Polyprion americanus, commonly known as Wreckfish or sometimes as Atlantic Wreckfish, are well-distributed marine species found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean oceans. Wreckfish are deep-water marine fish that dwell in caves and wreckage on the ocean floor. Keep an eye out for them when wreck diving or exploring caves, as they’re highly recognizable.
Their scientific name, Polyprion, which refers to their distinctive spiny fins, is derived from the Greek words poly, which means “many,” and prion, which means “saw.” In all fairness, the wreckfish appears to have a stylish mohawk.
Featured Image Credit: Philippe BOISSEL
The giant Wreckfish has a thick, wide body and a massive head with a prominent bottom lip. The Wreckfish weighs 80 lbs. and measures an average length of 6.5 feet, with reported cases going significantly way over the average. The body is coated with tiny, rigidly connected scales that extend along the base of the dorsal and anal fins.
The Wreckfish has prominent facial features, with large eyes and a mouth. With deeper markings and patches fading to yellowish on the abdomen, the back and flanks are dark brown in hue. Additional descriptions of them include having a silvery gloss on the bottom and a bluish-gray spine. Its fins are dark brown or black.
Wreckfish are confirmed carnivores. Since the Wreckfish live at the bottom, they are known to enjoy consuming squid and cuttlefish. Additionally, they also eat certain crabs and cephalopods that they discover living nearby. An unexpected behavior out of Wreckfish is that They may be highly opportunistic, much like the Black Sea Bass or other similar marine animals.
Most interestingly, a special case of a Wreckfish consuming a relatively small shark while it was feeding on a swordfish alongside its congregation. Wreckfish don’t possess teeth or a particularly powerful bite, so they resort to swallowing their prey whole – in this case, the wreckfish swallowed a shark.
Wreckfish are a solitary species, meaning they don’t associate with members of their species unless under special circumstances. They are found anywhere at depths between 150-3500 ft underwater. As we have mentioned before, Wreckfish get their name from living at the bottom of the ocean in underwater caves, but it has a particular interest in wreckage sites.
Credit: Paul MOINE
You can find Wreckfish anywhere that naval battles have taken place as it provides ample territory to be marked. They may be found on steep, jagged ocean beds and deepwater reefs, which offer food and refuge if they can’t find a cave or a wreck site.
Since Wreckfish are solitary fish, they only join members of their species with the sole purpose of reproducing. Wreckfish can start reproducing around the age of 8 and can live way past 60 years. Resorting to external fertilization, the female Wreckfish lays the eggs, and the male releases the sperm for it to be a successful endeavor.
Wreckfish spawn many times between January and mid-April. After being externally fertilized, the eggs are carried by the current to the coastline of Europe and then back to the southeastern coast of the United States as larvae and adults.
In regards to natural predators, Wreckfish don’t have one. However, juvenile Wreckfish are commonly hunted by large shark species. Natural habitats of Wreckfish are not particularly affected by man-made pollution. However, as classified by the IUCN, they are a threatened species.
The major threat to Wreckfish is overfishing practices. Since they are particularly a large fish species, their meat is highly sought after due to their sheer volume of it. Commercial anglers will go to lengths to harvest Wreckfish since there are economic incentives to do so.
Facts about the Wreckfish
- The largest Wreckfish caught on record was 6.9 ft and weighed 200 lbs.
- Because of how sharp their spines are, Wreckfish could use them as a defense mechanism.
- Wreckfish live for 60 years on average but can definitely reach 90 years.
- Wreckfish have no predators.
- Wreckfish are solitary and territorial fish.
Are Wreckfish dangerous to humans?
If you are wreck diving or even cave diving, you might run into the Wreckfish. While the sheer size will be intimidating at first, this fish species is not aggressive and poses no threat to humans whatsoever. Wreckfish don’t have sharp teeth, venom, or any means to cause serious damage to humans.
Do Wreckfish eat sharks?
While it’s not particularly part of their diet, there is video-documented evidence of Wreckfish swallowing whole little sharks. By no means do Wreckfish go out of their way to devour larger, more aggressive sharks, just those smaller than them.
Is a Wreckfish the same as a grouper?
While it is common to mistake them for one another, Wreckfish was accidentally discovered as a species by fishermen harvesting grouper, and on the line, this new fish got caught. Pretty soon, they discovered that the flesh was edible, and nowadays, they are commercial fish harvested for consumption.
Is Wreckfish high in mercury?
The likelihood of mercury exposure increases with the size and age of the Wreckfish. Man-made pollution of the seas has resulted in all fish carrying certain levels of mercury in their bodies, which can pose hazards. The Wreckfish’s bones can harm or obstruct the intestines and present a choking hazard, which isn’t necessarily exclusive to them.