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Habits Sphyr1na Barracuda Its Morphology

fish, figure, rays, dorsal and specimens


The family SphyrEenidie, the barracudas, comprises one genus only, Sphyrcena. The 20 or more species of this genus are found in the warm waters of the tropical and sub-tropical zones all round the world. They are carnivorous fishes, generally of large size, fierce and voracious in habits, the salt-water congeners of the fresh-water pikes.


At Tortugas, the great barracuda, Sphyrcena barracuda (Walbaum), also known in various parts of the West Indies as picuda or becuna, is very abundant in the lagoon. Twelve large specimens have been taken and examined, and scores of others could have been caught if they had been sought. This large fish has a long and powerful body, compressed and rounded, in cross-section having a somewhat elliptical outline. The head is very large, about one-fourth the total length of the fish, is long, narrow, pointed, and flat on top— in short, wedge-shaped. The mouth has an enormous gape, the jaws extending back to a point directly under the eye, and measuring about one-half the length of the head. The lower jaw projects beyond the upper, and both jaws are provided with huge canine teeth. The lower jaw, however, ends bluntly, as is shown in every figure of the fish given in this paper. In marked contradistinction are Fowler's figures (1903) of S. picudilla and S. tome, in both of which the lower jaw is drawn out into a fine thin point.

All of these points will be made clear by reference to figure 1, plate I, and figures 3 and 4, plate it, photographs of specimens taken at Tortugas and Miami, Florida.* Attention is also called to the spinous dorsal fin, which, with its five rays connected by a thin transparent membrane, is depressible in a groove, thereby becoming invisible. This fin is placed almost immediately over the abdomi nally located pelvic fins; while the soft dorsal, placed far back, occupies a similar position with reference to the anal fin. Not only are these two fins similar in position and appearance but also in structure, each being provided with a spine in front. The wide separation of the two dorsals and their location over the ventrally placed pectoral and anal fins gives the fish a symmetrical appearance despite its bulky figure. The body ends in a thick, stout caudal peduncle which bears

the large, rather deeply forked caudal fin, of which the upper lobe is generally slightly the larger. The appearance of this fish gives one the idea of speed and power in about equal proportions. It is of the type of the battle cruiser.

The body of the fish is well panoplied with fairly large cycloid scales. The eyes are large and staring, and are placed about the center of the upper lateral region. The anterior nostril is a small pore at the front end of the supraorbital ridge; the posterior is a slit (0.25 inch long in a 3 feet 10 inch specimen) standing nearly vertical (slightly forward and downward) in front of the eye. Our American authorities (Jordan and Evermann, and Evermann and Marsh) state that the lateral line is straight, but their figure shows that it rises slightly just above the pectoral fin. In my specimens, for the most part, this rise was far more marked than in their figure, in one fish beginning 2 inches back of the tip of the pectoral. In my largest specimen, however, the rise was only moderately pronounced.

As was noted above, 12 large specimens have been taken and exam ined, but the fish being so characteristic in structure and markings that it is recognized at a mere glance, fin ray count was made for only one specimen. This fish, an adult, 3 feet 10 inches in length, had dorsal rays 9; and, i, 8. Jordan and Evermann (1896) give D. 9; A. I, 9; but their figure has only 8 anal rays. Evermann and Marsh, in their "Fishes of Porto Rico" (1900), make the dorsal rays 10; and the anal ones i, 8; yet they copy Jordan and Evermann's figure referred to, which has but 9 soft rays in the dorsal. Possibly there is some variation in the number of fin rays. The figure referred to is reproduced herein as text-figure 2.

The table on page 58 gives the comparative measurements of these 12 specimens in inches and the weight in pounds.