Snappers

Characteristic features:

  • Jaws usually with distinct canines
  • Mouth large
  • Dorsal fin with 10–17 soft rays

Keys:

All keys adapted from Anderson & Allen, 2001.1

Lutjanidae genera
    1. Dorsal and anal fins without scales; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 10 or 11 soft rays 2
    2. Soft dorsal and anal fins with scales or sheathed with scales basally; dorsal fin with 10–12 spines and 11–19 soft rays8
    1. Maxilla with scales3
    2. Maxilla without scales4
    1. Spinous portion of dorsal fin deeply incised at its junction with soft portion; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 11 (rarely 10) soft raysEtelis
    2. Spinous portion of dorsal fin not deeply incised at its junction with soft portion; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 10 soft raysParacaesio
    1. Premaxillae essentially not protrusible, attached to snout at symphysis by a frenumAphareus
    2. Premaxillae protrusible, not attached to snout by frenum5
    1. Dorsal fin with 10 spines and 11 (rarely 10) soft rays; last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins longer than second last soft ray6
    2. Dorsal fin with 10 spines and 10 soft rays; last soft ray of both dorsal and anal fins shorter than second last soft ray7
    1. Groove present on snout below nostrils; pectoral fins less than ½ length of head Aprion virescens (Green jobfish)
    2. No groove on snout; pectoral fins a little shorter than head to somewhat longer than headPristipomoides
    1. Upper lip with a median fleshy protrusion, well developed in adults; spines of dorsal and anal fins strong, very robust in large adultsLipocheilus carnolabrum (Tang’s snapper)
    2. Upper lip without a median fleshy protrusionParacaesio
    1. Vomer without teeth; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 14–19 soft rays; 1 or more anterior soft dorsal-fin rays produced as filaments (at least in juveniles)9
    2. Vomer with teeth; dorsal fin with 10–12 spines and 11–16 soft rays; none of anterior soft dorsal-fin rays produced as filaments10
    1. Anterior profile quite steep; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 17–19 soft rays; upper and lower pharyngeals enlarged and bearing large molariform teeth Symphorichthys spilurus (Sailfin snapper)
    2. Anterior profile sloping more gently; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 14–17 soft rays; upper and lower pharyngeals not particularly enlarged, not bearing molariform teethSymphorus nematophorus (Chinamanfish)
    1. First gill arch with 60 or more gill rakers on lower limbMacolor
    2. First gill arch with 20 or fewer gill rakers on lower limb11
    1. Upper and lower profiles of head equally rounded; eye set toward middle of head; mouth rather small, somewhat upturned; no fang-like canines at anterior ends of jawsPinjalo
    2. Upper and lower profiles of head not equally rounded, upper profile evenly rounded to steeply sloped, and lower profile flattened; eye closer to upper profile of head than to lower; mouth larger, usually not upturned; some fang-like canines usually present at anterior ends of jawsLutjanus
Aphareus species
    1. First gill arch with 6–12 gill rakers on upper limb and 15–18 on lower limb (total 22–28 including rudiments, if present); body steel blue to purplish brown Aphareus furca (Smalltooth jobfish)
    2. First gill arch with 16–19 gill rakers on upper limb and 32–35 on lower limb (total 49–52 including rudiments, if present); body blue-grey to reddishAphareus rutilans (Rusty jobfish)
Etelis species
    1. Total gill rakers on first gill arch 17–22, including rudiments; upper lobe of caudal fin short (26–30% of SL in specimens >120 mm SL)Etelis carbunculus (Pacific ruby snapper)
    2. Total gill rakers on first gill arch 32–36, including rudiments; upper lobe of caudal fin slightly longer (30–34% of SL in specimens >130 mm SL)Etelis radiosus (Pale snapper)
    3. Total gill rakers on first gill arch 23–28, including rudiments; upper lobe of caudal fin very long (33–75% SL)Etelis coruscans (Flame snapper)
Lutjanus species
    1. Preorbital (suborbital) space (distance between upper jaw and eye) very narrow, 9.2–16.3 times in head length; body slender, usually 3 or more times in standard length; soft dorsal-fin rays 122
    2. Preorbital (suborbital) space (distance between upper jaw and eye) wider, 3.3–8.9 times in head length; body deeper, 2.1–3.1 times (but usually <3 times) in standard length; soft dorsal-fin rays usually 13 more (occasionally 12)3
    1. A dark lateral band from snout to caudal-fin base and 2 pearly white spots above lateral line (1 below spinous portion and other below soft portion of dorsal fin); body depth 3.5–3.8 times in SL; tongue usually smooth, without teeth Lutjanus biguttatus (Twospot snapper)
    2. Silvery white with a broad yellow lateral stripe and narrow yellowish lines corresponding with longitudinal scale rows; body depth 2.9–3.3 times in SL; tongue with a patch of fine granular teethLutjanus lutjanus (Bigeye snapper)
    1. Background colour pale (mainly yellow in life) with a series of 4 or 5 longitudinal blue stripes on sides 4
    2. Colour not as above 6
    1. Dorsal-fin spines 11 or 12Lutjanus bengalensis (Bengal snapper)
    2. Dorsal-fin spines 105
    1. Four stripes on sides; belly usually abruptly whitish, often with thin grey lines; scale rows on cheek 5 or 6; upper pectoral-fin rays darkishLutjanus kasmira (Common bluestipe snapper)
    2. Five stripes on sides; belly not abruptly whitish and without thin lines; scale rows on cheek 10 or 11; upper pectoral-fin rays paleLutjanus quinquelineatus (Fivelined snapper)
    1. Longitudinal scale rows above lateral line obliquely positioned (angled)7
    2. Longitudinal scale rows above lateral line entirely horizontal or some rows rising obliquely from below middle of dorsal fin29
    1. Vomerine tooth patch triangular or diamond-shaped with a medial posterior extension8
    2. Vomerine tooth patch crescentic to triangular without a posterior extension13
    1. Vomer without teeth; dorsal fin with 10 spines and 14–19 soft rays; 1 or more anterior soft dorsal-fin rays produced as filaments (at least in juveniles)9
    2. Vomer with teeth; dorsal fin with 10–12 spines and 11–16 soft rays; none of anterior soft dorsal-fin rays produced as filaments10
    1. Axil of pectoral fins with a distinct black spot on upper portion; a series of 8 or 9 relatively broad orange of yellow stripes on sides; soft dorsal-fin rays usually 15 (occasionally 14, rarely 16); soft anal-fin rays 9Lutjanus carponotatus (Spanish flag snapper)
    2. Axil of pectoral fins without a black spot; colour not as above; soft dorsal-fin rays usually 13 or 14 (rarely 12); soft anal-fin rays 8 (rarely 9)9
    1. A large black spot usually present on upper sides, juveniles sometimes with an ocellated spot and/or series of 4–7 broad dark stripes on side (adults of L. fulviflamma with yellow stripes)10
    2. No black spot present on sides; a series of narrow, yellowish longitudinal lines on side, those on upper back slanting upward toward dorsal-fin base, sometimes an enlarged darker stripe from eye to middle of caudal-fin11
    1. Soft dorsal-fin rays usually 14; a relatively wide gap between temporal scale bands on each side; black spot on upper side located mainly above lateral line; juveniles with a series of 4–7 broad stripes (blackish to orange or yellow-brown in life) on sides Lutjanus russelli (Russell’s snapper)
    2. Soft dorsal-fin rays usually 13; little or no gap between temporal scale bands on each side; black spot on upper side located mostly below lateral line or bisected by it, sometimes very elongate; juveniles without a series of broad stripes on sides Lutjanus fulviflamma (Blackspot snapper)
    1. Midlateral stripe usually broader and darker than other stripes on sides; transverse scale rows on cheek 7–10Lutjanus vitta (Brownstripe snapper)
    2. Midlateral stripe not broader or darker than other stripes on sides; transverse scale rows on cheek usually 6 or 7 (occasionally 8)12
    1. Predorsal scales extending to mid-interorbital level; a blunt, flattened spine on upper margin of opercle, above the main centrally located spine; interorbital width 4.4–6.5 times in head length; total gill rakers on first gill arch (including rudiments) 18–21Lutjanus xanthopinnis (Yellowfin snapper)
    2. Predorsal scales extending to level of rear part of orbit; no blunt spine on upper margin of opercle; interorbital width 6.5–6.9 times in head length; total gill rakers on first gill arch (including rudiments) 15 or 16 Lutjanus mizenkoi (Mizenko’s snapper)
    1. Total gill rakers on first gill arch 25–30 (including rudiments); caudal fin distinctly forked with rounded lobes Lutjanus gibbus (Paddletail snapper)
    2. Total gill rakers on first gill arch 14–23 (including rudiments); caudal fin emarginate, without rounded lobes 14
    1. Soft anal-fin rays 10; dorsal fin with 11 spines and 16 (rarely 15) rays; colour pattern of 3 dark brown to red transverse bars (sometimes indistinct in large adults)Lutjanus sebae (Red emperor)
    2. Soft anal-fin rays 8 or 9; dorsal fin elements variable, with 10 or 11 spines and 12–16 soft rays; colour not as above15
    1. Preopercular notch distinct (relatively well to well developed)16
    2. Preopercular notch indistinct (shallow or absent)19
    1. Soft dorsal-fin rays 15 or 16; body relatively deep, 2.1–2.4 times in SL; head usually with numerous wavy bluish lines; a white spot often present below junction of spinous and soft parts of dorsal fin (bordered with black in juveniles); lips thick in large adultsLutjanus rivulatus (Speckled snapper)
    2. Soft dorsal fin rays 13 or 14; body usually more slender, 2.3–2.8 times in SL; colour not as above; lips not thick in adults17
    1. Caudal fin and outer third of dorsal fin blackish or dusky brown with a narrow white marginLutjanus fulvus (Blacktail snapper)
    2. Caudal fin yellow or grey basally and yellow distally without narrow white margin; outer third of dorsal fin not distinctly darker than remainder of fin18
    1. Dorsal-fin spines 10; no yellow stripes on bodyLutjanus boutton (Button snapper)
    2. Dorsal-fin spines 11; 10–12 faint yellow stripes on sidesLutjanus rufolineatus (Goldenlined snapper)
    1. Colour pattern of 8 broad transverse bands or saddles on upper half of body and large black blotch in centre of caudal peduncleLutjanus semicinctus (Black-banded snapper)
    2. Colour pattern consisting of 5 dark stripes on whitish ground colour; 2 or 3 uppermost stripes crossed by dark vertical bars forming a network of light and dark squares; a larger dark spot at base of caudal fin Lutjanus decussatus (Chequered snapper)
    3. Colour pattern not as above20
    1. Nostrils set in a prominent groove running forward of eye in specimens >200 mm SL; colour generally dark brown on upper back grading to tan or light brownish ventrally; dorsal and caudal fins dusky; outer portions of anal and pelvic fins blackish; juveniles <200 mm TL with usually with 2 whitish spots on upper backLutjanus bohar (Red bass)
    2. Nostrils not set in groove at any size; colour pattern not as above21
    1. Caudal fin with a distinctive crescentic black marking, remainder of body and fins uniformly yellowish with a silvery sheen on lower sidesLutjanus lunulatus (Lunartail snapper)
    2. Caudal fin without a distinctive black marking; colour of body and fins variable22
    1. A black spot on upper side at level of lateral line below soft dorsal fin (faint or absent in large adults); remainder of body and fins mainly pale; tongue with a patch of fine granular teeth (sometimes absent in juveniles)Lutjanus monostigma (Onespot snapper)
    2. Black spot on upper side of body absent, although a saddle or spot sometimes present on upper portion of caudal peduncle; tongue smooth23
    1. Dorsal-fin spines 12; a series of 5 or 6 dusky yellow stripes on sides; longitudinal rows of scales below lateral line rising obliquelyLutjanus dodecanthoides (Sunbeam snapper)
    2. Dorsal-fin spines 10 or 11; colour not as above; longitudinal rows of scales below lateral line parallel to axis of body or rising obliquely 24
    1. Axil of pectoral fins black; colour overall deep red; posterior dorsal-fin and anal-fin rays elongated to form pointed fins; soft anal-fin rays 8Lutjanus timoriensis (Timor snapper)
    2. Axil of pectoral fins without a black marking; colour variable, but often red; posterior dorsal-fin and anal-fin rays low and rounded or tall and pointed, but if tall and pointed specimens usually with 9 soft anal-fin rays25
    1. Dorsal-fin spines 10; soft anal-fin rays usually 8 (rarely 9); tongue with a patch of fine granular teeth; colour variable, pink to greyish brown; juveniles without a black saddle on upper caudal peduncle26
    2. Dorsal-fin spines 11 (rarely 10); soft anal-fin rays usually 9 (occasionally 8); tongue smooth; colour largely reddish; juveniles usually with a black saddle on upper caudal peduncle28
    1. Interorbital width 4.9–5.2 times in head length; body relatively deep, 2.3–2.5 times in SL; snout-forehead profile flat or slightly convexLutjanus bitaeniatus (Indonesian snapper)
    2. Interorbital width 5.5–7.6 times in head length; body relatively deep, 2.4–2.8 times in SL; snout-forehead profile slightly concave27
    1. Lower body and pelvic and anal fins yellow; pectoral-fin rays 17Lutjanus papuensis (Papuan snapper)
    2. Body and fins not yellow; pectoral-fin rays 16 Lutjanus lemniscatus (Darktail snapper)
    1. Mouth relatively small, maxilla length much less than distance between bases of last dorsal- and anal-fin rays; interorbital width 3.5–4.8 times in head length (in specimens >150 mm SL); some longitudinal scale rows below lateral line slanting obliquely in posterior direction towards dorsal profile; head profile convex (in specimens >150 mm SL) Lutjanus erythropterus (Crimson snapper)
    2. Mouth larger, maxilla length about equal to distance between bases of last dorsal- and anal-fin rays; interorbital width 5.1–6.6 times in head length (in specimens >120 mm SL); some longitudinal scale rows below lateral line horizontal (although some rows may slant obliquely in juveniles <100 mm SL); head profile straight or slightly concaveLutjanus malabaricus (Malabar snapper)
    1. Colour pattern consisting of 4 relatively wide dusky brown or blackish stripes on pale ground colour (only known from juveniles <15 cm SL)Lutjanus maxweberi (Pygmy snapper)
    2. Colour pattern not as above30
    1. Vomerine tooth patch triangular with medial posterior extension; preorbital space narrow, 8.6–10.3 times in head length; a prominent black spot bisected by lateral line below spinous dorsal finLutjanus ehrenbergii (Ehrenber’s snapper)
    2. Vomerine tooth patch crescentic to triangular without a medial posterior extension; preorbital space wider, 4.7–4.9 times in head length; black spot on back present or absent31
    1. A large black spot on upper back usually present; colour pale with each scale on side with a brownish spot forming longitudinal rowsLutjanus johnii (Golden snapper)
    2. Black spot on upper back absent, colour darkLutjanus argentimaculatus (Mangrove jack)
Macolor species
    1. First gill arch (including rudiments) with 37–42 gill rakers on upper limb and 71–81 on lower limb (total 110–122); anal fin with 3 spines and usually 10 (occasionally 11) soft rays; pelvic fins very long and pointed in young, but short and rounded in adults Macolor macularis (midnight snapper)
    2. First gill arch (including rudiments) with 26–38 gill rakers on upper limb and 60–71 on lower limb (total 89–107); anal fin with 3 spines and usually 11 (occasionally 10) soft rays; pelvic fins short and rounded at all sizes Macolor niger (Black and white snapper)
Paracaesio species
    1. Lateral-line scales (tubed) 68–73; caudal fin deeply forked2
    2. Lateral-line scales (tubed) 47–50; caudal fin emarginate to moderately forked4
    1. Teeth very small, without enlarged canines Paracaesio brevidentata (Smallmouth snapper)
    2. Teeth larger, with enlarged canines3
    1. Body colour dark grey, dark purplish brown or bluish; preopercle with 1 to 3 rows of scales peripheral to and usually distinctly separated from main group of cheek scales Paracaesio sordida (Smallscale snapper)
    2. Caudal fin, upper part of caudal peduncle, and upper side of body to anterior end of dorsal fin yellow; remainder of body mostly blue; preopercle almost always without scales peripheral to main group of cheek scales Paracaesio xanthura (Yellowtail blue snapper
    1. Upper sides with 4 brownish bars; maxilla scaled Paracaesio kusakarii (Saddleback snapper)
    2. Upper sides uniform blue, without vertical bars; maxilla without scales Paracaesio caerulea (Japanese snapper)
Pinjalo species
    1. Dorsal fin with 11 spines and 14 or 15 soft rays; anal fin with 3 spines and 9 or (usually) 10 soft rays; longest anal-fin spine 2.1–2.65 times in head length; pectoral-fin length 3.05–3.9 times in standard length; pelvic-fin length 1.4–1.65 times in head length; caudal fin deeply emarginate, caudal concavity 2.1–3.6 times in head length; diagonal dark lines following scale rows on nape and upper half to two-thirds of body Pinjalo pinjalo (Pinjalo snapper)
    2. Dorsal fin with 12 spines and 13 soft rays; anal fin with 3 spines and 8 or 9 soft rays; longest anal-fin spine 2.7–3.2 times in head length; pectoral-fin length 2.5–3.05 times in standard length; pelvic-fin length 1.65–1.8 times in head length; caudal fin slightly emarginate, caudal concavity 3.55–5.45 times in head length; no diagonal dark lines on nape and body Pinjalo lewisi (Slender pinjalo)
Pristipomoides species
    1. Lateral-line scales (tubed) 48–50; caudal fin deeply forked 2
    2. Lateral-line scales (tubed) 57–74; caudal fin emarginate to moderately forked 3
    1. Two golden stripes bordered with blue on snout and cheek; transverse vermiculations on top of head; suborbital wide, its width 7 times in head length at 15 cm standard length, 5.5 times at 25 cm, 4 times at 40 cmPristipomoides multidens (Goldband jobfish)
    2. No golden stripes on snout and cheek; longitudinal vermiculations on top of head; suborbital narrow, its width 8.4 times in head length at 15 cm standard length, 7.3 times at 25 cm, 5.8 times at 40 cmPristipomoides typus (Sharptooth jobfish)
    1. Total gill rakers (including rudiments) on first gill arch 27–33; lateral-line scales (tubed) 67–74 4
    2. Total gill rakers (including rudiments) on first gill arch 17–27; lateral-line scales (tubed) 57–67 5
    1. Vomerine tooth patch with medial posterior extension (vomerine tooth patch sometimes diamond-shaped); patch of teeth on tonguePristipomoides sieboldii (Lavender jobfish)
    2. Vomerine tooth patch triangular in shape, without medial posterior extension; no teeth on tonguePristipomoides auricilla (Goldflag jobfish)
    1. Sides with alternating oblique red and yellow bars; lateral-line scales (tubed) 63–67Pristipomoides zonatus (Oblique-banded snapper)
    2. Sides without red and yellow bars; lateral-line scales (tubed) 57–636
    1. Sides with numerous irregular dark markings, including zigzag line that runs at about level of lateral line anteriorly and then onto dorsolateral part of caudal peduncle posteriorly; total gill rakers (including rudiments) on first gill arch 17–21; depth of body 2.8–3.1 times in SLPristipomoides argyrogrammicus (Ornate snapper)
    2. Sides without irregular dark markings; total gill rakers (including rudiments) on first gill arch 22–27; depth of body 3–3.8 times in SL7
    1. Length of upper jaw 2.4–2.7 times in head length; caniniform teeth at anterior ends of jaws not appreciably enlargedPristipomoides filamentosus (Crimson jobfish)
    2. Length of upper jaw 2.1–2.4 times in head length; canine teeth at anterior ends of both jaws usually enlargedPristipomoides flavipinnis (Goldeneye snapper)

Similar families:

 
Lethrinidae
Emperors
Lethrinidae
Lethrinidae differ in having a preopercular margin usually smooth (vs. usually serrate); branchiostegal rays 6 (vs. 7); dorsal-fin soft rays 9 or 10 (vs. usually 11 or more); no teeth on vomer (vs. teeth usually present); cheek scales lacking (vs. present) and lips frequently fleshy (vs. usually not fleshy).
 
Nemipteridae
Threadfin bream
Nemipteridae differ in having a preopercular margin usually smooth (vs. usually serrate); dorsal-fin soft rays 9 (vs. usually 10 or more); anal-fin soft rays usually 7, rarely 8 (vs. usually 8 or more); branchiostegal rays 6 (vs. 7) and no teeth on vomer or palatines (vs. teeth present).
 
Sparidae
Sea bream
Sparidae differ in having a preopercular margin typically smooth (vs. usually serrate); branchiostegal rays 6 (vs. 7) and teeth in jaws variable-conical, incisiform, or molariform (vs. no incisiform teeth, except in Symphorichthys spilurus that has submolariform teeth).
 
Caesionidae
Fusiliers
Caesionidae differ in having a mouth small (vs. fairly large); premaxillae extremely protrusible (vs. premaxillae moderately protrusible or fixed); teeth in jaws small or minute (vs. usually distinct); premaxilla, vomer, and palatine teeth usually absent (vs. premaxilla, vomer, and palatine teeth typically well developed); caudal fin deeply forked, with pointed lobes (vs. caudal-fin frequently truncate, emarginate, or lunate).
 
Haemulidae
Grunts
Haemulidae
Haemulidae differ in having scales present on snout and lacrimal, those on lacrimal often embedded (snout and lacrimal scaleless); preoperculomandibular canal of lateralis system opening under chin through median longitudinal groove or enlarged pores, or both (vs. no chin pores) and usually no teeth on vomer, no teeth on palatines (vs. teeth usually present).

Species:

Aphareus furca
Small-toothed jobfish
Aphareus rutilans
Rusty jobfish
Aprion virescens
Green jobfish
Etelis carbunculus
Pacific ruby snapper
Etelis coruscans
Flame snapper
Etelis radiosus
Pale snapper
Lipocheilus carnolabrum
Tang’s snapper
Lutjanus bengalensis
Bengal snapper
Lutjanus biguttatus
Twospot snapper
Lutjanus bitaeniatus
Indonesian snapper
Lutjanus boutton
Button snapper
Lutjanus decussatus
Chequered snapper
Lutjanus ehrenbergii
Ehrenberg’s snapper
Lutjanus erythropterus
Crimson snapper
Lutjanus fulviflamma
Blackspot snapper
Lutjanus fulvus
Blacktail snapper
Lutjanus gibbus
Paddletail snapper
Lutjanus johnii
Golden snapper
Lutjanus kasmira
Common bluestripe snapper
Lutjanus lemniscatus
Darktail snapper
Lutjanus lunulatus
Lunartail snapper
Lutjanus lutjanus
Bigeye snapper
Lutjanus malabaricus
Malabar snapper
Lutjanus maxweberi
Pygmy snapper
Lutjanus mizenkoi
Mizenko’s snapper
Lutjanus monostigma
Onespot snapper
Lutjanus papuensis
Papuan snapper
Lutjanus quinquelineatus
Fivelined snapper
Lutjanus rivulatus
Speckled snapper
Lutjanus rufolineatus
Goldenlined snapper
Lutjanus russellii
Russell’s snapper
Lutjanus sebae
Red emperor
Lutjanus semicinctus
Black-banded snapper
Lutjanus vitta
Brownstripe snapper
Lutjanus xanthopinnis
Yellowfin snapper
Macolor macularis
Midnight snapper
Macolor niger
Black and white snapper
Paracaesio brevidentata
Smallmouth snapper
Paracaesio caerulea
Japanese snapper
Paracaesio kusakarii
Saddleback snapper
Paracaesio sordida
Smallscale snapper
Paracaesio xanthura
Yellowtail blue snapper
Pinjalo lewisi
Slender pinjalo
Pinjalo pinjalo
Pinjalo snapper
Pristipomoides auricilla
Goldflag jobfish
Pristipomoides multidens
Goldband jobfish
Pristipomoides sieboldii
Lavender jobfish
Pristipomoides typus
Sharptooth jobfish
Pristipomoides zonatus
Oblique-banded snapper

References:

  1. 1.
    Carpenter K, Niem V, Anderson W, Allen G. Lutjanidae. In: FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 5. Bony Fishes Part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae). Vol 5. Rome: FAO Library; 2001:2791-3380.