The Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) is found in warm waters nearly worldwide. Slight changes in water temperature can bring subtropical fishes such as Great Barracuda northward (e.g., they may show up in numbers off southern California when water temperature increases from an average of around 15° C to 16° or 17° C). Great Barracuda, which may reach 2 m and 48 kg in size, are greenish gray above and whitish below, with many irregular small black blotches on the lower side. 18-22 diagonal dark bars are often evident on the upper side. The caudal fin is dark with white tips. There are 75-87 lateral line scales. Young fish have a dark stripe on the side, which breaks into dark squarish blotches as the fish grows. Markings differ sufficiently among individuals that they can be used to distinguish individuals in behavioral or other studies (Wilson et al. 2006). The fusiform (torpedo-shaped) body, with a large caudal (tail) fin and posteriorly positioned dorsal and anal fins, allows barracuda to capture prey with a sudden burst of speed. Young fish live in inshore seagrass beds, but adults range from inshore channels to open ocean. Although Giant Barracuda have a well-deserved reputation as fierce predators, attacks on humans are not common (and very rarely fatal) and generally involve unusual circumstances such as wading or swimming in turbid water while wearing bright objects or carrying speared fish. In at least some regions, the flesh of some barracuda, especially larger ones, is quite poisonous as a result of concentrating toxins originating from certain marine dinoflagellates farther down the food chain. (Robins and Ray 1986; Moyle 1993; Tosteson 2004)
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