Spinycheek grouper (Epinephelus diacanthus)

Spinycheek grouper specimen
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Spinycheek grouper fact file

Spinycheek grouper description

GenusEpinephelus (1)

As its name suggests, the spinycheek grouper has one to five, prominent spines on its cheek, in front of the gills. Like other groupers, it is a robust fish, with a spiny dorsal fin and a rounded caudal fin. Its body is typically pale greyish brown, with five, dark, vertical bands, which are broader than the lighter bars in-between. The undersurface of the head and body is often pinkish or red (2) (3).

Also known as
Thornycheek grouper.
Epinephelus dayi, Serranus diacanthus.
Mérou Épineux.
Mero Espinudo.

Spinycheek grouper biology

The spinycheek grouper is a predatory fish, feeding on a variety of fish and crustaceans including crabs and small prawns. For the first eight months, juveniles congregate and feed in the waters of the midshelf, but later migrate into deeper water to complete their development and eventually breed (1). Although little is known about the reproductive biology of the spinycheek grouper, like other Epinephelus species, it is probably a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning that individuals begin mature life as female and change sex later to become male (2) (4).


Spinycheek grouper range

The spinycheek grouper is found on the continental shelf of the northern Indian Ocean from the Gulf of Aden to Sri Lanka and Chennai (India), but is not known from either the Red Sea or the Arabian Gulf (1) (2).


Spinycheek grouper habitat

Occurs mainly over mud or sandy-mud bottoms from depths of 10 to 120 metres (1) (2).


Spinycheek grouper status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Spinycheek grouper threats

The global population of spinycheek grouper is thought to be declining over much of its range as result of the expansion of trawl fisheries into increasingly deeper waters and the overexploitation of juveniles in shallow waters (1).


Spinycheek grouper conservation

As of yet, there are no specific conservation measures in place for the spinycheek grouper. However, several recommendations have been made for the management of this species including the protection of critical habitat and the instalment of satellite tracking devices on trawlers to monitor fishing activity (1).

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View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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Caudal fin
The tail fin of a fish.
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
Protogynous hermaphrodite
An animal that begins its life cycle as a female. As the animal ages, based on internal or external triggers, it shifts sex to become a male animal.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. Heemstra, P.C. and Randall, J.E. (1993) FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 16: Groupers of the World. Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome.
  3. Polovina, J.J. and Ralston, S. (1987) Tropical snappers and groupers: biology and fisheries management. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
  4. Randall, J.E. (1994) Coastal fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

Image credit

Spinycheek grouper specimen  
Spinycheek grouper specimen

© John E. Randall

Dr. John E. Randall


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