Alternate Title

Distribution, Abundance, and Feeding Habits of Juvenile Kingfish (Menticirrhus) Species Found in the North-Central Gulf of Mexico


Southern Kingfish (Menticirrhus americanus), Gulf Kingfish (Menticirrhus littoralis), and Northern Kingfish (Menticirrhus saxatilis) were collected by beam plankton trawl and seine along shoreline habitats in 2005 and 2006. Specific habitats included barrier island (surf zones and grass beds) and mainland (marsh edge and sandy shorelines) areas. Five hundred sixty-seven kingfish were collected during this study, with over 85% of the specimens collected in 2006. Densities of both M. americanus and M. littoralis peaked during summer, whereas densities of M. saxatilis peaked in spring. All three kingfish species co-occurred within surf zone and sandy shoreline habitats, but M. americanus was the dominant kingfish along protected sandy shorelines, and M. littoralis was the dominant kingfish along open surf zones. Several M. littoralis, which are known to be surf zone species, were also collected from mainland sandy shoreline. Only M. americanus was collected from marsh edges, and all three species were absent from grass beds. Stomachs of all three kingfish species at sizes < 15 mm standard length (SL) most often contained calanoid copepods. Larger M. americanus (16–60 mm SL) fed most frequently on mysids, larger M. littoralis (31–60 mm SL) fed most frequently on bivalves, and larger M. saxatilis (31–60 mm SL) fed most frequently on both mysids and amphipods. The diversity of prey items increased with size for all three Menticirrhus species. This research provides a useful descriptive report on the distribution, abundance, and feeding habits of juvenile Menticirrhus species found in the north-central Gulf of Mexico.