Golden trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus)

Also known as: gold-barred jack, golden horsmackerel, golden jack, golden king, golden kingfish
Synonyms: Caranx speciosus
GenusGnathanodon (1)
SizeLength: up to 120 cm (2)
Weightup to 15 kg (2)

The golden trevally has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.

Distinguished from other trevally species by its striking colouration, the golden trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus) is beautiful bright yellow or golden as a juvenile and young adult, with a narrow black bar through the eye and between 7 and 12 vertical black bars, of alternating widths, along the body. The fins of this small fish are yellow, while the tail (caudal fin) is black-tipped and deeply forked. The second dorsal fin is larger than the first, and the pectoral fins are long and sickle-shaped (3). As the golden trevally grows, the yellow becomes more silvery and iridescent, the black bars fade, and scattered, blackish blotches develop on the sides of the body (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). The golden trevally has thick, fleshy lips and a protractile (extendable) mouth. Adults lack teeth, and only a few small teeth are present in the lower jaw of juveniles (4) (7) (8) (9).

The golden trevally is found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, east to the Pacific coast of the Americas (Baja California, Mexico and Ecuador) (2) (4) (6).

Confined to inshore coastal habitats, the golden trevally is usually encountered over sandy bottoms, lagoons and coral and rocky reefs, to depths of around 50 metres (2) (4) (5) (6).

The golden trevally is a fast-swimming, predatory fish. It typically hunts in small groups, foraging in the sand for invertebrates (usually molluscs and crustaceans) and small fish, which are sucked up into the mouth by extending the protractile jaws into a tube (3) (4) (5) (6). Juvenile golden trevally often mimic the behaviour of pilot fish (Naucrates ductor), associating closely with sharks and other large fish (3) (4) (5) (7), and are also known to live among the tentacles of jellyfish (possibly for protection against predators) (2) (6).

Spawning occurs during April and May, with studies on the biology of the golden trevally showing that growth of the population occurs fastest during the summer months (2).

The golden trevally is not currently considered threatened; however, it is exploited for small scale commercial or subsistence fisheries in coastal waters, usually using artisanal fishing methods such as gillnets and spears. Juvenile golden trevally may be taken for the aquarium trade (2).

There are no known conservation measures in place for the golden trevally.

To find out more about threats and conservation of fisheries worldwide, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. ITIS (November, 2010)
  2. Grandcourt, E.M., Al Abdessalaam, T.Z., Francis, F. and Al Shamsi, A. (2004) Population biology and assessment of representatives of the family Carangidae Carangoides bajad and Gnathanodon speciosus (Forssk°al, 1775), in the Southern Arabian Gulf. Fisheries Research, 69: 331–341
  3. Van der Elst, R. (1993) A Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  4. Randall, J.E. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. Crawford House Publishing Pty Ltd, Bathurst, Australia.
  5. King, D. and Fraser, V. (2001) More Reef Fishes and Nudibranchs: East and South Coast of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  6. FishBase: Gnathanodon speciosus  (Forsskål, 1775) Golden trevally (November, 2010)
  7. Game Fishing Association Australia (November, 2010)
  8. Grove, J.S. and Lavenberg, R.J. (1997) The Fishes of the Galápagos Islands. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
  9. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. and Steene, R.C. (1997) Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea (Revised Edition). Crawford House Publishing Pty Ltd, Bathurst, Australia.