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Great Barracuda
First described in 1792 by Johann Julius Walbaum in Sphyraena barracuda. Worldwide, the great barracuda is found near shore tropical and subtropical seas (30N - 30S). It is thus common in the Western Atlantic from New England (US) to Brazil, as well as in the Eastern Atlantic, the Indo-Pacific, and the Red Sea. It is not really common in the easter Pacific Ocean. While common in nearshore coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves, they can be found in the open ocean, mostly at or near the surface. Usually a solitary fish, they can be found in small groups over reefs and sandy bottoms. While still young, great barracudas use mangroves and seagrass beds as cover from predators. In their second year, however, they move into deeper reef habitats. The great barracuda has a slender, streamlined body that is round in the middle. The top of the head is nearly flat, while its mouth is large and contains large sharp teeth. The pectoral fin tips extend to the the pelvic fins, while the spinous and soft dorsal fins are widely separated. The great barracuda is brownish or bluish gray on the top, with a green/silvery tint on the sides, and a white belly. The upper side may have 18-23 dark bars, easiest seen when it is resting. The black spots on the lower sides distinguish it from other species of barracuda. The second dorsal fin, anal, and caudal fins are violet to black with whitish tips. They can grow up to 6'8 ft (2 meters) long and weigh up to 110 pounds (50kg). They have a lifespan of about 14 years, and while males reach sexual maturity at 2 years, females reach it at close to 4 years old. Another distinguishing feature of the great barracuda is its large mouth containing two sets of menacing razor-sharp teeth. There is also a row of small razor-sharp teeth along the outside of the jaw with a larger set of pointed teeth within these. Long thin teeth fir into their holes in the opposing jaw, thus allowing it to close its mouth. It swallows small prey whole while it cuts its larger prey into pieces. Great barracudas are carnivores that feed on fishes such as jacks, grunts, groupers, snappers, small tuna, mullets, killifishes, herrings, and anchovies. They are able to feed on larger fish by chopping them in half. An opportunistic predator, great barracuda feed throughout the water column. They generally locate their prey by sight and they use their great speed (can go up to 36 mph (58kph)). The timing and location of spawning has not been well documented. It is believed that spawning takes place in deeper, offshore waters. Evidence exists that barracuda are seasonal spawners and in the Florida Keys they are believed to breed in the spring. During the spawning event, eggs are released and fertilized in open waters and dispersed by the currents. Newly hatched larvae bear little resemblance to adults. Seeking safety from predators as well as a source of food, the larvae settle in shallow, vegetated areas of estuaries. Juveniles become recognizable as miniature versions of the adults at about .5 inches (1.3 cm) in length. At a length of about 1.2 inches (3cm), the juveniles move to open waters within the estuary, eventually leaving the estuary altogether at a size of about 5 cm (2 inches) in length. These juvenile barracuda spend the remainder of their first year of life within mangrove and seagrass habitats. During the second year of life, they move to deep reef areas where they will spend their adulthood. While it has very few predators (due to its size and speed), sharks, tuna, and goliath grouper have been known to feed on small adult barracuda. While great barracudas attacks on humans are rare, they sometimes will attack if they mistake some of part of the person as a fish, such as a diving knife making it believe it is the glint of a shiny fish. While these instances are extremely rare, simple precautions should be taken to avoid any issues.