Mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis)

Adult mutton snapper
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Mutton snapper fact file

Mutton snapper description

GenusLutjanus (1)

The mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) is a striking fish. Adults vary from orange to reddish-yellow or reddish-brown, and juveniles from silver-grey to olive-green. The adult is often confused with the red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) because of its overall red colour (4). Interestingly, the colour pattern of the mutton snapper changes as it moves. At rest it has a barred pattern, however, when swimming it appears plain. The mutton snapper has long pectoral fins and pointed anal and dorsal fins (2).

Average head-body length: 50 cm (2)
Maximum head-body length: 94 cm (3)
Length at sexual maturity: 40 cm (2)
4.5 - 6.8 kg (2)

Mutton snapper biology

The mutton snapper’s prey changes throughout its life. As a larva, it feeds on plankton near the water’s surface. However, as it matures, it moves to shallow grass beds and feeds on larger plankton and small animals (2). As an adult, the mutton snapper will consume; fish, shrimp, crabs, octopus, squid and snails, and feeds both day and night (3) ‘picking’ at food items throughout the entire day (2).

The mutton snapper breeds between May and October, with a reproductive peak in July and August (4). The mutton snapper reaches sexual maturity at about five years of age, or when it grows to 40 centimetres in length, and spawning is associated with lunar cycles (6). The mutton snapper spawns throughout its geographical range, although principally in the north-eastern Caribbean (3) and typically returns to the same site to spawn year after year (2). After spawning, the adult fish move back into deeper waters (2).


Mutton snapper range

The mutton snapper can be found through the western Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts, USA and Bermuda to south-eastern Brazil including the Gulf of Mexico (3). However it is most commonly located in the warm waters of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea (2).


Mutton snapper habitat

The beautiful mutton snapper is a reef-associated species, preferring shallow coastal waters and vegetated sand often surrounded by mangroves (5). Larger adults are often found in rocky habitats in or near offshore reefs, and juveniles prefer inshore areas such as tidal mangrove creeks (2). The snapper inhabits depths of between 25 and 95 meters, but is most often found between depths of 40 and 70 meters (3).


Mutton snapper status

The mutton snapper is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Mutton snapper threats

The mutton snapper is a popular game species and a good quality food fish (2). As spawning happens relative to the lunar cycle, and often in large groups at the same site year after year, the time and location can be predicted by fishermen. This has led to over-exploitation of the mutton snapper in areas such as Long Caye, Belize, creating a need for conservation action (6).


Mutton snapper conservation

The effects of over-fishing of the mutton snapper have been studied in order to develop management plans for the conservation of this species (7). In Florida, protection of spawning areas has been shown to lead to an increased abundance of the mutton snapper (6). Other potential protection measures include harvest bans, seasonal closures, area closures and the banning of certain types of fishing gear (6).

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

Find out more

For further information on the mutton snapper and its conservation:

Florida Museum of Natural History:



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.


Anal fin
In fish, an unpaired fin on the under surface of the fish, behind the anus.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found on either side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Aquatic organisms, usually tiny, that drift passively with water movements; includes phytoplankton (plants), zooplankton (animals), or other organisms such as bacteria.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Florida Museum of Natural History - mutton snapper (April, 2011)
  3. Fishbase - mutton snapper (April,2011)
  4. Schultz, K. (2004) Field Guide to Seawater Fish. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey, USA.
  5. Arreguín-Sánchez, F., Munro, J.L., Balgos, M.C. & Pauly, D. eds. (1996) Biology, Fisheries and Culture or Tropical Groupers and Snappers International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), Makati City.
  6. Graham, R.T., Carcamo, R., Rhodes, K.L., Roberts, C.M. & Requena, N., (2008) Historical and contemporary evidence of a mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis Cuvier, 1828) spawning aggregation fishery in decline. Coral Reefs, 27(2): 311-319.
  7. Burton, M.L. (2002) Age, growth and mortality of mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis, from the east coast of Florida, with a brief discussion of management implications. Fisheries Research, 59(1-2): 31-41.

Image credit

Adult mutton snapper  
Adult mutton snapper

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