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Tarpon Megalops atlanticus


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credit: Albert kok/CCSA

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Family: Elopidae, Tarpons view all from this family

Description The Atlantic tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, inhabits coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons, and rivers. Tarpons feed almost exclusively on schooling fish and occasionally crabs. Tarpons are capable of filling their swim bladder with air, like a primitive lung. This gives Tarpons a predatory advantage when oxygen levels in the water are low. Tarpons have been recorded at up to 250 centimetres (98 in) in length and weighing up to 161 kilograms (350 lb). Atlantic Tarpons are also known as the silver king.

In appearance, Tarpons are greenish or bluish on top and silver on the sides. The large mouth is turned upwards and the lower jaw contains an elongated bony plate. The last ray of the dorsal fin is much longer than the others, reaching nearly to the tail.

Atlantic Tarpons are found in the Atlantic ocean typically in tropical and subtropical regions, though it has been reported as far north as Nova Scotia and the atlantic coast of Southern France, and as far south as Argentina. As with all Elopiformes it is found in coastal area, spawning at sea. Diet includes smaller fish and crustaceans.

Tarpons are the official state saltwater fish of Alabama.

Dimensions Up to 8' (2.4 m); 283 lbs (128.4 kg).

Habitat Estuaries, tidal flats & salt marshes, Ocean or bay shallows, Rivers & streams.

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Texas, Eastern Canada.