- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
White grunt (Haemulon)
The white grunt is tapered at both ends, and the body is somewhat deeper toward the front, with a sloped forehead and a forked tail. The coloration is variable; overall, they can be light gray, almost white, with shades of light yellow or blue, or they can be a darker gray. The head has narrow, horizontal blue and yellow stripes that become broken lines on the rest of the body. On the sides, each scale is tipped with bronze, producing a checkered pattern. The underbelly is white, and the inside of the mouth is red. The scales above the lateral line are larger than those below.
The two dorsal fins are connected. The first has 12 spines; the second has 15 to 17 rays, usually 16. The anal fin has three spines and eight to nine rays, usually nine. The pectoral fin has 16-17 rays.
White grunt are carnivorous predators that feed on shrimp, crabs, mollusks, worms and small fish. They are bottom feeders, rooting in the sand and bottom matter near reefs.
The white grunt is an abundant fish and has a wider range than other species of grunt. It occurs in the western Atlantic from 39 degrees north latitude to 23 degrees south, or from Chesapeake Bay in Maryland through the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Florida Keys southward to Brazil.
Although found both inshore and offshore, the white grunt usually stays within the outer reef areas. They live in depths of 10 to 130 feet, though they are most abundant in water less than 80 feet deep. Like other grunts, they are drawn to structure, congregating on patch reefs, around coral formations or rock piles, but they also inhabit sandy and hard bottoms. Schools travel in the shadows during the day, staying along the edges of reefs and at the base of coral formations. Juveniles are common inshore in grass beds.
They live in subtropical waters with an average annual temperature of 81 F and are said to be more tolerant of cool water than most other grunt species.
- The name grunt is derived from the grunting noises these fish make. They do this by grinding their pharyngeal teeth, and the sound is amplified by their swim bladder.
- Like many grunts, white grunt engage in territorial kissing behavior, during which two contenders come face-to-face, press their open mouths together and push on each other.
- White grunt may be the most common species of grunt.
- There have been reports of ciguatera poisoning from eating white grunt. Ciguatera is a toxin originating in a specific kind of algae that colonizes coral reefs. The toxin moves up the food chain, accumulating in the heaviest concentrations in the flesh of the largest predators.
- White grunt are often seen in saltwater aquariums.