Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Epinephelidae

Scientific Name: Mycteroperca prionura
Species Authority: Rosenblatt & Zahuranec, 1967
Common Name(s):
English Sawtail Grouper
Spanish Cabrilla Chiruda, Garropa Aserrada
French Merou Seie-queue
Mycteroperca prionura Rosenblatt & Zahuranec, 1967
Taxonomic Notes: M. prionura differs from M. jordani and M. xenarcha in terms of the number of gill rakers, presence of exerted caudal-fin rays and a projecting lobe at the angle of the preopercle in adults (Heemstra and Randall 1993).

M. prionura may be confused with Epinephelus analogus, which it closely resembles in colour. However, E. analogus has a typical “cabrilla-type” rounded anal fin (

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Pollard, D. & Craig, M.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Moss, K. (Grouper and Wrasse Red List Authority)
Mycteroperca prionura is listed as Near Threatened since it has a restricted range and an inferred reduction in population of close to 30% in the past. It is actively targeted by fishers, both commercially and recreationally and spawning aggregations of this species are targeted by the sportfishing industry. This species warrants close monitoring and frequent re-evaluation.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Vulnerable (VU)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Mycteroperca prionura is an eastern central Pacific species narrowly distributed from the Gulf of California south to Jalisco (Mexico), including provinces of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco.
Countries occurrence:
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central
Lower depth limit (metres): 50
Upper depth limit (metres): 8
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: General
Mycteroperca prionura is rare and low in abundance within a relatively small distribution range (Heemstra and Randall 1993, Musick et al. 2000). It is more abundant in the central and northern Gulf of California than the southern gulf.

Fisheries-independent data
Its density in rocky habitats in 1999 to 2001 was 0.02±0.01 (mean±SE) individuals per 250 m² (Sala et al. 2003). Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) dive observations from the tropical Eastern Pacific showed densities to remained very low from 2000 to 2005 (

See the supplementary material for Table 1: sighting frequency in the tropical Eastern Pacific.
For further information about this species, see 14052_Mycteroperca_prionura.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: General
Mycteroperca prionura is a reef-associated species found on rocky reefs at depths of ~8 to 50 m, being more common on fields of large boulders with gorgonians and black corals (Heemstra and Randall 1993, Sala et al. 2003). The maximum size recorded was 68 cm SL (Rosenblatt and Zahuranec 1967) and to around 25 pounds in weight. Heemstra and Randall 1993 state its maximum total length to be 105 cm.

It is a voracious predator, feeding on crustaceans at night and on small fishes during the day (

Spawning aggregations (0.17±0.17 individuals per 250 m²) occurred at depths from 20 to 40 m over areas of ~ 600 m² at two sites. Fourteen to 100 fish (of sizes ranging from 40 to 90 cm TL) were observed from April 1994 to May 2000 (over seven days) in the Gulf of California, with courtship behavior being noted (Sala et al. 2003). However these aggregations contain mixed species. Sala et al. (2003) is the only published article about the spawning aggregation and reproductive behaviour of M. prionura in the Gulf of California. Eight females collected from an aggregation in April 2000 were found to have full gonads with hydrated eggs.
Systems: Marine
Generation Length (years): >10years?

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is considered to be an excellent food fish (Sala et al. 2003). It is also a prime quarry of sportfishers in the central Sea of Cortez, although the species has more recently become quite uncommonly caught, presumably due to decades of overfishing of other species.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to Mycteroperca prionura is overfishing, including sportfishing and illegal spearfishing using lights and hooka breathing apparatus at night from La Paz to the Midriff Islands in the Gulf of California. It is claimed that spawning aggregations are mostly unknown to commercial fishers, although they are targeted by sportfishers (Sala et al. 2003). It is incidentally caught along with other groupers.

The primary risk factors for this species are based on it being rare, a large species, probably with low productivity, probably protogynous, its spawning aggregations being vulnerable to overfishing, and it having a small range (see Thompson et al. 2000).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Mycteroperca prionura was originally included as VU (A1d+2d) on the IUCN Red List in 1996. The species was also classified as Vulnerable by the American Fisheries Society, based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) concept of District Population Segments (DPS) (Musick et al. 2000). However, it seems to be represented by only one contiguous population from the information available. It occurs in marine parks in Gulf of California. Due to its rarity and low abundance within its relatively small range, populations appear to be being seriously depleted by sportfishers who target its spawning aggregations. These spawning aggregations must therefore be identified, monitored and protected in marine reserves so that larval replenishment of this vulnerable species can be assured (Sala et al. 2003).

Citation: Pollard, D. & Craig, M. 2008. Mycteroperca prionura. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T14052A4386978. . Downloaded on 06 October 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided