Mangrove Snapper

Lutjanus griseus

Last updated: February 13, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© John A. Anderson/Shutterstock.com

Tagging studies have found that once adults establish a habitat they typically remain there for long periods. In fact, they found that these fish can stay in one area for up to 4 years.


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Mangrove Snapper Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Perciformes
Family
Lutjanidae
Genus
Lutjanus
Scientific Name
Lutjanus griseus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Mangrove Snapper Conservation Status

Mangrove Snapper Locations

Mangrove Snapper Locations

Mangrove Snapper Facts

Name Of Young
Larvae
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
Tagging studies have found that once adults establish a habitat they typically remain there for long periods. In fact, they found that these fish can stay in one area for up to 4 years.
Biggest Threat
pollution, development, and climate change
Other Name(s)
Gray snapper
Incubation Period
45 hours
Predators
Groupers, barracudas, moray eels, sharks, and bigger snapper species
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Common Name
Mangrove snapper
Number Of Species
113

Mangrove Snapper Physical Characteristics

Age of Sexual Maturity
2 years

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The mangrove snapper isn’t as big as other species in the snapper family as they barely grow larger than 18 inches and weigh approximately 10 pounds. These fish are typically gray with dark dorsal and caudal fins. However, there is a wide variety between pale bars, small spots, and tail color depending on habitat and age. They prefer habitats with rocky ledges, coral, or mangroves and can live in coastal and offshore areas. Additionally, fishermen have caught mangrove snappers in freshwater lakes, so they can tolerate various salinity levels.

Three Amazing Mangrove Snapper Facts!

  • The mangrove snapper is delicious and notorious for its white, flaky meat, fresh taste, and subtle sweet undertones.
  • These fish like to stick together and form large schools
  • They are adaptable fish and can live in depths of 16 to 591 feet. The large gap in depth is due to them migrating to deeper waters in the winter to avoid the cold.

Mangrove Snapper Scientific Name

The mangrove snapper is also known as the gray snapper, and its scientific name is Lutjanus griseus. They belong to the order Perciformes, the largest order of invertebrates, fishes, or animals without backbones. There are about 7000 species in this order, varying from the smallest darters and gobies to massive swordfishes and Marlins. The body shape of members in this order differs from round, like yellow tangs, or elongated and thin, like wolf-eels. However, most Perciformes are shaped like the average fish, for example, bluegill, perch, tuna, and bass.

Mangrove snappers are members of the Lutjanidae family, consisting of perciform fish. This family primarily contains marine fish, but some species inhabit freshwaters like estuaries. There are approximately 113 species of Lutjanidae, and many contribute to the human diet. For example, the red snapper is very popular.

Mangrove Snapper Appearance

Mangrove snappers’ sides are covered in rows of red-orange spots or panels. Additionally, they have long dorsal fins, with prominent rays on the base of the fin, developing into a smoother, rounder second half. Furthermore, their dorsal fins have a dark red border.

Juvenile mangrove snappers have a dark-colored line running from their mouth through the eye and extending to the upper edge of the operculum, which is lighter in adults. Lastly, mangrove snappers have significant canine teeth, allowing them a more diverse diet.

These fish are smaller than other members of the snapper family, barely reaching 18 inches long and primarily weighing under 10 pounds. However, fishermen have caught mangrove snappers measuring 24 inches long and weighing 10 pounds. They generally reach sexual maturity at two years old, when they reach 7 to 13 inches long.



Mangrove snapper isolated

Juvenile mangrove snappers have a dark line running from their snout through their eyes, to the upper edge of the operculum.

©IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

Mangrove Snapper Behavior

Mangrove snappers prefer to live in large schools for protection. So, when fishing for this species, anglers need to use a lot of lures or bait, for example, live fish and shrimp. However, they are tough fish to catch because of the large number of individuals fighting over the bait. In addition, not much is known about how they communicate, but researchers believe that they use a mix of sensory, chemical, and auditory techniques.

Adult mangrove snappers are nocturnal and do most of their hunting at night, meaning they have exceptional low-light sensitivity.

Mangrove Snapper Habitat

The mangrove snapper inhabits areas along the western Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and West Indies. In addition, they occur in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, and Florida all the way up to Massachusetts.

These snappers live in coastal areas but will migrate to greater depths during the winter to escape the cold, up to 591 feet! However, many mangrove snappers are often seen in mangrove forests, rocky areas, coral reefs, and estuaries.

Tagging studies have found that once adults establish a habitat, they typically remain there for long periods. In fact, they found that these fish can stay in one area for up to 4 years. However, they display daily activity patterns such as nocturnal behavior and diurnal schooling.

Juveniles prefer living inshore in habitats with seagrass beds or soft sandy bottoms. However, they are versatile and occur in various habitats. Additionally, both juveniles and adults have been caught in freshwater bodies like rivers and lakes in south Florida, meaning they can tolerate a wide range of salinity levels.

Mangrove Snapper Diet

The mangrove snapper is an opportunistic feeder. For example, their larvae consume zooplankton like amphipods and copepods. But juveniles scour the seagrass beds during the day to prey on smaller fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and polychaete worms. Conversely, adults are nocturnal and prey on gastropods, shrimps, crabs, small fishes, and cephalopods.

Mangrove Snapper Predators and Threats

The poor snapper has many natural predators in all stages of its lifecycle, like groupers, barracudas, moray eels, sharks, and bigger snapper species.

While mangrove snappers are listed as a Least Concern on IUCN’s Redlist, they are still threatened by pollution, development, and climate change.

Mangrove Snapper Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The mangrove snapper’s breeding or spawning habits is very interesting. They only spawn at night during the full moon, and females can lay thousands of eggs each time. Their spawning season usually occurs between June to August. These snappers lay demersal eggs that take around 45 hours to hatch.

Once these eggs hatch, the offspring tend to stay in the shallow seagrass because of the darkness it provides, which is why they typically migrate to estuaries during this stage. Juvenile mangrove snappers are diurnal feeders, unlike their parents. It’s easy to tell them apart from the adults by the dark stripe starting from the snout, through the eye, to the upper edge of the operculum. The offspring needs to wait in their shallow, dark habitats until they reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 and measure between 7 to 13 inches long.

Lifespan

The mangrove snapper has a relatively long lifespan. These fish can live between 21 to 28 years old!

Mangrove Snapper Population

Unfortunately, there is no information on the population size of the mangrove snapper; their population is stable and listed as Least Concern on IUCN’s redlist.

Similar Tasting Species

Mangrove snapper is a great-tasting fish and is in high demand. However, it is hard to find in areas where they don’t occur, so here are other species that taste similar:

Chilean Sea Bass

Chilean sea bass is often compared to cod because of its rich buttery flavor and tender, flaky texture. Additionally, it is an incredibly versatile fish and pairs magnificently with various spice combinations and flavors. Due to these factors, this fish is highly sought-after, but because of overfishing in the 90s, they are now so rare. That’s why it is so essential that fishing for this species is carefully monitored. Otherwise, they will disappear from the oceans for good. Furthermore, they don’t come cheap due to their high demand, which is why you pay so much for them in restaurants. If Chilean sea bass is out of your budget, a suitable replacement is a black cod; it tastes very similar and costs much less.

Grouper

Groupers have a distinct but mild taste, similar to bass and halibut, but with subtle differences between texture and flavor, which depends on the location of harvest, species, and size. For example, black grouper is not as sweet as red grouper. Therefore, many people prefer the latter. It’s tough to tell these two species apart once their skin is removed. However, black grouper has firmer flesh when it’s raw. But both have white, lean meat with hardly any bones when in a fresh state. Once cooked, both have white meat with firm textures, moist, with a heavy flake.

Tilapia

Tilapia is often referred to as St. Peter’s fish because it is native to the Nile river in Africa, and people have eaten it since biblical times. It is one of the most common species to farm and produces approximately 1 billion pounds annually for commercial trade.

They come in various colors, like gold, red, or black. The most well-known tilapia in the USA are the hearty blue tilapia, Nile tilapia, and red-colored Mozambique tilapia.

Due to the number of tilapia farms, the extent of distribution, and all-year-round harvesting, tilapia is usually the freshest fish on the market. In fact, there are several Asian food markets that sell them live. They are sought-after because of their availability and affordable price.

Cooked tilapia has a flaky texture, white meat, and is very tender. Unfortunately, their taste varies depending on where they come from, water quality, and the environment. However, high-quality tilapia has a mildly sweet flavor.

It is a very versatile seafood and can be sautéed, steamed, broiled, pan-fried, baked, grilled, or poached. However, the skin is bitter and should be removed before or after cooking.

Cod

Cod is a popular firm white fish and is highly sought-after for its versatility and flavor. You can prepare this fish by steaming, grilling, baking, frying, and broiling. Therefore, this fish is used in recipes worldwide! There are two types of cod; the small Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), which occurs along the Pacific ocean surrounding North America, Russia, and Asia. The second is the Atlantic cod (Gadus Morhua), which inhabits the cold waters of the Northern Atlantic ocean. Cod belongs to the family Gadidae, which also includes species like pollock, haddock, and whiting.

In countries off the Atlantic coast, like North America, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean, cod is salted and dried. It has been prepared this way for centuries and referred to as the prosciutto of the sea. However, it is also known for its mild, milky flavor and firm, flaky texture. If you don’t like the fishy flavor, Atlantic cod is a great choice, as it is sweeter and more tender. On the other hand, Pacific cod has a savory flavor and is firmer.

Pacific Rockfish

Pacific rockfish is the west coast of North America’s most common near-shore fish. It’s a delicious white-fleshed fish often used in quick and easy meals. In addition, this fish is extremely popular in American and Asian recipes.

Rockfish come in several varieties, and while they all taste different, their flesh is mild, lean, and firm. It is also a versatile fish, often called the Pacific snapper or rock cod. For example, this fish can be steamed, grilled, baked, broiled, fried, and eaten raw. So, rockfish is a good option if you have a recipe that doesn’t specify what fish to use.

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

Mangrove Snapper FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is mangrove snapper tasty?

Mangrove snapper is a great-tasting fish and is in high demand. However, it is hard to find in some areas.

What is another name for mangrove snapper?

The mangrove snapper is also known as the gray snapper, and its scientific name is Lutjanus griseus.

What doe mangrove snappers eat?

The mangrove snapper is an opportunistic feeder. For example, their larvae consume zooplankton like amphipods and copepods. But juveniles scour the seagrass beds during the day to prey on smaller fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and polychaete worms. Conversely, adults are nocturnal and prey on gastropods, shrimps, crabs, small fishes, and cephalopods.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove_snapper
  2. Florida Museum, Available here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/lutjanus-griseus/
  3. IUCN Redlist, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/192941/2180367

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