Lates calcarifer, known as barramundi, barramundi perch, giant sea perch, or Asian sea bass, is native to coastal areas in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. This includes coastal Australia, Southeast and Eastern Asia, and India (Luna, 2008). According to Luna, this distribution is Indo-West Pacific. (Luna, 2008; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
According to a 2008 study of barramundi from Burma and Australia, these fish may be two species (Ward, 2008). The study used DNA barcoding: the comparison of a particular locus (600 base pairs of the cytochrome c oxidase I gene) on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The study found that there was a significant enough difference in the mtDNA of the fish from the two locations that the species L. calcarifer may be split to take these differences into account. The study only examined fish from two locations, so Ward et al. (2008) recommended further study across the range. (Ward, et al., 2008)
Barramundi are catadromous, spending most of their life in fresh water and migrating to salt water in order to breed. Smaller fish are found in rivers and streams and larger fish are found in the ocean and estuaries (Pender, 1996; FAO, 1999). There are exceptions to this patter, however, with populations of all sizes of fish found throughout their natural range. Pender and Griffin confirmed through chemical analysis that there are populations that spend their entire life cycle in salt water, in brackish water, or in fresh water (Pender, 1996). Barramundi can survive in a wide range of salinities, but must be introduced slowly to a new salinity to avoid shock (Webster, 2002). Barramundi generally prefer to hide under logs or other objects. (Pender and Griffin, 1996; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999; Webster and Lim, 2002)
Barramundi are demersal, meaning they spend most of their time near but not on the bottom of a body of water. They are found at depths of ten to forty meters (Luna, 2008). In barramundi fish farming cages are generally placed two meters below the surface (Webster, 2002). (Luna, 2008; Webster and Lim, 2002)
Barramundi are large fish, with a maximum length of over two meters, although they are more commonly around 1.5 meters. Barramundi can have a mass over 55 kilograms. According to the FAO species identification guide, they have a moderately deep, elongate, and compressed body. Barramundi have pointed snouts and large mouths, with jaws extending past the eyes. Nostrils are close together. The dorsal fin is deeply incised, with separate spiny and soft dorsal fins. The spiny dorsal fin has seven to nine spines, and the soft dorsal fin has ten to eleven soft rays. The anal fin has three spines and seven to eight soft rays. Pelvic and pectoral fins are present. These fish have a distinct caudal peduncle, or tail muscle, with a rounded caudal fin. The lateral line extends onto the caudal fin. (UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
The scales of barramundi are firmly fixed and ctenoid. Adult barramundi are silver with darker, olive or blue-gray backs. In turbid (cloudy) water, coloration is darker. Juveniles are brown (sometimes grayish-brown) with three white stripes on the head and scattered white spots elsewhere. The markings can be dimmed or may disappear at will. The fins do not have markings. The eyes are golden-brown with a red reflective glow. (UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Barramundi are serially hermaphroditic, transforming from male to female at three to eight years of age (FAO, 1999; Guiguen, 1993). Moore (1979) suggests some individuals may not undergo this transition, based on a sex ratio of 3.8 males to 1 female. (Guiguen, et al., 1993; Moore, 1979; Pender and Griffin, 1996; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Color and markings change from juveniles to adults (see "Physical Description"). (UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Barramundi spawn seasonally (Moore, 1982). Since they are broadcast spawners (Luna, 2008; Moore, 1982), it can be inferred that there is very little social interaction among individuals. Males and females congregate for the purpose of spawning. Spawning events tend to take place at the mouths of estuaries on or near a full moon, after which tides draw the eggs up into the estuaries (Luna, 2008). (Luna, 2008; Moore, 1982)
Lates calcarifer is catadromous; migrating to the mouths of rivers and estuaries in order to breed (FAO, 1999; Moore, 1982; Webster, 2002; Pender, 1996; Russel; 1985). According to Moore, the eggs of fish not exposed to high salinity water do not develop fully, however, Pender and Griffen (1996) concluded that there are populations that spend their entire life cycles in freshwater, estuarine, or saltwater environments, so there may be exceptions to the requirement for high salinities. (Moore, 1982; Pender and Griffin, 1996; Russell and Garrett, 1985; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999; Webster and Lim, 2002)
There is one spawning season per year towards the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season in the period from October to February (Moore, 1982). Females carry from 2.3 to 32.2 million eggs and can either shed them all at once or as little as 10% at a time (Moore, 1982). Because Lates calcarifer is a broadcast breeder, it can be inferred that there is little interaction between males and females. However, barramundi tend to spawn around the full moon, when tides will carry the eggs back into estuaries (Luna, 2008). (Luna, 2008; Moore, 1982)
Lates calcarifer is serially hermaphroditic with males reaching maturity at 37 to 72 cm and changing into females starting at 73 cm, at around five years, three to five years, or six to eight years depending on the source (Moore, 1979, FAO, 1999; Guiguen, 1993). According to Guiguen (1993) males mature at three to five years, but this study was conducted in cage farmed fish, which may have different maturation times than wild fish. Some male specimens do get larger than 73 cm. The transition from male to female is short, lasting as little as a week, and may not occur in all individuals according to Moore (1979). (Guiguen, et al., 1993; Moore, 1979; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Chemical levels in the scales of fish from southern Papua New Guinea have indicated that adult barramundi do not always migrate to breeding grounds to spawn, with a lifetime non-participation rate of as much as 50% (Milton, 2005). (Milton and Chenery, 2005)
Little is known about longevity of barramundi.
Catadromous barramundi populations move seasonally between breeding and feeding grounds. Immediately after hatching as plankton, Lates calcarifer larvae make their way from the mouths of estuaries into brackish or freshwater swamps or mangroves where they are protected from predators. The developing fish tend to stay in the swamps from February to April, before moving into permanent tidal creeks for another nine months. After the nine months have past, juvenile barramundi make their way into freshwater estuaries to further develop (Russel, 1985). Barramundi return to the mouths of the estuaries to breed (Moore, 1982). Barramundi are found alone or in small groups, they may school in feeding aggregations when feeding on schools of smaller bait fish. (Davis, 1985)
All bony fishes have lateral lines which can be used to sense pressure and to judge underwater currents and localized movements in the water. The barramundi lateral line extends onto the caudal fin. Barramundi have reflective eyes which allow them to see better in dark conditions. Barramundi also have a sense of smell. Modes of communication in barramundi are poorly understood. (UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Barramundi are opportunistic predators. They eat microcrustaceans such as copepods and amphipods as juvenile fish under 40 mm. As larger juveniles they eat macrocrustaceans like Penaeidae and Palaemonidae. These crustacean prey are found mainly near the bottom of the water column, so this diet also protects juveniles from most of their predators, which hunt closer to the water surface. Mollusks are consumed to a lesser degree. When barramundi are around 80 mm, they begin to eat macrocrustaceans and pelagic bony fishes. Larger fish have diets of around 80% bony fish. Barramundi swallow their food whole, sucking their prey into their fairly large mouths. Moderate cannibalism is fairly common in barramundi (Davis, 1985). (Davis, 1985)
Although barramundi are opportunistic predators (Davis, 1985), they are also a prey species. The patterns present on the scales of juvenile barramundi (FAO, 1999), in combination with the fact that juveniles reside in protected mangroves and swamps (Moore, 1982; Russell, 1985; and FAO, 1999) suggests a need to protect against predators. There are several species that have been found to prey on juvenile barramundi. In an analysis of stomach contents Davis (1985) demonstrated that barramundi over 40 mm consume juvenile barramundi as part of their diet. Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) (Hitchcock, 2007) and file snakes (Acrochordus arafurae) (Shine, 1986) feed on both juvenile and adult barramundi. (Davis, 1985; Hitchcock, 2007; Luna, 2008; Moore, 1982; Russell and Garrett, 1985; Shine, 1986; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 1999)
Barramundi are predators and prey (Davis, 1985; Hitchcock, 2007; and Shine, 1986). They help support pelicans and file snakes, among other possible predators, as well as controlling the populations species on which they prey. (Davis, 1985; Hitchcock, 2007; Shine, 1986)
Barramundi are valuable both as recreational and commercial fish, with a high, fairly stable price (Luna, 2008). They are stocked in lakes and ponds for recreational fishing and are also fished in freshwater creeks and estuaries (Morgan, 2004). Barramundi are heavily farmed in cages, as well as in freshwater and saltwater ponds (Webster, 2002). Worldwide capture peaked in 2000 at 74,207 metric tonnes and declined to 57,074 tonnes caught in 2005 (FAO, 2008; but see Webster, 2002). Aquaculture of barramundi has grown rapidly with 1646 tonnes (4,357,000 USD) produced in 1984, 18,564 tonnes (70,720,000 USD) produced in 1994, and 30,970 tonnes (79,034,000 USD) produced in 2005. (Luna, 2008; Morgan, et al., 2004; UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 2008; Webster and Lim, 2002)
Since it is a white fish with delicate flavor, barramundi is also becoming popular in the United States. As of 2006, the indoor fish farming interest Australis, based in Massachusetts, was shipping 40,000 lbs of fish per week (Pierce, 2006). (Pierce, 2006)
Although barramundi have not been shown to have any negative impacts, as large piscivores, they have the potential to kill off prey species if introduced into a non-native habitat. Nile Perch (Lates niloticus), are related to barramundi and are responsible for extinctions of native cichlids in Lake Victoria after having been introduced there (Morgan, 2004). According to Morgan et al. (2004), barramundi have limited potential to cause the same problems if introduced into Lake Kununurra in Western Australia. (Morgan, et al., 2004)
This species is not listed as threatened or endangered by any international organization.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Brian Fulton-Howard (author), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Kevin Omland (editor, instructor), University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
specialized for swimming
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats fish
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
condition of hermaphroditic animals (and plants) in which the male organs and their products appear before the female organs and their products
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
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Hitchcock, G. 2007. Diet of the Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus breeding at Kerr Islet, North-Western Torres Strait. The Sunbird, 37/1: 23-27.
Luna, S. 2008. "Lates calcarifer, Barramundi: fisheries, aquaculture, gamefish, aquarium:" (On-line). FishBase. Accessed April 02, 2008 at http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/summary/speciessummary.php?genusname=Lates&speciesname=calcarifer.
Milton, D., S. Chenery. 2005. Movement patterns of barramundi Lates calcarifer, inferred from super(87)Sr/ super(86)Sr and Sr/Ca ratios in otoliths, indicate non-participation in spawning. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 301: 279-291.
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Morgan, D., A. Rowland, H. Gill, R. Doupé. 2004. The implications of introducing a large piscivore (Lates calcarifer) into a regulated northern Australian river (Lake Kununurra, Western Australia).. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management, 9/.75: 181-193. Accessed April 09, 2008 at http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=15349144&site=ehost-live.
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Shine, R. 1986. Ecology of a Low-Energy Specialist: Food Habits and Reproductive Biology of the Arafura Filesnake (Acrochordidae). Copeia, 1986/2: 424-437. Accessed April 22, 2008 at http://www.jstor.org/pss/1445000.
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UN Fish and Agricultural Organization, 2008. "Barramundi(=Giant seaperch) - Lates calcarifer" (On-line). FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture - Species fact sheets. Accessed April 30, 2008 at http://www.fao.org/fishery/species/3068.
Ward, R., B. Holmes, G. Yearsley. 2008. DNA barcoding reveals a likely second species of Asian sea bass (barramundi) (Lates calcarifer). Journal of Fish Biology, 72/2: 458–463. Accessed April 07, 2008 at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01703.x.
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