Yellowtail snapper

October 17, 2011, 4:02 pm
Content Cover Image

Underwater photograph of Yellowtail snapper. Creative Commons

The yellowtail snapper (scientific name: Ocyurus chrysurus) is a member of the snapper family (Family Lutjantidae) that lives among coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.


Yellowtail snapper. Source: ''Reef Fish Identification'', New World Publications © 1994.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)
Order:-------- Perciformes
Family:-------- Lutjantidae (Snappers)
Species:----------- Ocyurus chrysurus (Bloch, 1791)

Physical Description

Yellowtail snappers range from 30 to 75 centimeters in length.  The long tapered body manifests silver-white in color with a bright yellow strip running down the midbody to the yellow tail.

Each individual of this species exhibits two types of teeth; the fine, densely packed villoform teeth are located on both the upper and lower jaws, while the canine teeth, a defining characteristic of snappers, are located only on the upper jaw.  The lower jaw reaches slightly beyond the upper jaw.


The species distribution spans the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts, USA and Bermuda southward to southeastern Brazil, ias well as in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

caption Distribution of yellowtail snapper. Florida Museum of Natural History.



Yellowtail snappers inhabit coastal waters, mostly around coral reefs.  Juveniles are usually found over weed beds.

Feeding Behavior

Ocyurus chrysurus is a generalist carnivore that feeds chiefly at night on a combination of plankton and benthic animals including fish, crustaceans, worms, gastropods and cephalopods. Juveniles feed primarily on plankton. 

caption Larvae of yellowtail snapper. US Fish and Wildlife Service.


Individuals of the species usually swim considerably above the bottom and quite often form aggregations.


Spawning occurs throughout the year, with peaks at different times in different areas.  Spawning occurs offshore during the new moon in the water column.  After the eggs hatch, the larvae enter the pelagic stage until they reach about ten millimeters in length and settle onto the reef.  They reach sexual maturity at 25 to 30 centimeters in length and they may live from six to fourteen years.


Sharks and other large predatory fishes, including the great barracuda, mackerel and grouper, in addition to other snapper species, feed on adult yellowtail snappers.  A wide variety of predators feed on larvae and juveniles.

Conservation Status

The yellowtail snapper is not considered to be a taxon at risk.

References and Further Reading

  • Ocyurus chrysurus (Bloch, 1791)
  • Snapper. Humann, P. and N. Deloach (Editor), 1994. Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348078
  • Deloach, N. 1999. Reef Fish Behavior, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. New World Publications, Inc. Jacksonville, FL. ISBN: 1878348280


Life, E. (2011). Yellowtail snapper. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/157187


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