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The hogfish has laterally flattened body that is high and round. The first three dorsal fin spines are elongated and thickened, and the tips of the dorsal and anal fins are pointed. Overall coloration depends on sex, age, and habitat, but generally ranges from pearl white to mottled brownish-red. Pectoral fins are yellow. Dark bars are located on the outer margins of the soft dorsal, anal, and caudal fins, and there is a dark maroon bar on top of the snout. One very obvious characteristic is the bright red iris.
Hogfish reach a maximum length of 3 feet and weight of 22 pounds.
Distribution and Habitat
Hogfish are found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda and North Carolina, south through the Caribbean Sea and northern Gulf of Mexico, to the north coast of South America. They live in shallow waters over open bottoms and coral reefs down to 100 feet, and are most common near shallow patch reefs just inshore and offshore from the main reef structure, with a preference for areas with abundant growths of gorgonians (sea fans).
The hogfish uses its pig-like snout and large protrusible mouth to root around the bottom substrate for prey, hence its common name. Adult hogfish feed mainly on mollusks, including pelecypods, gastropods, and scaphopods, but will also feed on hermit crabs, amphipods, and sea urchins, crushing its prey with strong pharyngeal jaws. Juvenile hogfish thrive on a diet of crustaceans, mollusks, and echinoderms.
All hogfish begin their lives as females, but dominant individuals can transform into fully functional males. This often occurs at 3 years of age and lengths of approximately 14 inches.
In waters off south Florida, peak spawning occurs during the months of February and March. Hogfish schools consist of groups of females dominated by a larger male, referred to as a harem. The male guards his harem, spawning exclusively with the females within it. Spawning occurs in later afternoon and early evening. Eggs and sperm are released into the surrounding water, where fertilization takes place. The fertilized eggs rapidly develop into larvae, hatching approximately 24 hours after fertilization occurs. The larval stage lasts several weeks until they grow into juveniles and settle onto suitable habitat, usually around seagrass beds.
Hogfish can live up to 11 years in the wild.
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This page was last updated on June 11, 2017.