Calico grouper (Epinephelus drummondhayi)

Calico grouper specimen
Loading more images and videos...

Calico grouper fact file

Calico grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

The calico grouper, an important fish in both commercial and recreational fisheries (3), is also commonly called the speckled hind due to the numerous white spots that cover its body (1). Juvenile calico groupers are yellow with white spots, but as they grow older their bodies turn a dark red colour, a change that appears to be determined by age rather than size (3). The distinctive white spots, however, are retained throughout the grouper’s life (3). Its fins are small and unremarkable, but have a large number of spines and rays (2).

Also known as
kitty mitchell, speckled hind, strawberry grouper.
Mérou Grivelé.
Mero Pintarroja.
Length: up to 1.1 m (2)
up to 30 kg (2)

Calico grouper biology

Calico groupers gather to spawn from July to September, with a large, healthy female producing as many as two million eggs (6). The eggs are fertilised in the water and, while there have been no direct observation of spawning, are thought to be left to fend for themselves (2) (7). Following larval stages, juvenile calico groupers inhabit shallower water than adults (7), and move into deeper water as they grow. Maturity is reached within four to five years, and this long-lived species may live for at least 25 years (6). A remarkable feature of this species’ life history, and characteristic of many groupers, is it is a protogynous hermaphrodite species; this means each individual begins life as a female and then transforms into a male between 7 and 14 years of age (8).

The calico grouper is an important predator in its ocean habitat, eating a variety of animals such as fish, crustaceans (crabs, shrimp and slipper lobsters) and molluscs (squid and octopus) (6). Despite the fact that it possesses teeth, the calico grouper often swallows prey whole (5).


Calico grouper range

The calico grouper occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic, from North Carolina south to Florida. It has also been found in the waters surrounding Bermuda, 500 miles from the United States’ coastline (4).


Calico grouper habitat

This marine fish inhabits coastal waters, most commonly between 60 and 120 metres deep, and is typically associated with rocky, benthic habitat (4). It prefers water temperatures of 15 to 30 degrees Celsius (5).


Calico grouper status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Calico grouper threats

Exploitation of the calico grouper in recreational and commercial fisheries has brought this species to the brink of extinction (1). Although there are limits to how many groupers can be taken in each fishing trip, the sheer number of fishermen (there are one million recreational licenses in Florida alone) has caused the population to continue to decline (1). As shallow water fish stocks decrease, fishing is taking place in increasingly deep water in order to improve catch rates, increasing the threat to the calico grouper (1).

This species also suffers from bycatch mortality (7). As a deep water species, when it is brought to the surface reduced pressure causes lethal gas expansion in its swim bladder (1), meaning when this species is caught unintentionally, it is unlikely to survive even if thrown back into the water (7).

It is thought that the calico grouper displays low resilience to population reductions, emphasizing the seriousness of these threats. Despite the vast number of young produced by each female, it can take up to 14 years for a population to double (2).


Calico grouper conservation

In the eastern part of its range, only one calico grouper may be taken per vessel per trip, for both recreational and commercial boats; if more are taken, these may not be traded or sold at sea (5). Limits for recreational and commercial boats also exist in the Gulf of Mexico (7), but unfortunately, these regulations do nothing to prevent bycatch mortality.

In 2009, the National Marine Fishery Service established eight marine protected areas (covering 529 square miles of ocean) in order to conserve deep water species, including the calico grouper (7). A project to further explore the life history and reproduction data of the calico grouper has recently been funded, in order to discover the best way to conserve this Critically Endangered species (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn more about the conservation of marine fish see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


The lowermost region of a marine habitat, the bottom.
In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red list (January, 2010)
  2. Fishbase (January, 2010)
  3. Ross, S.W. (1988) Xanthic coloration as the normal color pattern of juvenile speckled hind, Epinephelus drummondhayi (Pisces: Serranidae). Copeia, 1988(3): 780-784.
  4. Musick, J.A., Harbin, M.M., Berkeley, S.A., Burgess, G.H., Eklund, A.M., Findley, L., Gilmore, R.G., Golden, J.T., Ha, D.S., Huntsman, G.R., McGovern, J.C., Parker, S.J., Poss, S.G., Sala, E., Schmidt, T.W., Sedberry, G.R., Weeks, H. and Wright, S.G. (2000) Marine, estuarine, and diadromous fish stocks at risk of extinction in North America (exclusive of Pacific Salmonids). Fisheries, 25(11): 6-30.
  5. South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (January, 2010)
  6. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue. Volume 16: Groupers of the World (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). FAO Fisheries Synopsis, 125(16): 142-143.
  7. NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. (2009) Species of Concern: Speckled Hind. Species of Concern Program, National Marine Fisheries Service. Available at:
  8. Brule, T., Colas-Marrufo, T., Tuz-Sulub, A. and Deniel, C. (2000) Evidence for protogynous hermaphroditism in the serranid fish Epinephelus drummondhayi (Perciformes: Serranidae) from the Campeche Bank in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Bulletin of Marine Science, 66(2): 513-521.

Image credit

Calico grouper specimen  
Calico grouper specimen

© Robert Wiggers

Robert Wiggers


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Calico grouper (Epinephelus drummondhayi) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top