Foursaddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps

Four Saddle Grouper – Facts and Photographs

Four saddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps

The Four saddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps obtains its name from the four saddles on the dorsal and caudal area. They are not commonly seen in Tanzanian coastal waters and to date we have only seen seven specimens.

Four saddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps


The Four saddle grouper has a fairly typical grouper shape, slightly less robust than the normal grouper. It’s typical coloration is a whitish background with polygonal dark spots across the body. There are four large black spots across the dorsal and upper caudal area. All specimens sighted have had a yellowish tint towards the rear of the body. Their maximum size is reportedly 30 cm but the one specimen we sighted was probably around 35cm.

Four saddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps


Four saddle grouper seem to position themselves in a good vantage point to ambush prey. Their colouration gives them good camouflage. They do not seem to be that wary of divers and will sit and watch a diver as long as he does not approach too close. Only some seven specimens have been sighted, a juvenile in 6 meters on a wreck an adult at 12 meters on a reef top and a mid size specimen om Paje Reef in Zanzibar at 15 meters.  They are probably reasonably rare in Tanzanian mainland coastal waters due to overfishing.

Four saddle grouper, Epinephelus spilotoceps


They are found on the central east coast of Africa and mainly on islands of the tropical Indian Ocean and mid Pascific.  They are typically found on shallow reefs.

Epinephelus spilotoceps 3


The main diet of the Four saddle grouper is probably small fishes, octopus and crustaceans.  They seem to be ambush predators who vary their diet according to location and availability and pretty much anything moving that can fit into their mouths they will have a go at.

Epinephelus spilotoceps 2


Little seems known about the breeding behavior of these fish, there are conflicting views on how this occurs.

Epinephelus spilotoceps 1


The Foursaddle grouper is probably fished by local subsistence fishermen and most inshore areas of the Tanzanian coast are heavily over fished.



Kingdom:       Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:             Actinopterygii
Order:            Perciformes
Family:          Serranidae
Genus:           Epinephelus
Species:         E. spilotoceps



Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia.
Heemstra, P.C. and J.E. Randall, 1993. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 16. Groupers of the world (family Serranidae, subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rockcod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date. Rome: FAO. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(16):382 p.

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