Creature feature for today is the porkfish. I love colorful reef fish and enjoy watching these little guys swim about the reefs. We have been seeing some very pretty, bright schools of these fish on our shore dives recently. They are easily approached by divers and snorkelers and are curious fish. We have seen schools of over 100 porkfish. Very colorful and playful fish. Porkfish are extremely common along the reefs off shore from Vero Beach all the way down.
Porkfish are actually a type of grunt. It is also known as Atlantic Porkfish, Mexican Porkfish and Paragrate grunt. It has a silvery-blue body with a vertical black band from the base of the pectoral fin to the base of the first dorsal spine, and a diagonal black band from the chin, passing through the eye and ending at the nape. Extending from the vertical black band back to the base of the caudal fin are a number of narrow parallel yellow stripes. The fins and the front of the head are bright yellow. Occasionally, the spiny dorsal and ventral fins are dark. The back is highly peaked, the head short, mouth small, and lips thick. The juvenile has a pearly-white body with a yellow head, a black stripe at mid-body and one on the back, and a black spot at the base of the tail. Typically 10 inches in length, it can grow to a maximum of 14 inches.
The Porkfish inhabit shallow reefs and rocky areas up to 60 feet. This is where they drift in schools by day, dispersing at night to feed on small invertebrates such as mollusks, echinoderms, crustaceans, and worms. Juvenile porkfish pick parasites from the skin and scales of other species of fish, and are considered “cleaners”. The porkfish are easily approached. We can get quite close to them and if you stay still when diving they will come right up to you. The porkfish is found all around Florida shores through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and down to Brazil. In the wild, the Porkfish is known to form rather large schools and it has been commonly seen swimming with White grunts.
This is a nocturnal species of grunt that feeds during the night. Just like the other grunts, it can produce a grunting sound by rubbing its teeth together. They do this via their pharyngeal teeth and swim bladder. These sounds seem to be particularly associated with situations of duress. The porkfish lacks canines on the jaws and vomer teeth like other grunts. Teeth are located on the pharyngeal bone of the jaw.
Snappers, groupers, sharks and other large carnivorous fish are predators of the Porkfish.
Next time you see a few, stop and listen!