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spp. (18 species)
Barracudas are muscular fish with streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies. They are equipped with an impressive set of razor-sharp teeth. The lower jaw juts out past the upper jaw and both are filled with dozens of teeth.
Many members of this family are small and harmless to humans. The northern barracuda (
), for example, lives along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Florida and only grows to roughly 46 cm (18 in.) in length. The largest species, the great barracuda (
), can grow up to 3 m (10 ft.) in length.
In general, females grow to be larger than males.
Oviparous (egg laying); spawn in schools
The great barracuda is found in all temperate and tropical waters except the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea
Some of the teeth of the great barracuda point backwards to prevent slippery fish from escaping once they are seized.
Barracudas hunt more by sight than smell; a fact that may lead to unfortunate attacks on human divers. Barracudas are attracted to shiny objects, like the silvery fish they prey on. Humans that enter the water with glittering objects, such as watches and jewelry, may cause curious barracudas to investigate and mistake these objects for a food source. The number of attacks on humans is probably overstated, but divers that enter the water where barracuda are present should remove shiny objects as a precaution.
Interestingly, ingesting barracuda is considerably more harmful to humans than eating any other fish species. People often become ill from ciguatera fish poisoning after ingesting barracudas, perhaps because the reef fish that barracudas eat themselves consume algae that may contain high levels of the toxin.
For more information about bony fishes, explore the
Bony Fishes InfoBook
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Many species of barracuda are classified as game fish and are considered of minor commercial importance.
Andrews, A., Parham, D. and W. Street.
. SeaWorld Education Department Publication. San Diego, SeaWorld, Inc. 1995.
Burgess, W. and H.R. Axelrod.
Pacific Marine Fishes. Book 4
. Neptune City, NJ. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd. 1974.
Eschmeyer, W.N., Herald, E.S. and H. Hammann.
Peterson Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes
. New York. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1983.