Family : Serranidae
Text © Giuseppe Mazza
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The Coral hind ( Cephalopholis miniata - Forsskål, 1775 ) belongs to the class of Actinopterygii), the ray-finned fishes, to the order of Perciformes and to the family of Serranidae, which counts 75 genera and more than 500 species.
The etymology of the genus comes “kephale” = head and “pholis” = scale, with reference to the fact that the fore part of the snout, up to the nostrils, has no scales.
The name of the species “miniata” = red coloured, in Latin, refers to the livery.
It has a vast distribution in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Indicatively, we find it from South Africa, Madagascar and Comoro Islands up to the Red Sea, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Maldives, in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, the Andaman Islands, in Australia, Indonesia, Micronesia, New Guinea, Palau, Philippines, Taiwan, China and the Ryukyu and Ogasawara Islands in the southern part of Japan. Eastward, it has colonized the Fiji Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati. Southwards, in the Pacific, it reaches the New Caledonia.
It lives in the coralline formations, often on the outer side of the reefs, up to 150 m of depth.
The coral hind may reach the 50 cm, but rarely exceeds the 40 cm. Slender, it has the characteristic look of the serranids, with the lower jaw longer and great mouth armed by various rows of teeth, with hooked and caniniform elements, on the fore part, in order to hold the preys. The dorsal fin counts 9 spiny rays and 14-15 soft ones; the anal 3 spiny rays and 8-9 unarmed; the ventral are modest, the tail is big and coiled, like the pectorals which have 17-18 unarmed rays. They are orange red, with sold colour, whilst the others and the whole body appear dotted by characteristic pale blue spots.
In the juveniles the background colour is yellow, whilst the oldest specimens, starting from the eight years, turn dark red.
The coral hind eats almost exclusively fishes, in particular the flaming Pseudanthias squamipinnis, a dozen of centimetres long, which twirl the whole day among the corals; but in the menu of this greedy predator enters also a good 20% of crustaceans and passing-by cephalopods. The livery, extremely mimetic in full light in the colourful world of the reefs, is such also in deep waters where the red becomes black and the biggest specimens pounce, suddenly, on species of suitable size.
The Cephalopholis miniata is a decidedly territorial species, protogynous hermaphrodite, that is, with females who, once a certain size is reached, can become males. These ones control a more or less vast area, of about 500 m2, with a harem of 2-12 partners (exceptionally 20 in New Caledonia!), to whom they given following a precise hierarchy, personal hunting sectors. The innumerable fecundated eggs are abandoned to the currents, but the growth is slow and often even 14 years are necessary for doubling the populations decimated by the events. Apart the aquaria market, if we add the underwater hunting and the fishing for alimentary purposes, the vulnerability index of the species is, quite logically, worrying. In fact it has already gone to 63 on a scale of 100, almost like our dusky grouper of the Mediterranean Epinephelus marginatus, protected in various nations, like the Principality of Monaco, for the sad record of 72 on 100.
Cephalopholis miniatus - Forsskål, 1775; Cephalopolis miniatus - Forsskål, 1775; Epinephelus miniatus - Forsskål, 1775; Perca miniata - Forsskål, 1775; Serranus miniatus - Forsskål, 1775; Pomacentrus burdi - Lacepède, 1802; Serranus cyanostigmatoides - Bleeker, 1849; Cephalopholis maculates - Seale & Bean, 1907; Cephalopholis formosanus - Tanaka, 1911; Cephalopholis boninius - Jordan & Thompson, 1914.
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza