Monday, 30 May 2016

Week 3: KML - Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops alanticus) (Larry J. Eichel)

Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops alanticus)


          There are only two species which belong to the Family Megalopidae, Megalops alanticus (i.e., native to the Atlantic ocean) and Megalops cyprinoides (i.e., native to the Indo-Pacific ocean), hence the simple names. The Atlantic tarpon is a long, robust fish with a slightly upturned mouth, large scales, and a shiny silver appearance (i.e., some phenotypic variation is observed depending on habitat) which have a rather large range that extends from Virginia to central Brazil, along the coast west coast of Africa, and all throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. They are normally found in estuaries, shallow coastal environments, coral reef communities, and occasionally in freshwater (i.e., brackish) systems such as rivers and lakes. Tarpon are rather long lived, reaching terminal ages of 50-65 years old and can grow to be approximately eight feet and weigh up to 350 pounds. In their larval stage, they appear to be transparent, ribbon-like bodied, with fang-like teeth and are about one inch in length.
          Larval stage tarpon due not actively forage, they sequester nutrients from the surrounding sea water using integumentary absorption, early term juveniles normally graze zooplankton but may consume the occasional small insect or fish, late term juveniles mainly feed on insects, crabs, shrimp, and fish in estuarine and other brackish environments, whereas, adults feed nocturnally on midwater prey. They have relatively few natural predators and juveniles generally are at higher risk of being predated upon by many sea and shore birds, whereas, the adults are predated on by crocodiles, alligators, sharks, and the occasional marine mammal. Although, their largest threat appears to be humans (i.e., overfishing) due to their majestic appearance, extreme speed, strength, stamina, and fighting ability they are regarded as a popular game fish in the state of Florida known to fishermen as the "Silver King" warranted by the flash emitted from their silvery sides upon jumping or breaching out of the water. Currently, they are only fished recreationally due to their meat not being very edible and anglers can purchase permit tags if they would like to mount the fish as a trophy (i.e., taxidermy) and the IUCN Red List has them listed as Vulnerable.

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