Location & Habitat: The Red snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts to Brazil, although it is uncommon north of the Carolinas. It is also occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. The adult northern red snapper lives offshore on the continental shelf, over deep reefs, banks, and rocky bottoms. Populations residing amongst such three-dimensional structures are usually larger than those in smooth bottom areas. Adults of this species are found at depths of 33-620 feet with older, larger fish tending to prefer the cooler, deeper spots. The young live over sandy and muddy bottoms that provide a rich food supply of shellfish for the foraging juvenile fish. As the juveniles mature, they seek cover in the form of ledges, rocky outcroppings, and wrecks. During winter northern red snapper move offshore to avoid the cooler, shallow inshore waters.
Biology: The red snapper reaches an average length of 24 inches, with a maximum length of 39 inches and may weigh up to 20 pounds. Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years, at which time northern red snapper are typically 12-16 inches (30-40cm) in length. Maximum age is estimated at 40-50 years. This snapper grows approximately 4 inches per year for the first 6 years followed by a generally declining growth rate thereafter.
Physical Description: The Red snapper has long pectoral fins and a truncate caudal fin. The first and second dorsal fins are continuous with a slight notch in between the two and the anal fin tapers to a point posteriorly. The pectoral fins are long and reach the anus when pressed against the body. They have a large head with small red eyes and a somewhat pointed snout. The body and fins are pinkish red in color, lightening to a white underside. At a size less than 14 inches northern red snapper have a dark spot on the upper sides below the anterior soft dorsal rays – similar to a number of other snappers. And although they may most closely resemble the blackfin snapper, the northern red snapper lacks the distinctive black spot found on the pectoral fins of the blackfin snapper. Juvenile red snapper may also exhibit bluish stripes on their sides. Although most teeth in the upper jaw are densely packed, fine, or hair like "villiform" teeth, there are several canine teeth present as well. The lower jaw, which projects slightly beyond the upper, has larger villiform teeth.
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