Epinephelus geoffroyi (Klunzinger, 1870)

Randall, John E., Bogorodsky, Sergey V., Krupp, Friedhelm, Rose, Jean Michel & Fricke, Ronald, 2013, Epinephelus geoffroyi (Klunzinger, 1870) (Pisces: Serranidae), a valid species of grouper endemic to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Zootaxa 3641 (5), pp. 524-532: 527-531

publication ID


publication LSID


persistent identifier


treatment provided by


scientific name

Epinephelus geoffroyi (Klunzinger, 1870)


Epinephelus geoffroyi (Klunzinger, 1870) 

( Figs. 1 AView FIGURE 1. A & B, 2 B, 3, 4, 5, 6A & B; Table 1)

Serranus tauvina  (non Forsskål) Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1809 - 17: 317, pl. 20, fig. 1 (Suez, Egypt, Red Sea). Serranus areolatus  (non Forsskål) Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1828: 350. Serranus areolatus  (non Forsskål) Günther, 1859: 149.

Serranus geoffroyi Klunzinger, 1870: 675  , footnote (type locality, Red Sea).

Serranus celebicus  var. multipunctatus Kossmann and Räuber, 1877: 6  (type locality, Red Sea). Serranus (Hyposerranus) geoffroyi Klunzinger, 1884: 3  (Red Sea).

Serranus assabensis Giglioli, 1888: 68  (type locality, Assab, Ethiopia).

Diagnosis. Dorsal rays XI, 16–18 (usually 17); pectoral rays 17 or 18; lateral-line scales usually 49–52; gill rakers 25–29; caudal fin slightly emarginate; membranes of spinous portion of dorsal fin slightly incised; third or fourth dorsal spines longest, 2.5–3.2 in head length; soft portion of anal fin distinctly angular, the third or fourth ray longest, 1.8–2.7 in head length; head, body, and fins whitish with numerous, small, close-set, dark brown spots, becoming more widely spaced on abdomen and chest; posterior margin of caudal fin without a narrow, clear whitish margin.

Description. Dorsal rays XI, 16–18 [XI, 17] (strongly modal 17); anal rays III, 8 [III, 8]; pectoral rays 17 or 18 [17]; lateral-line scales 48–52 [51]; longitudinal scale series 96–113 [112]; scales on body ctenoid; auxiliary scales present; gill rakers 25–29 [28]; vertebrae 10 + 24; second supraneural (predorsal) bone small and distinctly curved; body depth 2.9–3.3 [3.2] in SL; head pointed, the lower jaw strongly projecting; dorsal profile of head to nape straight; head length 2.45–2.6 [2.6] in SL; middle opercular spine nearer lower than upper spine; snout length 3.5 – 4.0 in head length [4.0]; interorbital space slightly convex, the least width 5.7–6.8 [6.8] in head length; eye diameter ranging from 5.2 in head length in a 117 -mm specimen to 7.2 in a 406 -mm specimen) [5.2]; maxilla extending to a vertical from slightly anterior to slightly posterior to rear edge or orbit; caudal-peduncle depth 3.1– 3.3 [3.3] in head length; opercular flap moderately pointed; rounded corner of preopercle with 4–7 [4] enlarged serrate; interopercle and subopercle partially serrate; caudal fin slightly emarginate to truncate, 1.6–1.8 [1.8] in head length; spinous portion of dorsal fin slightly incised; third or fourth [3 rd] dorsal spines longest, 2.5–3.2 [2.5] in head length; soft portion of anal fin distinctly angular, the third or fourth [4 th] ray longest, 1.8–2.7 [2.2] in head length; pectoral fins 1.75–1.95 [1.92] in head length; pelvic fins usually not reaching anus, 1.95–2.4 [2.0] in head length; dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins relatively shorter with growth; head, body, and fins whitish with numerous, small, close-set, dark brown spots, becoming more widely spaced on chest and abdomen; posterior margin of caudal fin narrowly pale, but containing a single row of small dark spots.

Distribution. Throughout the Red Sea and the western Gulf of Aden.

Remarks. The first author examined a Klunzinger specimen of Serranus geoffroyi  at the Naturhistorishes Museum in Vienna, NMW 39276, 321 mm SL, identified as a syntype. The meristic data, including 28 gill rakers, are concordant with those given here for the species, and the anal fin was noted as very pointed, the longest anal ray 2.05 in head length ( Fig. 4 AView FIGURE 4. A). He reported that there are no other syntypes at the museum. The locality given for the specimen is only Red Sea. However, it is likely that it is Al Quseir (Kosseir), Egypt, where Klunzinger obtained his specimens. The syntype status is therefore very questionable because the specimen was probably collected by Klunzinger during his second stay in Al Quseir in 1872-1875, and would have only been available for the Klunzinger (1884) publication, not 1870. Klunzinger's (1870) footnote is certainly based on the specimen collected by W. Griessinger at Port Safaga ( Egypt, 26 ° 44 ' N 33 ° 56 ' E) in July 1852 (SMNS 233); this would have been the only specimen of the species present at the SMNS in 1870. It was missed in the SMNS type catalogs by Fricke (1992, 2005), but was recently rediscovered by the fifth author in the collection. It has 28 gill rakers and a very pointed anal fin, the longest ray 2.2 in head length. We conclude that this specimen (SMNS 233, 191 mm SL) is the holotype of Serranus geoffroyi Klunzinger, 1870  ; it is illustrated here as Fig. 4View FIGURE 4. A B.

Comparisons. In addition to having modally two more gill rakers, Epinephelus geoffroyi  may be distinguished from E. chlorostigma  by the more acutely pointed soft portion of the anal fin, and in color. The dark spots on the abdomen and chest are more widely spaced. The caudal fin of E. chlorostigma  has a narrow pale whitish posterior margin. The posterior margin of the caudal fin of E. geoffroyi  is not white but it may be whitish, in which case it contains a vertical row of small dark brown spots or transverse lines.

Epinephelus geoffroyi  and E. chlorostigma  are sympatric in the western Gulf of Aden. The fourth author collected a specimen of E. geoffroyi  in the harbor of Djibouti in 1981 and sent it to the first author, thinking it might be an undescribed species. It was wrongly catalogued at the Bishop Museum as E. chlorostigma  (BPBM 30865, 219 mm). The fourth author also caught the true E. chlorostigma  in 1979 by hook and line from a depth of at least 100 m in the Gulf of Tadjoura (IES 311 -011, 235 mm, illustrated here as Fig. 5View FIGURE 5). In addition, he collected a specimen of E. geoffroyi  off Al Mukallah on the coast Yemen in 2005, the present easternmost record of the species in the Gulf of Aden. There are no valid records of Epinephelus chlorostigma  from the Red Sea, but it might be expected in the deeper water of the southern part.

As noted by Randall and Heemstra (1991), most records of Epinephelus chlorostigma  are insular. There are no confirmed records for continental waters of Asia or Australia, and none for the East Indies, except one from Papua New Guinea.

Epinephelus geoffroyi  is usually found on or near coral reefs at depths of 10–20 m; one was speared by the first author in 4 m in the Gulf of Suez, and another near the southern end of the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula in 28 m. The second author observed the species at the Farasan Islands near the southern end of the Red Sea in 3– 32 m. The depth range given in the literature for E. chlorostigma  is 32– 280 m.

Randall and Heemstra (1991: 119) reported slightly higher scale counts for Epinephelus chlorostigma  in 11 specimens examined in the Pacific, compared to the Indian Ocean: 50–53 lateral-line scales vs. 48–52, and 104– 125 scales in longitudinal series vs. 97–119. A molecular study of these two populations would be of interest, as well as a genetic comparison with E. geoffroyi  .

The second author’s underwater photographs of Epinephelus geoffroyi  ( Fig. 6View FIGURE 6 A taken in the northern Red Sea and Fig. 6View FIGURE 6 B at the Farasan Islands near the southern end) in the typical habitat of sand or sand and rubble substratum near coral patches, exhibit a camouflage color pattern of large irregular dark brown blotches on the body and dorsal and anal fins. He noted that E. areolatus  and E. geoffroyi  are the most common groupers observed at the Farasan Islands.

Mention should be made of two other groupers of the northwestern Indian Ocean with close-set, dark brown spots that might be confused with Epinephelus geoffroyi  : E. gabriellae Randall and Heemstra, 1991  ( Fig. 7View FIGURE 7 A) ranges from the Gulf of Oman and south coast of Oman at least to the eastern Gulf of Aden, and E. polylepis Randall and Heemstra, 1991  ( Fig. 7View FIGURE 7 B) is reported from the west coast of India to the Gulf of Aden. Epinephelus gabriellae  is readily distinguished by having only 14 or 15 dorsal soft rays, and E. polystigma  has a very high count of 65–72 lateral-line scales, and 126–137 scales in longitudinal series.