Alphestes afer 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Alphestes afer (Bloch, 1793)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Mutton Hamlet, Cherna, Coney, Coney, Hamlet, Mossfish, Mossy Grouper, Mutton Hamlet, Red Nigger Hamlet, Small Grouper
French Varech
Spanish Aceituna, Cherne, Guaseta, Mantequilla, Mero
Epinephelus afer Bloch, 1793
Epinephelus lightfooti Fowler, 1907
Plectropoma chloropterum Cuvier, 1828
Plectropoma monacanthus Müller & Troschel, 1848
Taxonomic Notes: Smith synonymized the eastern Pacific species Alphestes galapagensis (Fowler), Alphestes fasciatus (Hildebrand), and Alphestes immaculatus (Breder) with Alphestes afer.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Ferreira, B.P., Marques, S., Choat, J.H., Sadovy, Y., Craig, M.T., Bertoncini, A.A. & Rocha, L.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Alphestes afer is a common species, inhabiting shallow waters and with a wide distribution. It is not a target in any region but is commonly caught. The shallow distribution in a heavily fished area by a multitude of gears is reason for some concern, especially considering the paucity of landings data. For these reasons, the species warrants close scrutiny, as it could become threatened in the future. The species is currently assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Alphestes afer is distributed in the western Atlantic from Bermuda, south Florida (USA), Bahamas, Cuba, West Indies, Panama, Venezuela, and southward to the state of Sao Paulo (Brazil), and in the eastern Atlantic in the Gulf of Guinea, western Africa.
Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Botswana; Bouvet Island; Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; Montserrat; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – eastern central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):30
Upper depth limit (metres):2
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

The genus Alphestes was represented by a single species in the eastern Atlantic (Rocha and Costa 1999). In the tropical western Atlantic it has been synonymized with Alphestes galapagensis (Fowler), Alphestes fasciatus (Hildebrand), and Alphestes immaculatus (Breder).

Recently, genetic studies have confirmed specimens of A. afer occurring in the eastern Atlantic (Gulf of Guinea, western Africa). Thus, A. afer was re-described and its amphi-Atlantic distribution has been confirmed (Craig et al. 2006).

Fisheries-dependent data
The species is common along the coast of Brazil, although it is not a main target of any fishery. Mutton hamlet are caught by spear, line and traps along the northeastern coast as by-catch and for personal consumption (unpublished data from Brazilian Institute of Environment, P. Lins pers. comm.). It is uncommon in samples from the Paraná Coast, south of Brazil (Spach et al. 2004).

Mutton hamlet are targeted or landed as by-catch in Bermuda (Luckhurst 1996) and Martinique (Gobert 1991, Gobert 1996, Reynal et al. in press), but not in Honduras (Goberta et al. 2005). The species is scarce along St. Croix’s northeast coast with 13 individuals recorded by visual census (Mateo and Tobias 2001). It is also scarce in fisheries samples in Martinique (Gorbet 1990). When an artificial reef was built in a seagrass bed in the Virgin Islands, A. afer became the principal serranid fish which colonized it, with individual mutton hamlets moving in as adults from the adjacent seagrass bed (Randall and Bishop 2004).

According to data from the SCORE-Central/REVIZEE Program, A. afer is uncommon in fisheries between Cabo São Tomé (Rio de Janeiro State) and Salvador (Bahia State) (Brazil) (Rocha and Costa 1999).

Fisheries-independent data
Recorded by visual census in West Indies coast (Bouchon-Navaroa et al. 2005).

Species of Alphestes (Bloch and Schneider) in the eastern Pacific are sister taxa indicating post-closure speciation (Craig et al. 2004).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:General
A. afer is a reef-associated, non-migratory species with a depth range of 2 to 30 m. Mutton hamlet are solitary and typically occur in seagrass habitats. The species is sedentary during the day, hiding in crevices or lying among seaweed, sometimes partly covering itself with sand while lying on its side.

Nocturnal feeders of benthic crustaceans. Piscivorous, invertivorous (small fishes and crustaceans) (Randall and Bishop 2004).

Mutton hamlets are sequential hermaphrodites (Randall and Bishop 2004). Thompson and Munro (1983) estimated the number of eggs in four females to range from 157,512 to 223,706 per fish.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Mutton hamlet are caught as part of a mixed catch fishery by artisanal fisheries (especially trap fisheries) in several locations within its distributional range.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Mutton hamlet occur in several protected areas throughout its range.

Citation: Ferreira, B.P., Marques, S., Choat, J.H., Sadovy, Y., Craig, M.T., Bertoncini, A.A. & Rocha, L. 2008. Alphestes afer. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132764A3445153. . Downloaded on 22 April 2018.
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