Barracudas: Characteristics, habitats, types and more.

Barracudas are large fish that belong to the genus Sphyraena (class Actinopterygii) which inhabits the warmer, coastal regions of the world’s oceans.

There are more than 20 different species of barracudas that vary in size from less than 50 cm to about 2 meters in length. They may have gotten their names from the spanish word barraco which means «overlapping tooh»,  and  are also called  «The Sea Tigers»

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Main Characteristics:

Barracudas are bony fish that have an elongated body, a mouth full of sharp teeth and, in most cases, an under bite. Many people regard that they resemble torpedoes. Their head is large and quite pointed while their gill covers (operculum) lack spines and are covered by small scales. The two dorsal fins are widely separated, with the anterior fin with five spines and the posterior fin with a spine and 9 soft rays. The posterior dorsal fin and anal fin are the same size while the lateral line is prominent and extends directly from head to tail. In turn, the spinous dorsal fin is placed above the pelvic fins and is normally retracted in a groove.

These fish are known for being aggressive, opportunistic and dominant predators that usually attack their prey by surprise. They can swim at more than 40 km / h in short bursts to reach their victims. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about this topic

Body Color

The barracudas’  body  color is almost always silver green, but they can change it  to camouflage with their surroundings if necessary. This occurs mainly when they stalk a prey and their skin color darkens and seven stripes appear on their side. Young barracudas have a long, dark stripe that runs through their bodies, but as they grow, the fringe breaks down and forms spots that eventually disappear.

Size

The barracudas reach lengths of up to 2 m and a weight of 50 kg, although specimens of up to 2.5 m have been reported.

Let´s meet the most popular barracuda




Where Do Barracudas Inhabit?

Most species of barracudas live in warm, tropical and subtropical waters, in different habitats:  near coral reefs, in the open sea, in the shallow waters of mangrove forests and in depths of up to 100 meters.

barracudas: swimming near a coral reef

How Do Barracudas Reproduce?

The barracudas reproduce mainly when the sea waters begin to warm and mate in shallow waters. They are pelagic spawners, which means that they group to expel their eggs and sperm in an area where the fertilized eggs can be washed away by the current. This is the reason why they are  distributed through all the warm seas of the world.

When the brood leaves the egg, it seeks refuge among the vegetation of the coastal waters. Once the fish grow enough to defend themselves, they venture into the open sea that surrounds the coral reefs. Barracudas don´t have many natural predators, in addition to sharks and killer whales. If they can avoid the fishermen, it ensures a relatively long life between 10 and 15 years.

Lifecycle:

Hatchling: Egg of around 5 centimeters long.

Larva (Stage 2): Larva of around 8 centimeters long with two fins, one on the top and one on the bottom.

Juvenile (Stage 3): In the third stage the juvenile barracuda has around 30 centimeters and is ready to mate.

Adult (Stage 4): Now they around 100 centimeters long and are able to hunt.

What Do Barracudas Eat?

The barracudas feed mainly on fish that can be as big as themselves, which they kill by tearing their body. These agile creatures often compete against tuna , needlefish and even the dolphins  for some preys. Catfish, groupers, snappers, small tuna, red mullet, herring are the main components of their diet, although sometimes they can also consume shrimp and octopus.

They hang around piles, sea grass beds or just move near the bottom until they see something to eat. Then they move surprisingly fast and bite their victims, splitting them into two or more pieces.

Let´s watch them




Barracudas and Human Beings.

There are stories that the barracudas are dangerous predators that frequently attack people. But the truth is that they are relatively passive with humans and rarely threaten divers with the intention of eating. Only 25 barracudas´ attacks on human have been reported and confirmed in the last century, which is a negligible number compared with other predators such as sharks for example. In addition, there have never been fatal attacks but lacerations, most caused by provocation or barracuda that confused the diver with its prey. Most of the attacks have occurred against divers when they prevent the barracuda to remove them their capture.

As food

The barracudas are popular foods (such as steaks mainly) and even a sport (the great barracuda´s hunting for example).However, they have been frequently linked to cases of ciguatera food poisoning; disease closely related to reef fish .The ciguatoxin, which is the toxin that causes the disease, can be hosted by the barracuda without any inconvenience this being the possible reason.

The main symptoms related to ciguatera are gastrointestinal discomfort, weakness in the extremities and inability to differentiate the heat from the cold effectively. However the main recommendation in these cases is always wash and cook thoroughly any fish or marine species that will be consumed, since in this way the probability of ingesting any bacteria contained in them will be reduced by more than 80%.

If you follow our recomendations you can sitll enjoy this dish

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Main Species of Barracudas

There are are many species of barracudas in the world´s oceans the following being the most important

Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

The great barracuda (also known as common barracuda fish), is a common species of barracuda found in subtropical oceans throughout the world: temperate tropical to warm waters, in the subtropical areas of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, from the mangrove areas up to deep reefs, with a depth limit of 110 meters. They are large fish that during their adulthood measure 60 to 100 cm long and weigh between 2.5 and 9.0 kg. Exceptionally large specimens may exceed 1.5 meters and weigh more than 23 kg.  Their coloration is grayish blue in their upper part, which degrades to silvery white and calcareous in the lower part.

Some specimens have a row of dark transverse stripes on their upper side, with black spots on each lower side. The color of the second dorsal fin and the anal and caudal fins varies from dark violet to black with white tips.

Yellowstripe barracuda, (Sphyraena chrysotaenia,)

This is species is found in the Indo-West Pacific region. The Sphyraena chrysotaenia has an elongated, torpedo-shaped body, with two well-separated dorsal fins. The first one has spiny rays which decrease progressively in size, while the second dorsal fin begins in front of the origin of the anal fin. The pectoral fin sits directly below the origin of the first dorsal fin with the pelvic fin below it.The Yellowstripe barracudas have a large and small head, with big eyes, a pointed snout and slightly projecting lower jaw. .

In terms of color they have brown-gray hues above and silvery below, while a dark stripe runs from the snout to base of the tail, and shows yellowish tint on the head,  this being the main reason of their names. Moreover they measure between 20 to 25 cm, although specimens of up to 32 cm in size have been reported.

let´s watch it




Sphyraena Guachancho

This species is simply known as guaguanche in much of the Caribbean, where they are widely consumed. They have the barracudas characteristic body, with two dorsal fins that are widely separated on their back. The anterior dorsal fin usually has spines, while the posterior one only has rays. Its size is around 2 meters, and its weight ranges between 1.3 and 1.5 kgm.  It can live in turbulent and coastal waters at depths of up to 100 meters, as well as in muddy bottoms and in estuaries.

Sphyraena novaehollandiae

This species is known as the Australian barracuda and is distributed along the southern coast of Australia also along the east coast of Victoria and Tasmania, and even in northern New Zealand and Kiribati.

The Sphyraena novaehollandiae is greenish on the back, with silvery hues on the sides that fade to a white on the belly, while the tail has a yellowish green hue. It has the typical fusiform silhouette of a barracuda, (only a little thinner than most other species) with a conical snout and protruding lower jaw.Its length is around 1 meter and its weight is 5 kg. This pelagic species mainly inhabits the colder coastal waters with marine algae or sandy areas close to patches of weeds or reefs.

Sphyraena argentea

This species is known as Pacific barracuda, Californian barracuda or silvery barracuda. It is mainly distributed in the northeast of the Pacific Ocean, from Cape San Lucas, Baja California to Washington. They can reach a length of approximately 1.2 meters and a weight of approximately 6.8 kilograms. The Sphyraena argéntea is edible but is not liked by many people because of its strong flavor, which according to the diners improves a lot when it is prepared smoked.

Sphyraena picudilla. Southern Barracuda fish

Like other members of the Sphyraenidae family, they have elongated bodies, elongated heads and large jaws. The lower jaw protrudes slightly from the upper jaw, and both contain fang-like teeth. It has two dorsal fins that are widely separated on its back. The longest Southern barracuda ever recorded measured about 60 centimeters, while the largest known weight corresponds to 1 kilogram.

Sphyraena sphyraena

This species is known as European barracuda fish and inhabits the Mediterranean basin and the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Biscay, southern Angola outside of Bermuda and Brazil in the western Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, can be mentioned as their most common locations

The European barracudas have a long and quite compressed body with a cylindrical cross section that is covered with small cycloid scales. Their mouth is large with a protruding lower jaw, and has sharp protruding teeth. The upper part of their body has dark tones and the lower silver tones. They have scales that cover both the front and back margins of the preoperculum, and their length ranges from about 30 to 60 cm and weigh about 6 kg.




 

 

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