Our Sexy Fish this week is Red Grouper. Red grouper are easily recognized by their color and by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. The fin has a long second spine and an unnotched interpine membrane. Most groupers have a notched dorsal spine membrane and a third spine longer than the second. The body is deep brownish-red overall, with occational white spots on the sides. Tiny black specks dot the cheeks and operculum. The red grouper is most closely related to the Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, which has several verticle bars and blotches, and is found more commonly on coral reefs in the West Indies. Red grouper are distributed from North Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The species is most abundant along Florida’s east and west coasts, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. It inhabits ledges, crevices, and caverns of rocky limestone reefs, and also lower-provile, live-bottom areas in waters 10 to 40 feet deep. The red grouper is a protogynous hermaphrodite, and females are capable of reproducing at 4 years of age. Spawning takes place from March to July. Females usually release an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that remain at the surface for 30-40 days before settling to the bottom. The maximum age of the red grouper is 25 years, with older fish reaching a size of 32.5 inches and 25 pounds. Red groupers usually ambush their prey and swallow it hole, preferring crabs, shrimp, lobster, actopus, squid and fish that live close to reefs.