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Common Name: Great barracuda

Scientific Name: Sphyraena barracuda


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Osteichthyes

Order: Perciformes

Family: Sphyraenidae

Genus: Sphyraena

Species: S. barracuda


The Great barracuda is rather colossal! It's average length is 50 inches, but has been know to grow up to the enormous yet rare size of approximately 100 inches - measuring of course, from snout to fin. It has been known to weigh as much as 100 pounds! This large fish’s head has a pointed snout. Inside of this ferocious beast’s mouth, bared sets of strong vertical teeth of jagged, unequal sizes in both the jaws and in the roof. For this animal, the lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw, without a fleshy tip. This feisty species dons an elongated body, which is slightly compressed. Differentiating between which Great barracuda you find yourself peering at, you may judge the coloration of it to be a shade of Deep Green with slight tinges of Brown or perhaps Steel Gray above, sides a bit Silvery, then instantly becoming White on its abdominal region. Also, on the upper side of the fish, there may be noticeable 18-23 bars across its back, in a dark color.


These fish are superb adaptors - flexible in behavior, to being capable of changing color to blend with varied backgrounds. Several of the Great barracuda’s distinguishing characteristics have already been explained above, but several others would happen to be the pectoral fin tips that extend to the origin of the pelvic fins. The dorsal fins are widely set apart, while as the tail fin displays pale tips on each lobe. This species is commonly located near shore coral reefs, seagrasses, sand flats, and mangroves.


Along with living in those areas, they also happen to reside in the open ocean and at times can be found at depths up to 300 or so feet. The reason for their residence being in beds or coral reefs is due to the protection they provide by hiding them when predators approach. Then again, smaller fish do indeed dwell there as well; which also happens to supply food for the Great barracuda. These fish occur worldwide in the near shores of tropical and subtropical seas. Most common where the Great barracuda is likely to appear would be the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts, United States, down into the Brazilian areas. They are also found in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, the eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indo-Pacific, and furthermore extended, the Red Sea.


Unfortunately, an estimated population for the Great barracuda happens to remain unknown. Though facts show that their reproduction levels are indeed stable and increasing, despite the Great barracuda’s past. Also, according to the World Conservation Union, they are neither endangered nor vulnerable. In the past, the Great barracuda were sought after for their meat, but lately it has been found that the larger of the species have high amounts of a certain toxin: Ciguatera. Having consumed a Great barracuda with Ciguatera, or any other type fish for that matter, the result shall be a varied amount of illnesses; as will the pain vary from the amounted intake. The recorded illnesses having occurred are the following: stomach and/or digestive problems, physiological problems including severe headaches, extreme soreness in the muscles, peculiar changes of the blood pressure, drastic heart problems, and the most the most severe cases of having consumed a Ciguatera intoxicated Great barracuda, death can result. Despite death, the illnesses poisoned people had suffered were very serious and may have continued for weeks. Because of the high level of toxin in the larger fish of the species Great barracuda, fishermen then had the tendency to keep away from them; therefore allowing them to reproduce generously, replenishing the population. Due to the danger of the toxin, Great barracuda meat has been illegalized to market in the United States.


This may be the reason that the Great barracuda’s population has remained stable over or grown in the past few years. Being natatory, Great barracuda tend to float near the surface stalking their prey, waiting just until the victim’s guard falls in order to charge at it with an amazing burst of speed. Severing the tail from their prey’s body, the Great barracuda will then swim circles about it, continuously returning as they consume it at leisure, eating bit by bit; all usually while the sufferer remains alive through the entire ordeal. Another way it would capture and kill off its prey would simply once again charge, and then swiftly bite through the middle of the body; slicing whatever animal it had been into halves. Hence, the role the Great barracuda would play within the food chain would be predator; more specifically, a piscivorous.


Competitors against this species as a juvenile include both small Snappers and Needlefish. Though as they evolve, they tend to face off against other ferocious organisms such as Mackerel, Tuna, Dolphins, or even the parlously hefty Goliath Grouper! Being a juvenile competing against the Snappers and Needlefish, the Great barracuda would indulge upon Killifish, Herring, Sardines, Mojarras, young Parrotfish, Gobies, Silversides, Anchovies, Lizardfish, Grunts, small Mullets as well as Jacks, accompanied with the large extent of Cephalopods. Now, along the larger individuals, the Great barracuda partake of prey including smaller versions of their competitors, Mullets, Snappers, Herrings and Sardines, Lizardfish, Grunts, Needlefish and Halfbeaks, Puffers, and once more, the Cephalopods. It seems as though with this extensive variety of food, though undoubtedly incomplete, the Great barracuda is highly opportunistic!


One of the several things that definitely intrigued me as I researched the Great barracuda was the human attacks – despite them being rare. Most likely attacks occurred when the humans would have speared fish, in how the Great barracuda would see it as, their territory. Thus trying to retrieve the fish, the human would usually panic - making them a target for the Great barracuda due to their rapid movements. Human attacks also occur when the Great barracuda would misinterpret an object; such as the glint of an oxygen tank or that of a diving knife, and think of it as a shiny fish. They are also very flexible in behavior; from interacting with other Great barracuda (schools or territorial reasons), the attitudes they had selected from for hunting, or even the boldness they show towards divers and snorkelers as they would trail after them. I had learned many different things from this animal. Surprising as it is - I had no idea that the species of Great barracuda had ever existed; though as I continued researching further, I had later begun to enjoy reading more and more facts upon this fish; from its physical features, habitat, population, diet, beastly predators, and all the way to the things that had entertained me most of all. In conclusion, though acclaimed as an absolutely cutthroat fish that we all shall now acknowledge – the Great barracuda, this species just also may be gloriously captivating as well.


Author: Nordelline P

Published: 02/ 2007



Unknown. “Great barracuda”. Date of access: 22 Jan. 2007 . Unknown. “Great barracuda”. Date of access: 22 Jan. 2007 . Bester, Cathleen. “Great barracuda”. Date of access: 25 Jan. 2007 . Isgar, Tom. “Great barracuda”. Date of access: 31 Jan. 2007 . Engle, Michael. “The Seven Steps of the Research Process”. Date of access: 31 Jan. 2007 .

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