Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Elopiformes
(Tarpons and tenpounders) > Megalopidae
Etymology: Megalops: Greek, megas, megalos = great + Greek, ops = appearance (Ref. 45335). More on author: Valenciennes.
Environment / Climate / Range
Marine; freshwater; brackish; reef-associated; amphidromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 30 m (Ref. 3789), usually 0 - 15 m (Ref. 42064). Subtropical; 49°N - 44°S, 99°W - 14°E (Ref. 55254)
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 160.0, range 130 - 128.5 cm
Max length : 250 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2683); common length : 130 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2683); max. published weight: 161.0 kg (Ref. 26340); max. reported age: 55 years (Ref. 9975)
soft rays: 22 - 25. Dorsal fin with short base at midlength of body. Anal fin with longer base, origin of posterior end at the level of the dorsal fin. Pectorals origin very low. Scales of the lateral line with ramified tubes. Blue gray back, shiny silvery sides. Swim bladder attached to esophagus and can be filled directly with air; this feature enables this species to live in oxygen-poor (brackish) waters. Large scales, 37-42 in lateral line (Ref. 26938). Last ray extended as heavy filament (Ref. 26938).
Eastern Atlantic: Senegal to Angola, with exceptional occurrences in Portugal, Azores and Atlantic coast of southern France. Western Atlantic: North Carolina, USA to Bahia, Brazil, with occasional occurrences off the American coast northward to Nova Scotia, Canada and southward to Cananéia, Brazil and Argentina. Throughout Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean (Ref. 26938). Eastern Central Pacific: Cobia Island in Panama via the Panama Canal.
Inhabit coastal waters, bays, estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons, and rivers (Ref. 3789, 27188). Often found in river mouths and bays, entering fresh water (Ref. 27227). Large schools may frequent particular spots for years (Ref. 9710). Feed on fishes like sardines, anchovies, Mugilidae, Centropomus, Cichlidae (mainly those forming schools) and crabs (Ref. 3789, 27188). The swim bladder, attached to the esophagus, can be filled directly with air and permits the fish to live in oxygen-poor waters. Has high fecundity, a 203 cm female is estimated to produce over 12 million eggs (Ref. 10863). Spawn in waters which can be temporarily isolated from the open sea (Ref. 27188). Transparent leptocephalus larvae migrate into estuaries (Ref. 57533). Famous for its spectacular leaps when hooked. Marketed fresh or salted (Ref. 3789). Large scales are used in ornamental work and in preparation of artificial pearls (Ref. 3789). Used to be cultured commercially in Colombia (Ref. 7306). Highly appreciated by sport fishers. The flesh is also highly appreciated despite its being bony (Ref. 27188). The world record for hook and line is 283 lbs. from Lake Maricaibo, Venezuela (Ref. 13442).
Some populations may complete life cycle in freshwater, e.g. Lake Nicaragua in Central America, and Deep Lake in Florida (Ref. 4639).
Hureau, J.-C., 1984. Megalopidae. p. 226-227. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. UNESCO, Paris. Vol. 1. (Ref. 3234)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)
CITES (Ref. 94142)
Threat to humans
Reports of ciguatera poisoning (Ref. 31172)
Fisheries: commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: public aquariums
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 1.0020 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00776 (0.00452 - 0.01334), b=2.98 (2.82 - 3.14), based on LWR estimates for species & (Sub)Family-body shape (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 4.5 ±0.0 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (K=0.07-0.10; tmax=55; Fec>1 million).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Very high vulnerability (76 of 100) .