The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Terapon jarbua
Terapon jarbua
(Jarbua terapon)
Marine Fishes

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Terapon jarbua (Forsskål, 1775)

Common name: Jarbua terapon

Synonyms and Other Names: Holocentrus servus Bloch 1790, Grammistes annularis Bloch & Schneider 1801, Coius trivittatus Hamilton 1822, Terapon timoriensis Quoy & Gaimard 1825, Therapon bouzetianus Hombron & Jacquinot in Jacquinot & Guichenot 1853, Therapon gerager Montrouzier 1857, Terapon servus (Bloch 1790), Stereolepis inoko Schmidt 1931 (nomenclature derived from Fricke et al. 2021); crescent grunter, crescent perch, crescent-banded grunter, spiky trumpeter, thornfish, tigerfish, tiger perch

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The family Terapontidae are small- to medium-sized species of perch-like fishes, that can be diagnosed by the following combination of characters: the upper jaw does not extend past the center of the eye; two posterior opercular spines (lower spine is larger than the upper spine); and a single continuous dorsal fin that is highly arched containing 11-14 spines and 8-14 soft rays. Terapon jarbua can be distinguished from other terapontids by a large, exposed posttemporal bone with a serrated posterior edge; a long, stout lower opercular spine that extends past the margin of the operculum; 12-15 gill rakers on the lower gill arch; and a strongly arched and notched spinous dorsal fin with the second-to-last spine approximately half the length of the final spine (Vari 2001).

Terapon jarbua can be generally distinguished from all North American species by opercular spines, dorsal fin shape, and color pattern (3 to 4 downward curved dark stripes on body, black blotch on the upper middle portion of the spinous dorsal fin, and dark tips on both caudal fin lobes) and is superficially similar to North American species of the families Serranidae (groupers and sea basses), Haemulidae (grunts), Lutjanidae (snappers), and Moronidae (temperate basses). It can be distinguished from serranids by the number of opercular spines (2 vs 3 in Serranidae), length of the upper jaw (not reaching past center of eye vs reaching below or past eye in Serranidae), and dorsal fin spines (11-12 vs 2-11 in Serranidae) and shape (highly arched and notched vs even to slightly arched in Serranidae). It can be distinguished from haemulids by the presence of strong opercular spines (vs. no spines in Haemulidae). It can be distinguished from lutjanids by color pattern, number of lateral scales (greater than 70 vs. less than 60 in Lutjanidae), and vomerine and palatine teeth (absent in adults vs present in Lutjanidae). It can be distinguished from moronids by a continuous dorsal fin (vs. complete to nearly complete separation of spiny and soft dorsal fin in Moronidae), and 4 or fewer curving lateral stripes (vs. 4-9 straight, parallel solid or broken stripes in Moronidae).

Size: Up to 35 cm total length (Vari 2001).

Native Range: Indian and western Pacific oceans, including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, eastwards to Fiji, and between Australia and Japan (Vari 2001).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: A single individual was captured off Dauphin Island, Alabama in 2020.

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Terapon jarbua are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL202020201Mississippi Coastal

Table last updated 6/23/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Terapon jarbua is an inshore species found in groups near river mouths (Lieske and Myers 2004). Both juveniles and adults can often be found in brackish and fresh water, but spawning takes place in the sea (Randall et al. 1996). This species prefers sandy intertidal areas (Myers 1999) where the signature dark stripes on the body serve as camouflage, letting the fish blend in with the reflection of the water on the sand (Randall 1995). Terapon jarbua feeds on algae (Lieske and Myers 2004), benthic invertebrates, small fish, and occasionally scales from other fishes (Randall 1995). When threatened, this species is known for adopting a defensive posture with the body bent in the shape of a “C” with the fin spines erect and long opercular spines flared (Randall 1995).

Means of Introduction: Unknown, but possible aquarium release as this species is present but uncommon in the trade.

Status: Likely failed, as only a single individual has been observed.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: Terapon jarbua was identified in the Mediterranean Sea in 2009, likely arriving via the Suez Canal (Golani and Appelbaum-Golani 2010). A single specimen was captured in the tidal freshwater portion of the Schelde River, Belgium, in 2018, and hypothesized to be an aquarium release (Briene et al. 2019).

References: (click for full references)

Breine, J.M., E. Van den Bergh, T. Terrie, I. Lambeens, Y. Maes, L. Galle, and H. Verrreycken. 2019. First record of the target fish, Terapon jarbua (Forsskål, 1775) in the Zeeschelde, Belgium. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 222:151-153. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272771419301131

Fricke, R., W. N. Eschmeyer, and R. Van der Laan. 2021. Eschmeyer's Catalog of Fishes: Genera, Species, References. http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/fishcatmain.asp. Accessed on 04/20/2021.

Golani, D., and B. Appelbaum-Golani. 2010. First record of the Indo-Pacific fish the Jarbua terapon (Terapon jarbua) (Osteichthyes: Terapontidae) in the Mediterranean with remarks on the wide geographical distribution of this species. Scientia Marina 74(4):717-720.

Lieske, E, and R.F. Myers. 2004. Coral reef guide: Red Sea to Gulf of Aden, South Oman. Harper Collins, London, UK.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: a guide for divers and aquarists. Coral Graphics, Guam, USA.

Randall, J.E. 1995. Coastal fishes of Oman. University of Honolulu Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen, and R.C. Steene. 1996. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Vari, R.P. 2001. Terapontidae. Pages 3305-3320 in Carpenter, K.E., and V.H. Niem, eds. FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 5. Bony fishes part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae). FAO. Rome, Italy.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Neilson, M.E., Brown, M.E., and Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 5/4/2021

Peer Review Date: 5/4/2021

Citation Information:
Neilson, M.E., Brown, M.E., and Schofield, P.J., 2024, Terapon jarbua (Forsskål, 1775): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=3607, Revision Date: 5/4/2021, Peer Review Date: 5/4/2021, Access Date: 6/23/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/23/2024].

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