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Plectropomus leopardus  (Lacepède, 1802)

Leopard coralgrouper
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Plectropomus leopardus   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
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Image of Plectropomus leopardus (Leopard coralgrouper)
Plectropomus leopardus
Picture by Randall, J.E.

Australia country information

Common names: Bluedotted coraltrout, Blue-spot trout, Common coral trout
Occurrence: native
Salinity: marine
Abundance: common (usually seen) | Ref: Kailola, P.J., M.J. Williams, P.C. Stewart, R.E. Reichelt, A. McNee and C. Grieve, 1993
Importance: minor commercial | Ref: Johannes, R.E. and J.W. MacFarlane, 1991
Aquaculture: experimental | Ref: Rimmer, M.A., R.N. Garrett and M.A. Samoilys, 1994
Regulations: restricted | Ref: Kailola, P.J., M.J. Williams, P.C. Stewart, R.E. Reichelt, A. McNee and C. Grieve, 1993
Uses: live export: yes;
Comments: Found in Western Australia, from Dongara to the Monte Bello Islands and Dampier Archipelago. In Queensland, they are distributed from the Sir Charles Hardy Islands to Brisbane (Ref. 13465). On the Great Barrier Reef, common coral trout inhabit mid-shelf reefs (Ref. 6390). Also reported from the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands (Ref. 75154). Maximum densities are achieved in the Swains Reef and Capricorn-Bunker Reefs (Ref. 27404). Stock structure: As of 1993, no studies have been conducted on the stock structure of coral trout. Differences in maximum lengths of common coral trout populations between the Capricorn-Bunker Reefs and other Great Barrier Reef areas may indicate the existence of 2 stocks (Ref. 27404) although there is no known barrier to exchange between these areas. Commercial fishery: Common coral trout is fished on the Great Barrier Reef and at the Houtman Abrolhos by handline. Coral trout, in general, are the major Queensland commercial finfish, worth about A$8.2 million in 1989-90. They are one of the target species groups of the Queensland East Coast Reef Line Fishery and comprise 31-34% of the catch from that Fishery (Ref. 27262, 27263). The fishing fleet operates predominantly from ports between Cardwell and Mackay (Ref. 27263) and is very mobile. It concentrates in regions such as the Swain Reefs, the Whitsunday Island Group and the far northern Great Barrier Reef on a rotational basis. The Reef Line Fishery is daytime based and conducted by individuals operating small dories or dinghies ('tender vessels') working to a mother ship. Generally, coral trout are caught in commercial quantities from Torres Strait to just south of Rockhampton (Ref. 27262). Catches peak in the waters off Mackay and only small catches are made south of Gladstone. Although coral trout are caught throughout the year, catches and fishing effort are higher from August to October (Ref. 26263). In north Queensland, coral trout are caught by shallow and deepwater handlining off the reef crests. They may also be caught using rod-and-reel and by trolling ('wogging'). Cut baits from oily fish such as tunas and mackerel (Scombridae), frozen pilchards (Sardinops neopilchardus) from Western Australia and shark (Carcharhinus species), and also squid are commonly used (Ref. 27264). Fishers often target spawning aggregations of common coral trout and bluespot trout, and also seek 'plate-sized' trout about 35 cm FL. In contrast to Queensland, coral trout are a minor part of Western Australian and Northern Territory fisheries. Fish traps used in Western Australia are generally circular and they are usually baited with pilchards. Coral trout caught in traps range from 41 cm to 76 cm FL (Ref. 27266). Between 1979 and 1991, first Taiwanese, and latter Thai and Chinese, fleets operated a demersal trawl fishery in northern Australia from the North West Shelf to the Arafura Sea. They used pair trawlers and some stern trawlers. Australian stern trawlers entered the Arafura Sea fishery after 1987 and the North West Shelf fishery in 1989. Coral trout comprised 38% of the reported 'cod' catches in the demersal trawl fishery (based on an assessment of the Arafura Sea catches) and they are more abundant in catches on the North West Shelf to 21°S and 120°E. Fishing was carried out all year although fishing effort was concentrated on the North West Shelf from October to March (Ref. 27275). Coral trout are an excellent table fish marketed mostly fresh, gilled and guttted, or as fillets. Recreational fishery: In north Queensland waters, considerable quantities of coral trout are taken by handline and rod-and-reel. The fish are caught mainly during the day in depths to about 25 m (Ref. 27264). Coral trout are also caught by spearfishing to about 20 m depth. Small vessels are used on inshore reefs. Fishing in deeper water to 40 m is occasionally conducted from charter vessels (Ref. 27262). Similar fishing activities are carried out in other States. The quantity of coral trout taken in the recreational fishery in Queensland is estimated to be the same as, or more than, the quantity taken in the commercial fishery. The largest recorded coral trout caught by a recreational fisher was 23,600 g from Queensland (Australian Underwater Federation records). Resource status: In Queensland, there appears to be 'localised' over-fishing of common coral trout and bluespot trout on reefs near centers of population, and the average size of coral trout is smaller on reefs that are fished compared with the size of coral trout on closed reefs in the Capricorn Reefs area (Ref. 27276). Over the whole Great Barrier Reef however, coral trout densities until 1993, appear to have remained stable over a considerable time period. As of 1993, despite both recreational and commercial fisheries targeting the same species using the same gear and methods, it appears that the resource has not been over-fished. However, fishing effort on coral trout is increasing from both fisheries. On the Great Barrier Reef, its maximum lifespan is 14 years (Ref. 37816). Also Ref. 2334, 2898, 2910, 3150, 7300, 37816,43292, 48635.
National Checklist:
Country Information:
National Fisheries Authority:
Occurrences: Occurrences Point map
Main Ref: Kailola, P.J., M.J. Williams, P.C. Stewart, R.E. Reichelt, A. McNee and C. Grieve, 1993
National Database:

Classification / Names

Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Perciformes (Perch-likes) > Serranidae (Sea basses: groupers and fairy basslets) > Epinephelinae
Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL

Common names from other countries

Main reference

Size / Weight / Age

Max length : 120 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 6390); common length : 35.0 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. ); max. published weight: 23.6 kg (Ref. 6390); max. reported age: 26 years (Ref. 3639)

Length at first maturity
Lm ?, range 21 - 60 cm


Marine; reef-associated; depth range 3 - 100 m (Ref. 9710)

Climate / Range

Tropical; 24°C - ? (Ref. 2160); 35°N - 30°S, 99°E - 178°W (Ref. 5222)


Western Pacific: from Western Australia, eastward to the Caroline Islands and Fiji: from southern Japan to Australia (Queensland); also recently recorded from Tonga (Ref. 53797). Often misidentified as Plectropomus maculatus.
Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Introductions

Short description

Dorsal spines (total): 7 - 8; Dorsal soft rays (total): 10-12; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 8. This species is distinguished by the following characters: D VIII,11; A III,8; pectoral rays 14-17 (modally 16); lateral line scales 89-99, in longitudinal series 112-127 scales; interorbital space no embedded scales; gill rakers on first gill arch developed 1-3 + 6-10; front of jaws with a pair of large canine teeth and side of lower jaw with 1-4 large canines; body elongate, its greatest depth 2.9-3.6 in SL; truncate to slightly emarginate caudal fin; pectoral fins 2.0-2.3 in HL; pelvic fins 2.0-2.4 in HL; Head, body and fins with numerous blue spots on red, pale grey or olive to dark brown background; caudal fin with a narrow white posterior margin except near the corners; juveniles (< 5 cm) brown on upper 2/3 of side with scattered blue spots, broad whitish stripe from eye to caudal fin base, white on lower head and yellowish ventrally on side (Ref. 4787, 54980, 90102).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Inhabit coral-rich areas of lagoon reefs and mid-shelf reefs (Ref. 6390, 48635). Solitary (Ref. 90102). Inactive at night, hiding under ledges (Ref. 9710). Juveniles have a demersal existence in shallow water in reef habitats, especially around coral rubble (Ref. 27259). Adults feed mainly on fish (Ref. 6390), juveniles feed on small fish and invertebrates such as crustaceans and squid (Ref. 27261). A protogynous hermaphrodite (Ref. 55367). Form several spawning aggregations on a reef occurring around the new moon (Ref. 27259). Eggs float just below the surface (Ref. 6390). Larvae are pelagic (Ref. 6390). P. leopardus is used in cage culture; P. maculatus in Ref. 3081 was probably a mixture of P. maculatus and P. leopardus; the Plectropomus sp. used for the experiments reported in Capra et al., 1988 (Ref. 4719) consisted predominantly of P. leopardus, with some P. maculatus (M.F. Capra, pers. comm.). On the Great Barrier Reef, its maximum lifespan is 14 years (Ref. 37816).

Threat to humans

  Reports of ciguatera poisoning (Ref. 4821)

Human uses

Fisheries: commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: commercial

More information

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Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805)
PD50 = 0.5078 many relatives (e.g. carps) 0.5 - 2.0 few relatives (e.g. lungfishes)

Trophic Level (Ref. 69278)
4.4   ±0.7 se; Based on diet studies.

Resilience (Ref. 69278)
Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (tm=2-4; tmax=26; Fec=457,900)

Vulnerability (Ref. 59153)
Moderate to high vulnerability (51 of 100)
Price category (Ref. 80766)
Very high