French grunt

December 10, 2011, 7:54 pm
Content Cover Image

French grunt. Photo by Florent Charpin.

The French grunt (scientific name: Haemulon flavolineatum) is a member of the grunt family (Family Haemulidae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.  Grunts derive their common name from the grunting sound they make with their pharylgeal teeth.


caption French grunt. Source: ''Reef Fish Identification'', New World Publications © 1994


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)
Order:-------- Perciformes
Family:-------- Haemulidae (Grunts)
Species:----------Haemulon flavolineatum (Desmarest, 1823)

Physical Description

French grunts range from 15 to 30 centimeters in length. They have a streamlined body with a forked tail, and have a series of yellow stripes on a bluish-white background. The yellow stripes below the lateral line are diagonal while the stripes located above the lateral line are horizontal.


This species exhibits a subtropical and tropical (34°N to 33°S) distribution. In the Western Atlantic; the range extends from Bermuda and South Carolina and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil.  They occur throughout the Caribbean Sea and along the coastal zone of Central America.


H. flavolineatum is found on coral reefs in water depths of four to 60 meters. Individuals of this taxon are usually observed swimming over sand and rock bottoms near the reef. Young juveniles often found in sea-grass beds.

Feeding Behavior

French grunts are carnivores that whose diet is made up of mostly small crustaceans.  They hang around the reef during the day. At sunset, they form schools that travel to foraging areas up to half a mile away following trails along the bottom. When they reach their feeding grounds, they split up and forage solitarily for the rest of the night. Before sunup, they regroup and return home.


Because they feed at night, French grunts usually spend their daytime hours hiding under ledges or within the braches of elkhorn coral.  At times, individuals of this species will form very large aggregations. 


French grunts are pelagic spawners. Their larvae enter the planktonic stage before settling in a nursery area such as shallow back reefs or sea-grass beds. When they reach maturity, recruits move to the reefs and join the adult populations. French grunts may live for approximately eight years.


During the day, French grunts may be found in mixed-species schools with other grunt family species.

Conservation Status

The French grunt is not considered to be a taxon at risk.


Studies at the Saba Reef, one of the richest fish assemblages in the Caribbean Basin, have indicated the chief threats to the french grunt and other reef fishes are overfishing and the residual impacts of the chemical dispersant used by the USA in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Studies by Burke et al. suggest that concentrations of dispersant and other water pollutants are of particular concern in critcal lagoon nurseries; this research implies that the toxicity of residual dispersant may be much more significant to reef fishes than the actual petroleum release of an underwater oil spill.

References and Further Reading

  • J.S.Burke, W.J.Kenworthy and L.L.Wood. 2009. Ontogenetic patterns of concentration indicate lagoon nurseries are essential to common grunts stocks in a Puerto Rican bay. Worldwide
  • Encyclopedia of Life. Species curator: C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Haemulon flavolineatum (Desmarest, 1823)
  • P.Humann and N.Deloach (Editor) 1994. Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348078
  • N.Deloach. 1999. Reef Fish Behavior, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348280
  • Jeffrey T. Williams, Kent E. Carpenter, James L. Van Tassell, Paul Hoetjes, Wes Toller, Peter Etnoyer, Michael Smith. 2010. Biodiversity Assessment of the Fishes of Saba Bank Atoll, Netherlands Antilles. PloS One. 5(5): e10676.


McGinley, M. (2011). French grunt. Retrieved from


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