whilst the family is Serranidae.
Epinephelus has an elongated golden-yellow blotch behind the head. Sometimes it is hardly visible to the human eye. The lower jaw is very prominent, the body slender, attached to a pointed head. The base or background colour is generally beige-brown. Although, it might appear pale in colour out in the open. Golden Blotch Grouper resting on the bottom may appear darker and mottled in colour. The juvenile Golden Grouper has a slight convex tail. The young adults take on a concave formed tail as they grow.
Characteristic marks of an adult Golden Grouper are the 4-5 longitudinal dark stripes found on the upper part of the body. These stripes are almost visible to the human eye and are good to spot in curious juvenile species.
Growth and Food;
Epinephelus costae reach a max. length of 140 cm. They feed on other species of smaller fish. Although Mollusca and crustaceans are part of the diet too if smaller fish are not available. Juvenile Golden Grouper are often curious and will approach scuba divers. Reproductive or large males will act territorial towards divers.
Golden Blotch Grouper has a total of 11 Dorsal spines, between 15-17 Dorsal soft rays and 3 Anal soft rays. The head shows two dark lines, one runs from the lower edge of the eye to the ventral rear edge of the interopercle. The other dark line comes from the dark maxillary streak to the lower edge of the preopercle. Their fins are darker than their bodies background colour. The Epinephelus has two rows of teeth in the mid-lateral part of its lower jaw.
The Golden Blotch Grouper spends most of its time on rocky or muddy bottoms. Sometimes they inhabit sandy sub-straits or even above seagrass. It is a demersal species, migratory to the same site each year. Juvenile Golden Grouper form small groups behind rocks and other secluded areas. This gives the young species protection in numbers against unwanted predators.
The species has, to date, little data about global numbers and their well-being. It is an edible fish but is not sought after by fishermen in large quantities.
The photo of the Golden Blotch Grouper is at a depth of 18 m outside the Blue Hole, where the old Azure Window once stood. The area around Gozo’s west coast is well known for scuba diving. The famous Blue Hole and Inland Sea dive sites are very popular among experienced divers.
Come and experience Gozo’s fascinating and beautiful underwater world with us at DiveSMART Gozo.
Photo was taken by Janet Bulmer