Atlantic tripletails are found
coastally in most, but not
all, tropical and subtropical seas. They are semi-migratorial and
pelagic. Normally solitary, they have been known to form schools.
They can be found in bays, sounds, and estuaries during the summer.
Juveniles are usually found swimming under patches of Sargassum
algae. Adults are usually found in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico
but can also be found in passes, inlets, and bays near river mouths.
The fishes are also often found in or near shipwrecks, beams or
supports, jetties, and sea buoys. Larvae are usually found in waters
that exceed temperatures of 84 °F (29 °C), greater than 30.3‰
salinity, and more than 230 feet (70 m) deep.
Atlantic tripletails have scales that extend onto the dorsal, anal,
and caudal fins and a head profile that concaves as the fish ages.
It has a compressed but deep body with a triangle-shaped head. The
eyes are small but the mouth is large. The bases of the dorsal and
anal fins are scaled and the pectoral fins are shorter than the
pelvic fins. The name "tripletail" is given because of the fish's
three rounded fins: dorsal, caudal, and anal.
Juvenile Atlantic tripletails are colored a mottled yellow, brown,
and black. Adults are jet black. When it lies on its side at the
surface, the tripletail is sometimes confused for a floating
mangrove leaf. The juveniles have white pectoral fins and a white
margin on the caudal fin. Adult tripletails have varied mottled
color patterns which range from dark brown to reddish brown, often
with a tint of gray.
Atlantic tripletails are opportunistic eaters. This means that they
feed on a variety of things, mostly small finfish like gulf
menhaden, Atlantic bumpersss, and anchovies. They also feed on
invertebrates like blue crabs and brown shrimp, as well as other
Spawning primarily occurs in the summer along both the Atlantic and
the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coasts, with peaks during the months of July
and August. Large congregations of tripletail during the summer
months in the inshore and nearshore waters of coastal Georgia
suggest that this area is a critical estuarian spawning habitat for
the species. Larval Atlantic tripletails go though four levels of
development; preflexion, flexion, postflexion, and transformation.
By the time the larvae reach 0.16 inches (4 mm), they have large
eyes and a concave head. The larval forms of Atlantic tripletails
resemble those of boarfishes, some jacks, spadefishes and bass.
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