Smallscaled grouper (Epinephelus polylepis)

Smallscaled grouper specimen, faded colours
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Smallscaled grouper fact file

Smallscaled grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

Having been repeatedly misidentified as Epinephelus chlorostigma for almost a century, the smallscaled grouper was first described to science in 1991 (1). With the sole exception of the belly and the underside of the head, the pale body of this robust marine fish is covered in numerous tightly packed, dark-brown spots (2) (3). In common with other groupers, the mouth is large and the anterior portion of the dorsal fin is conspicuously spiny (2) (3) (4).

Mérou Petites Écailles.
Mero Escamoso.
Max length: at least 61 cm (2)

Smallscaled grouper biology

Very little is known about the biology of the smallscaled grouper, but like other Epinephelus species, it is reported to be a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals begin mature life as female and change sex later to become male (1) (2) (3). Epinephelus species tend to be voracious predators, with fish and crustaceans taken near the sea bottom forming the bulk of prey (2) (5).


Smallscaled grouper range

The smallscaled grouper is presently only known from the Gulf of Aden, The Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Gulf, Pakistan and the west coast of India (1) (2) (3).


Smallscaled grouper habitat

Underwater video surveys have shown that the preferred habitat of the smallscaled grouper appears to be small rocky outcrops from depths of 70 to 155 metres (1). However, this species has been collected in trawls from 33 to 100 metres (2), and along the southern Oman and eastern Yemen coast is fairly frequently observed in water 10 to 15 metres deep (1).


Smallscaled grouper status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Smallscaled grouper threats

Although the smallscaled grouper has a relatively wide distribution, it is known to have been heavily overfished over large parts of its range. In the Arabian Gulf, and in particular off the coast of Oman, the smallscaled grouper is one of the most commonly caught grouper species in the industrial fishing sector. While there is currently insufficient data to accurately assess trends over time, the population is thought to be almost certainly declining, hence the classification of Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List (1).


Smallscaled grouper conservation

While several countries within the smallscaled grouper’s range have fishing regulations in place, enforcement is thought to be relatively weak (1).

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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For further information on the conservation of groupers see:




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Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
Protogynous hermaphrodite
An animal that begins its life cycle as a female. As the animal ages, based on internal or external triggers, it shifts sex to become a male animal.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 16: Groupers of the World. Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome..
  3. Randall, J.E. (1994) Coastal fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.
  4. Carpenter, K.E. and Niem, V.H. (1999) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 4. Bony fishes part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome..
  5. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Smallscaled grouper specimen, faded colours  
Smallscaled grouper specimen, faded colours

© John E. Randall

Dr. John E. Randall


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