Friday, 27 May 2016

The Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)

Among the more colorful and unique fish observed at our time with the Key Marines Lab, the hogfish gets its odd name from the protruded, pig-like snout and mouth it uses to search for food in the sediment. The hogfish is a member of the wrass family, but unlike the normal cigar-shaped bodies of its cousins the hogfish is laterally compressed. Coloration is highly variable depending on age, gender, and location though most are generally a rosy red with pearly white splotches and orange markings. You can see below how coloration can change to provide natural camouflage based on the environment.
Smaller specimens are sometimes almost completely grey, while larger ones can be pinkish with dark red bars on the snout. Another distinguishing feature that makes the hogfish hard to miss is its 2-3 long dorsal spines.

You may have noticed that while my classmates probably described the morphological differences of there species due to gender, I have not. This is because the hogfish is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning it is physically a female in its early years and at around three years old becomes a male. The hogfish also exhibits harem behavior, with groups of females pairing with a single larger male. Reproduction is accomplished by the simultaneous release of gametes from the entire group into the surrounding waters. These zygotes soon develop into larvae and within a only a few weeks have reached their juvenile form.

Hogfish feed mostly during the day on gastropods like mollusks and the occasional crustacean depending on availability and location. As mentioned before, it accomplishes this with its long snout and protractible mouth. Hogfish tend to occur in the western Atlantic, ranging from the Carolinas to northern South America and can live up to 11 years. They are currently considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are fished for their unique flavor. Juveniles are also sometimes captured for aquariums. Some successful attempts have been made to raise hogfish in captivity which may reduce the stress of overfishing in areas like Florida where they are most threatened.

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