By Dr Jade Maggs, Marine Scientist…
Potato bass Epinephelus tukula are large, charismatic reef predators with enormous mouths. Also known as potato groupers or potato cod, these territorial inhabitants of coral and rocky reefs are a favourite with scuba divers. The body colouration is light tan with dark potato shaped blotches on the body and small spots on the face. Body colour may be variable according to mood, sometimes with uniform dark colouration.
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread in the Indo-West Pacific, occurring in the Red Sea and east Africa across to southern Japan and Queensland, Australia.
HABITAT: Juveniles may occur in the surf zone with larger individuals being found in depths from about 10 m down to 400 m.
BIOLOGY: A slow growing species that only matures at about 90 cm. There are reports of sex change in captive individuals with females changing into males. This phenomenon is known as protogynous hermaphroditism. The maximum body size is reported to be somewhere from 150-200 cm and the maximum weight from 90-110 kg. The diet of potato bass consists of crabs, spiny lobsters, reef fish, skates and most likely rays as well.
MOVEMENT: Thought to be highly resident, but are known to undertake periodic long distance movements.
BEHAVIOUR: A very territorial species, which may display aggressive behaviour towards territory intruders. They are most often solitary, but may also occur in pairs.
CONSERVATION STATUS: Currently categorised as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the aggressive feeding behaviour of this species makes it vulnerable to capture.