Potentially Misidentified Species:
The descriptive details provided above are sufficient to differentiate white grunts from co-occurring haemulids.
II. HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
White grunts occur from Maryland and Bermuda south to Mexico and Brazil,
and into the Gulf of Mexico (Robbins et al. 1986).
White grunts occur throughout the IRL system.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan:
White grunt may reach a total length of around 53 cm total length. They
are also reportedly long-lived, with individuals often living 9-12 years
and in some cases as much as 18 years (Murie and Parkyn 2005, FWRI 2006).
Fishery-related mortality is high. Murie and Parkyn (2002) estimate an
annual mortality of 0.30 for stocks from the eastern Gulf of Mexico, based
on harvester surveys.
Sedberry and Carter (1993) indicate Haemulon plumierii was the sixth
most abundant fish species they collected in trawl samples taken from a
Belize tropical lagoon. Grunts in general were the single most abundant
family in this study.
Padgett (1997) reports that 50% of females reach maturity at 167 mm TL, and
50% of males reach maturity at 180 mm TL. Western Florida white grunts
have been reported to spawn once per year, but oocyte analysis reveals that
they are more likely batch spawners with peak spawning activity occurring
in May (Murie and Parkyn 1999). Spawning appears to occur almost
year-round in the southernmost portions of the distributional range (Munro
et al. 1973).
The following developmental information is based on descriptions of
laboratory-reared white grunt presented in Saksena Richards (1975).
Eggs are reported to be just under 1 mm in diameter, and each contains a
single oil droplet. Apparently newly fertilized eggs hatched within 20
hours of collection at an incubation temperature of around 24°C.
48 hours post-hatching, the yolk sac and oil droplet is almost completely
absorbed and larvae begin active feeding. Larvae then undergo rapid
development with all fin rays present at 9.5 mm SL. The caudal fin
develops first, followed in order by the anal and second dorsal, first
dorsal, pelvics, and pectorals.
Larval growth is most rapid the first 30 days, declining thereafter. By
the time they reach a length of around 24-39 mm SL, around 100 days
post-hatching, individuals had a full complement of gill rakers and had
largely acquired the pigmentation pattern characteristic for the species.
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
Although Haemulon plumierii is listed as a tropical to
warm-temperate (de Silva ad Murphy 2001), Chapman et al. (1999) used
genetic analysis to differentiate three geographically distinct lineages.
The northern lineage occurs from Maryland/Virginia and Bermuda and the
Carolinas south to the Florida Keys and Panama City (Hoese and Moore 1977,
Robbins et al. 1986). It is genetically distinct from southern populations
from the Florida Keys to Yucatan, Belize, and Puerto Rico and from
Trinadad. The northern lineage is considerably more resistant to low
temperature effects, and is capable of persisting in warm-temperate coastal
The existence of these distinct lineages helps explain the apparent
disparity between the relatively broad distribution of H. plumierii
and its occurrence in the historic records of animals succumbing to
lethal cold water temperatures. Galloway (1941) lists whit grunt as among
the species stunned and killed by record low water temperatures (57°)
in Key West in late January, 1940.
Although they are capable of thriving in oceanic reef environments as well
as estuarine habitats, Lindeman and Toxey (2002) note that Haemulids in general
are only rarely encountered at very low salinities.
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Detailed dietary information for white grunts is scarce. Juveniles are
reported to feed primarily on benthic invertebrates including crustaceans,
worms, and molluscs. Adults likely consume similar, if somewhat larger,
invertebrate prey including shrimp, crabs, and molluscs (Meyer and Schulz
1985, Darcy 1983, Sierra et al.1994).
Randall (1967) reports the occurrence of brittlestar Ophiothrix spp.
body parts in the stomachs of H. plumierii from the West Indies.
A number of piscivorous fish species are likely to prey on certain life
history stages of white grunt. Randall (1967) cited dog snappers
(Lutjanus jocu) as a major predator of white grunts.
Manter (1942) reports that the trematodes Genolopa ampullaca,
Proctotrema truncatum, Monorchis latus are common parasitse
of white grunts and other haemulids in south Florida. The trematode
Brachadena pyriformis is also known to infest H. plumierii
and other grunts (Overstreet 1973).
White grunts can be found in a variety of habitats, including in and around
coral reefs, mangrove creeks, seagrass beds, and in sand-rubble zones
(Sedberry and Carter 1993).
Springer and McErlean (1962) note that Haemulon plumierii was among
the most abundant fish species on the south Florida reefs he surveyed.
This author used a tag and recapture strategy to determine that
reef-associated white grunts rarely stray from their home reef area
(including adjacent grassbeds) and will often successfully return to the
home reef if they are transplanted to a different reef. Bardach (1958)
suggested that individuals typically remained in the same area for their
entire lives. Both schooling (Bardach 1958) and solitary (Springer and
McErlean 1962) behavior has been observed in reef-associated animals. Meyer
and Schulz (1985) describe dense resting aggregations over reefs, and
McLean and Herrnkind (1971) report compact schooling during mass movement
of H. plumierii and other grunts off of North Bimini, Bahamas, in
the wake of a prolonged northeast storm.
The home-ranging information above notwithstanding, Randall (1967) reports
a seasonal winter decrease in the number of white grunts captured in the
Florida Keys, but concede that this drop may be due to decreased fish
activity as well as decreased abundance.
Meyer and Schulz (1985) note that juvenile reef-associated white grunts
typically rest over coral colonies by day and venture out into adjacent
seagrass beds only at night to feed.
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
Haemulon plumierii is an edible species and a sizeable incidental
fishery exists for this species in Florida. Most white grunts taken by the
Florida commercial and recreational fisheries come from the west coast (Murphy et al. 1999). In parts of the Caribbean, white grunts and other
reef species are captured and consumed as sustenance species, a practice
that Coblentz (1997) considers non-sustainable.
The findings of Meyer and Schulz (1985) demonstrate that juvenile white
grunts can be important in the transfer of nutrients and organic matter (in
the form of excretory products and fecal material) from seagrass feeding
grounds to daytime resting reefs.
Bardach JE. 1958. On the movements of certain Bermuda reef fishes. Ecology
Burkenroad MD. 1930. Sound production in the Haemulidae. Copeia 1930:
Coblentz BE. 1997. Subsistence consumption of coral reef fish suggests
non-sustainable extraction. Conservation Biology 11:559-561.
Darcy GH. 1983. Synopsis of biological data on the Grunts Haemulon
aurolineatum and H. plumieri (Pisces: Haemulidae). NOAA
Technical Report NMFS Circular 448. FAO Fish. Synopsis,133. 37 p.
de Silva JA and MD Murphy. 2001. A summary of the status of white grunt
Haemulon plumieri from the east coast of Florida. IHR 2001-001. Report to
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission/Florida Marine Research Institute, St.
Petersburg, FL. 18 p.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWRI. 2006. Grunts. 11
Galloway JC. 1941. Lethal effect of the cold winter of 1939-40 on marine
fishes at Key West, Florida. Copeia 1941:118-119.
Hoese HD and RH Moore. 1977. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. Texas,
Louisiana, and Adjacent Waters. Texas A&M University Press, College Station
TX. 327 p.
Lindeman KC and CS Toxey. 2002. Haemulidae: Grunts. Pp 1522-1529 in: Carpenter, K.E. (ed.)
The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 3: Bony fishes
Part 2 (Opistognathidae to Molidae), seaturtles and marine mammals. FAO SpeciesIdentificationGuide for Fishery Purposes and American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5.
Manter HW. 1942. Monorchidae (Trematoda) from fishes of Tortugas, Florida.
Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 61:349-360.
McLean R and WF Herrnkind. 1971. Compact schooling during a mass movement
by grunts. Copeia, 1971:328-330.
Meyer JL and ET Schultz. 1985. Migrating haemulid fishes as a source of
nutrients and organic matter on coral reefs. Limnology and Oceanography
Munro JL, Gaut VC, Thompson R, and PH Reeson. 1973. The spawning season of
Caribbean reef fishes. Journal of Fish Biology 5:69-84.
Murie DJ and DC Parkyn. 1999. Age, growth, and sexual maturity of white
grunt in the eastern Gulf of Mexico: Part II. Final Report to the Florida
Dept. of Environmental Protection under P.O.#S 3700 831415 to the Florida
Marine Research Institute, St. Petersburg, FL. 57 p.
Murie DJ and DC Parkyn. 2002. Total mortality of white grunts in the
Eastern Gulf of Mexico. North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Murie DJ, and DC Parkyn. 2005. Age and growth of white grunt from the Gulf
coast of Florida. Bulletin of Marine Science. 76:73-96.
Murphy MD, Murie DJ, and RG Muller. 1999. Stock assessment of white grunt
from the west coast of Florida. Report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission. 56 p.
Overstreet RM. 1973. Some species of Lecithaster Luhe, 1901
(Digenea: Hemiuridae) and related genera from fishes in the northern Gulf
of Mexico. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 92:231-240.
Padgett SM. 1997. Age, growth, and reproductive biology of the white grunt,
Haemulon plumieri along the southeast Atlantic coast of the United
States. Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Charleston, South
Randall JE. 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Studies in
Tropical Oceanography (Miami) 5:665-847.
Robins CR, Ray GC, and J Douglas. 1986. A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast
Fishes. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 354
Rocha LA and IL Rosa. 1999. New species of Haemulon (Teleostei:
Haemulidae) from the northeastern Brazilian coast. Copeia 1999:447-452.
Saksena VP and WJ Richards. 1975. Description of eggs and larvae of
laboratory-reared white grunt, Haemulon plumieri (Lacepede) (Pisces,
Pomadasyidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 25:523-536.
Sierra LM, Claro R, and OA Popova. 1994. Alimentacion y relaciones
troficas. Pp. 263-319 in: Claro R (Ed.). Ecologia de Los Peces Marinos de
Cuba, Academia de Ciencas de Cuba y Centro de Investigaciones de Quintana
Springer VG and AJ McErlean. 1962. A study of the behavior of some tagged
south Florida coral reef fishes. American Midland Naturalist 67:386-397.
J. Masterson, Smithsonian Marine Station
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