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Free Content Aid to Identification of American Grouper Larvae

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The serranid tribe Epinephelini (subfamily Epinephelinae) is represented in American waters by 36 nominal species and 2 undescribed ones in 4 genera, 2 of which are monotypic. Although adult groupers are readily identifiable, specific identification of larvae has proved problematic. Kendall (1979) was able to identify larvae of the four American genera on the basis of meristic data, but found that specific identification was prevented by overlap in ranges of meristic characters among many species and by the apparent absence of any species-specific larval characters. Grouper larvae are characterized by elongate, serrated second dorsal and pelvic fin spines. Comparative examination of the serration patterns of these larval spines shows that they exhibit species and species-group differences. These features in conjunction with frequency distributions of meristic characters and geographic distributions allow identification of larvae of 13 of the 21 American species of Epinephelus. The remaining eight can be placed in one of three species groups. Striking morphological differences between larval E. afer from the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific suggest that these populations are specifically distinct. Larvae of the genus Mycteroperca share diagnostic features, but specific separation remains unresolved.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1984

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