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Tarpon

There are two species of Megalops, commonly known as the tarpon, one native to the Atlantic, and the other to the Indo-Pacific oceans. They are the only members of the family Megalopidae and genus Megalops.

There are two species of Megalops, the Megalops atlanticus and the Megalops cyprinoides. The Megalops atlanticus is found on the western Atlantic coast from Virginia to Brazil, throughout the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, throughout the Caribbean. It is also found along the eastern Atlantic coast from Senegal to Angola. Megalops cyprinoides is found along the eastern African coast, throughout southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti, and Australia. Both species are found in both salt and freshwater habitats usually ascending rivers to access freshwater marshes. They are able to survive in brackish water, waters of varying pH, as well as habitats with low dissolved O2 content due to their swim bladders which they use primarily to breathe with.The habitat of the Megalops varies greatly with the developmental stage they are in. Stage one larva are usually found in clear, warm, oceanic waters relatively close to the surface. Stage two and three larva are found in salt marshes, tidal pools, creeks, and rivers. The habitats are characteristically warm, shallow, dark bodies of water with sandy mud bottoms. It is quite common for Megalops to ascend rivers into freshwater also. As the progress through the juvenile stage to adulthood they move back to the open waters of the ocean though many remain in freshwater habitats as well.

Megalops grow to about 5-8ft. long and weigh 80-150lbs. They have dorsal and anal soft rays and have a bluish or greenish back. They possess distinctive lateral lines and have shiny silvery scales that cover most of the organism except for the head. They possess large eyes with adipose eyelids and a broad mouth with a prominent lower jaw that juts out farther than the rest of the face.

Stage one developing Megalops do not forage for food but instead absorb nutrients from sea water using integumentary absorption. Stage two and three juveniles feed primarily on zooplankton but also feed on insects and small fish. As they progress in juvenile development, especially those developing in freshwater environments, their consumption of insects, fish, crabs, and grass shrimp increases. Adults are strictly carnivorous and feed on mid-water prey; they swallow their food whole and hunt nocturnally.

One of the unique features of Megalops is the function of the swim bladder as a psuedo-respiratory organ in Megalops. These gas structures can be used for buoyancy, as an accessory respiratory organ, or both. In Megalops, it is an unpaired air holding structure that arrises dorsally from the posterior pharynx. Megalops utilizes uses the swim bladder as a respiratory organ and the respiratory surface is coated with blood capillaries with a thin epithelium overtop. This is the basis of the alveolar tissue that is found in the swim bladder and is believed to be one of the primary methods by which Megalops “breathe.” Megalops are obligate air breathers, and if they are not allowed to access the surface they will die. The exchange of gas that occurs is done at the surface through a rolling motion that is commonly associated with Megalops sightings. It is believed that this “breathing” is mediated by visual cues and that the frequency of breathing is inversely correlated to the dissolved O2 content of the water in which they live.

Megalops are considered one of the great saltwater game fishes. They are prized not only because of their great size but also because of the fight that they put up and their spectacular leaping ability. Megalops are bony fish and their meat is not desirable so most Megalops are released after they are caught. There are numerous tournaments around the year that are focused on catching Megalops.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia
 

 

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