The dog snapper was first described by Bloch & Schneider (1801). It was originally referred to as Anthias jocu
(Bloch and Schneider, 1801) but was later changed to Lutjanus jocu (Bloch and Schneider, 1801).
Mesoprion litura Cuvier 1828 also refers to this snapper. Dog snappers are named for their large
canine teeth that can be seen even when the jaw is closed.
English language common names include dog snapper, dogtooth snapper, dogteeth snapper, dog's tooth snapper, dogteeth pargue,
dogtooth parge, pargue, snuggletooth snapper, jocu, and snapper.
Other names include barstebers (papiamento), bastaardbaars (dutch), bauna (portuguese), carde roulesse (french),
dentao (portuguese), jocu parra (spanish), kibirefuedai (japanese), pargo (spanish), pargo jocu (spanish), pargo
perro (spanish), pargo prieto (spanish), pargo rubio (spanish), pargue dent-chien (french), p'tit rouget (creole),
sarde dent chien (french), and vivaneau chien (french).
Lutjanus jocu is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts to Brazil, although it is rare north of
Florida. This fish is also found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean near St. Paul's Rocks and Ascension Island.
World distribution map for the dog snapper
The adult dog snapper is commonly found around coral reefs and rocky bottoms at depths of 16-100 feet (5-30 meters),
while the young can be seen in estuaries and have been known to go inshore and swim into rivers. The dog snapper
is one of the only lutjanids to be found in freshwaters. Dog snappers are solitary and wary fish, preferring secluded
areas of the reef.
- · Distinctive Features
This snapper has a relatively deep body, with long pectoral fins, emarginate or weakly forked caudal fin, rounded anal
fin, and a double dorsal fin.
Dog snapper swimming around a reef structure
© Luiz Rocha
- · Coloration
Dog snappers have olive green upper sides and backs, sometimes with narrow pale bars. The lower sides and belly are
light red and copper-colored. Under the lower edge of the eyes is a white triangular bar. The pectoral, ventral,
anal fins, and distal portions of the soft dorsal and caudal fins are reddish in color, while the rest of the dorsal
and caudal fins are olive green. The young have a horizontal blue line below the eye and across the opercle, which
turns into a row of spots on the adults.
Dog snapper - upclose
© Bob Klemow
The dog snapper has pronounced canine teeth in the upper jaw, one pair of which can be seen when the jaw is closed.
These canine teeth give the dog snapper a fierce look, hence its common name.
- ·Size, Age, and Growth
With an average length of 24 inches (60 cm), the adult dog snapper may reach a maximum length of 30 inches (74 cm).
The maximum weight known for this snapper is 20 lbs. (9.1 kg). Sexual maturity is obtained at lengths of
12-16 inches (30-40 cm).
Clinging crab (Mithrax spp.)
© George Ryschkewitsch
- · Food Habits
Dog snappers prey nocturnally on smaller fish and benthic invertebrates, including shrimps, crabs, gastropods, and cephalopods.
Spawning aggregation of dog snapper in the waters
© Doug Perrine
- · Reproduction
The dog snapper typically spawns in March, near Jamaica and the northeastern Caribbean, although they do spawn to a
lesser degree throughout their range. This snapper is similar to others in the Lutjanidae family in that its eggs
and larvae are planktonic, dispersed by the ocean currents. There is little known about the larvae and its development.
The post-larval stage eventually settles out of the plankton, onto suitable habitat that offers some protection from
predators. These juveniles are red/brown laterally and dorsally with yellow ventral fins. There may be an oblique eye
stripe. Eventually the juveniles move to coral reefs or rocky bottom habitats where they will live as adults.
Unidentified larval snapper
Caribbean reef shark - predator of the dog snapper
© George Ryschkewitsch
- · Predators
Large piscivorous fishes, including sharks and groupers, feed on the dog snapper. Larval and juvenile snappers
provide food for a variety of marine organisms.
- · Parasites
Platyhelminthes from the genus Euryhaliotrema have been found residing in the gills of various snapper species
including the dog snapper.
Importance to Humans
© Bob Klemow
As a good quality foodfish, dog snappers are caught mainly with handlines, gill nets, traps, seines, and spears.
Danger to Humans
Although they are commercially fished, the dog snapper has been linked to ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera is a toxin
that originates with dinoflagellates. These microalgae are found on dead coral and benthic macroalgae. Herbivorous
fish eat the coral and algae along with the dinoflagellates, and then are eaten by snappers. The toxins from the
dinoflagellates build up in the snapper's liver. When people eat snappers, if there is enough toxin, they will become
ill. Usually ciguatera is associated with stomach discomfort and weakness of the arms and legs. Generally these
feelings last for a day or two, and are not enough to cause serious pain in the persons affected.
This snapper is not listed as endangered or vulnerable with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The
IUCN is a global union of states, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations in a partnership
that assesses the conservation status of species.