Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Menticirrhus americanus, Southern kingfish

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8-9 faint oblique bars, no flank stripe
D relatively low
throat - no molar teeth
pectoral long
A 7
breast scales not smaller than others

Menticirrhus americanus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Southern kingfish

Body elongate, rounded in cross-section, belly flat; head long, low; snout ~ conical, projecting beyond horizontal mouth, with slits and pores above mouth; teeth small & simple, no molar-like teeth in throat; outer row teeth of upper jaw distinctly enlarged; a short thick barbel on chin with a pore at its point and 2 pairs more at its base; preopercle smooth to weakly serrated; gill rakers short, knob-like, ~10 but disappear in large fish; top corner of gill opening notched; dorsal rays X + I, 22-26, longest spine seldom reaches past origin of 2nd dorsal; anal fin with short base, I weak spine, 7 (6-8) rays; pectoral rays 20-23, fin reaching beyond tips of depressed pelvic fins; tail margin S-shaped; scales small, rough, not much smaller on breast than on rest of body; soft dorsal with 1 row of scales along its base; the lateral line extends to the center of the end of the tail fin.

Dusky silver, darker on back; belly white; often 8-9 faint oblique bars, bars change direction between the 2nd & 3rd bar, which form a V below 1st dorsal fin; no dark stripe on body; pelvic, pectoral and anal fins dusky; inside gill chamber black.

Size: grows to 60 cm; reaches 5 years.

Inhabits mud and sand bottoms of coastal waters, including bays and off sandy and surf beaches; juveniles in estuaries.

Depth: 1-110 m.

Massachusetts to Argentina.

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  • Marine
  • Brackish
  • Inshore Only
  • Inshore
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Sand & gravel
  • Mud
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Soft bottom only
  • Estuary
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic worms
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • West Atlantic Endemic
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
Regional Endemism
  • GC non-endemic
  • Extends North of GC
  • Island (s)
  • Extends South of GC
  • Continental primarily
  • Extends N + S of GC
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
IUCN Red List
  • Not evaluated / Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 60
Depth Range Min
  • 1
Depth Range Max
  • 110