Greater amberjack

(Seriola dumerili)

  • Phylum

  • Class

  • Order

  • Family

  • Genus

  • Species

Amberjack © Elisa Manganelli
A big amberjack with its characteristic oblique dark stripe around the eye © Elisa Manganelli

For those scuba divers who especially enjoy fish encounters, a huge greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) is certainly the biggest attraction in the Mediterranean Sea (besides the sharks in Lampione). Yet this amberjack is a very common species, known to live in every temperate and tropical sea of the world.

As other “famous” fishes like groupers or sea basses change their sex at a given point of their life, the greater amberjack is a gonochoric fish, meaning an amberjack is either male or female, and does not change its sex just like us human beings.

In our seas the reproduction takes place between late spring and early summer, when the normally pelagic big specimens approach the coast. It is then, indeed, that these encounters are possible, usually around seamounts.

Just like the blue runner, belonging to the same family, the newborn love to dwell under floating objects, where easy preys such as small crustaceans and mollusks adhere. It’s very common to find very small ones under the umbrella of some jellyfish, well sheltered from the predators.

Curious schools of youngsters, on the other hand, are everywhere near the coast between August and October. Their diet starts to include small fish and this is why they spread fear inside the schools of bogues and damselfish.

Big adults are very rare to spot. When we say “big” we mean up to a length of 2 m and weighing up to 50 kg. Only in Ustica spotting 20+ kg specimens is not exceptional, even schools of them. There are but few other fish as elegant as big greater amberjacks, with their silver coloration and that characteristic oblique dark stripe that crosses their eyes (see picture). They are even scary sometimes, one must admit, when they point right at you and avoid you only at the very end to restate who’s the boss.

In which itinerary do we spot it?