Megalops atlanticus  Valenciennes, 1847

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Megalops atlanticus   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
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Image of Megalops atlanticus (Tarpon)
Megalops atlanticus
Picture by Patzner, R.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Elopiformes (Tarpons and tenpounders) > Megalopidae (Tarpons)
Etymology: Megalops: Greek, megas, megalos = great + Greek, ops = appearance (Ref. 45335).   More on author: Valenciennes.

Environment / Climate / Range Ecology

Marine; freshwater; brackish; reef-associated; amphidromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 30 m (Ref. 3789), usually 0 - 15 m (Ref. 42064).   Subtropical; 49°N - 44°S, 99°W - 14°E (Ref. 55254)

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 160.0, range 130 - 128.5 cm
Max length : 250 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2683); common length : 130 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2683); max. published weight: 161.0 kg (Ref. 26340); max. reported age: 55 years (Ref. 9975)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 13-16; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 22 - 25; Vertebrae: 53 - 57. Diagnosis: It is characterized by the anterior position of pelvic fin insertions in relation to dorsal-fin origin, and by some morphometric counts: 13-16 dorsal-fin rays, 40-48 lateral-line scales and 53-57 vertebrae (Ref. 2845, 81266).

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Atlantic Ocean: from Nova Scotia, Bermuda and southward to Brazil in western Atlantic Ocean (Ref. 3234, 4446), where it it also found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean (Ref. 26938); from Mauritania to Angola in eastern Atlantic Ocean (Ref. 2845, 3234, 4446, 81266); with exceptional records in Portugal, Azores and Atlantic coast of southern France (Ref. 3234, 4446). It had crossed the Panama canal and was also caught at Coiba Island in the Pacific Ocean (Ref. 4446).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Inhabit coastal waters, bays, estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons, and rivers (Ref. 3789, 27188). Often found in river mouths and bays, entering fresh water (Ref. 27227). Large schools may frequent particular spots for years (Ref. 9710). Feed on fishes like sardines, anchovies, Mugilidae, Centropomus, Cichlidae (mainly those forming schools) and crabs (Ref. 3789, 27188). The swim bladder, attached to the esophagus, can be filled directly with air and permits the fish to live in oxygen-poor waters. Has high fecundity, a 203 cm female is estimated to produce over 12 million eggs (Ref. 10863). Spawn in waters which can be temporarily isolated from the open sea (Ref. 27188). Transparent leptocephalus larvae migrate into estuaries (Ref. 57533). Famous for its spectacular leaps when hooked. Marketed fresh or salted (Ref. 3789). Large scales are used in ornamental work and in preparation of artificial pearls (Ref. 3789). Used to be cultured commercially in Colombia (Ref. 7306). Highly appreciated by sport fishers. The flesh is also highly appreciated despite its being bony (Ref. 27188). The world record for hook and line is 283 lbs. from Lake Maricaibo, Venezuela (Ref. 13442).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Some populations may complete life cycle in freshwater, e.g. Lake Nicaragua in Central America, and Deep Lake in Florida (Ref. 4639).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Hureau, J.-C., 1984. Megalopidae. p. 226-227. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. UNESCO, Paris. Vol. 1. (Ref. 3234)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)

  Vulnerable (VU) (A2bd)

CITES (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Reports of ciguatera poisoning (Ref. 31172)

Human uses

Fisheries: commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: public aquariums
FAO(fisheries: production; publication : search) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

More information

Common names
Egg development
Aquaculture profile
Allele frequencies
Mass conversion
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Swim. type
Gill area


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Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 1.0020   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00794 (0.00460 - 0.01371), b=2.98 (2.82 - 3.14), based on LWR estimates for species & (Sub)family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  4.5   ±0.0 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278):  Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (K=0.07-0.10; tmax=55; Fec>1 million).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Very high vulnerability (76 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Medium.