Barracuda (Sphyraena various)

   

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family:    Sphyraenida
Size:    Length: Up to 6 feet (1.8 m)
Weight: Up to 106 pounds (48 kg)
Diet: Fish, and sometimes squid and shrimp
Distribution: Tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans
Young:  5,000 to 300,000 eggs
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Fry
Lifespan: Up to 14 years

 

Facts/Trivia:

         There are 18 different species of barracuda.

         In Hawaii, barracudas are also called kakus.

         The largest barracuda is the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda).

         The great barracuda can strike at speeds of 40 feet (12 m) per second. 

Description

Barracudas are long, slender fish with two dorsal fins that are widely separated. They have small scales and their large mouth is filled with razor sharp teeth. The strong lower jaw protrudes out from under the upper jaw. They have a forked tail fin, an anal fin on the underside, pectoral fins just behind the head and pelvic fins on the underside located between the head and the anal fin. Their eyes are large and they have extremely acute eyesight. 

 

Habitat

Barracudas are found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. 

 

Feeding Habits

Barracudas have a reputation for being voracious and fierce hunters. They eat all kinds of fish, depending on what is available, including groupers, herrings, sardines, snapper and even young barracudas. Greater barracudas also occasionally eat squid and shrimp. Barracudas sometimes sit and wait for prey to come by, or more often, they charge at schools of fish in a great rush, using their powerful jaws and teeth to bite. 

 

Reproduction

Younger barracudas that have just begun to reproduce lay 5,000 eggs in a season, while mature barracudas can lay up to 300,000. As soon as they hatch, the young barracudas immediately begin to prey on smaller fish. Barracudas mature at approximately two years of age. 

 

Behaviour

Most barracudas are nocturnal, but an exception seems to be the greater barracuda, which generally does not move much during the night unless there is a full, clear moon. Barracudas are feared by humans in the same way that humans fear sharks, and although barracudas have been known to attack people, such attacks are not common. They are attracted by light or movement, especially erratic movement such as splashing and shiny flashing objects such as jewellery (they mistake it for scales) and they often charge forward without even knowing what they are attacking. They have also been known to make divers nervous by following them for distances, and it is believed that this is due to curiosity rather than aggressiveness. 

 

Conservation

Greater barracudas are not a conservation concern, mainly because they eat fish that have toxic flesh, making them poisonous as well. Eating greater barracuda flesh can cause ciguatera poisoning, with symptoms such as gastrointestinal pain, weakness in the arms and legs, and a reversal in the ability to distinguish between hot and cold. Symptoms can last for several weeks. Therefore, greater barracudas are not harvested commercially. Other barracudas are hunted commercially, but they are also not a conservation concern at this time. 

 

Sources

http://www.silber.com.br/barracuda/info/

http://www.traitec.com/barracuda.htm

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/sphyraena/s._barracuda$narrative.html

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesGS.asp?sort=1&curGroupID=99&display=1&area=99&searchText=barracuda&curPageNum=2&recnum=FI0052

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesGS.asp?sort=1&curGroupID=99&display=1&area=99&searchText=barracuda&curPageNum=1&recnum=FI0051

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/GreatBarracuda/GreatBarracuda.html

http://www.uog.edu/marinelab/fish/species_html/sphyraena.barracuda.html

Barracuda Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Hawaii's Fishes, John P. Hoover, Mutual Publishing, 1993