Spinycheek grouper (Epinephelus diacanthus)

Also known as: Thornycheek grouper
Synonyms: Epinephelus dayi, Serranus diacanthus
French: Mérou Épineux
Spanish: Mero Espinudo
GenusEpinephelus (1)

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

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).

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

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).

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).

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).

For further information on the conservation of groupers 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. 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.