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.

Chromileptes altivelis
Chromileptes altivelis
(Panther Grouper)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Chromileptes altivelis (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1828)

Common name: Panther Grouper

Synonyms and Other Names: barrimundi cod, humpback rockcod, humpback grouper, mouse grouper, high-finned grouper. Original combination: Serranus altivelis. No synonyms.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Commonly misspelled as Cromileptes.

The genus Chromileptes contains only one species, the panther grouper Chromileptes altivelis. Molecular taxonomists have recently subsumed Chromileptes into Epinephelus (Ma and Craig 2018); however, this designation has not yet been widely applied. The body is distinctly spotted (dark spots on a light background). The head profile is unique amongst the groupers, as it is depressed anteriorly and elevated posteriorly, rising sharply at the nape. Pectoral and caudal fins rounded. Dorsal fin X (17-19), anal fin III (9-10), pectoral rays 17-18 (Heemstra and Randall 1993; Randall et al. 1996).

Similar species: Greater soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus) has grey to dark body color, lacks dark body spots. Spotted soapfish (R. subifrenatus) has tan to brown body color and pale borders around dark spots.

Size: 70 cm TL

Native Range: From the Red Sea to South Africa and east to French Polynesia and the Pitcairn Islands group, including northern Australia, Lord Howe Island and southern Japan. Throughout the Indo-Pacific except the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Early reports (from Valenciennes in 1828 and Quoy & Gammard in 1824) listed the species from Hawai’i; however, these reports are considered erroneous. Reports from western Indian Ocean (Heemstra and Randall 1984, 1986) are unsubstantiated, except one from Kenya (Smith 1954) which seems valid (Heemstra and Randall 1993). From Randall and Heemstra (1991), Heemstra and Randall (1993), Carpenter and Niem (1999), Randall (1983 and 2005) and Mundy (2005).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, the species has been collected/observed in Tampa Bay (in 1984 [Courtenay 1995]), off Boca Raton (pre-1995 [Courtenay 1995]), in the Indian River Lagoon, near Cocoa (in 2003), off Pompano Beach (in 2005 and 2006 [REEF 2008]) and off West Palm Beach (in 2007 and 2011). A very large specimen (68 cm TL, approximately 15 lbs) was captured off Key Largo in December, 2012.

Scattered records from Hawaii are probably based on released aquarium fishes and the species was considered extirpated as of 2005 (Randall and Heemstra 1991; Mundy 2005).

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 Chromileptes altivelis are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL198420124Cape Canaveral; Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian; Tampa Bay
HI199120053Hawaii; Hawaii; Oahu

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: In its native range, this grouper occurs on coral reefs over a depth range of 1 to 40 m, typically less than 10 m. It is a protogynous hermaphrodite—individuals all begin as females then transition to males through time. In the wild, females mature at about 1.5 years and can start changing to males as early as 3 years.  By age 9, most fish are males.  Research from Australia indicates that panther grouper can live to at least 19 years in the wild. The species is an important food-fish throughout the Indo-West Pacific region; however, due to its carnivorous nature, it has been blamed for numerous cases of Ciguatera poisoning in both the native and introduced ranges. About 80% of the diet is fishes, while the remainder is mostly crustaceans (Heemstra and Randall 1993; Randall et al. 1996; Allen et al. 2003; Randall 1983, 1987, 2005; Williams et al. 2009).

Means of Introduction: Probably aquarium releases.

Status: Reported in Florida. Extirpated in Hawaii.

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: The species is under heavy pressure from the aquarium industry (especially juveniles) and the commercial fishing industry. Additionally, large regions of its native habitat have suffered severe reef degradation. It is one of only two groupers assessed by the IUCN as "Endangered" (Morris et al. 2000).

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann, and N. Deloach. 2003. Reef fish identification: tropical Pacific. New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, FL and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, CA.

Carpenter, K.E., and V.H. Niem. 1999. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO species identification guides for fishery purposes. Volume 4. Bony fishes part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). FAO, Rome.

Courtenay, W. 1995. Marine fish introductions in southeast Florida. American Fisheries Society Introduced Fish Section Newsletter 14:2-3.

Heemstra, P.C., and J.E. Randall. 1984. Serranidae. In W. Fischer and G. Bianchi (eds.).  FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes.  Western Indian Ocean (fishing area 51).  Rome, FAO.  Vol. IV.  241 p.

Heemstra, P.C., and J.E. Randall. 1986. Serranidae. Pages 509-537 in M.M. Smith, and P.C. Heemstra (eds.). Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Heemstra, P.C., and J.E. Randall. 1993. FAO species catalogue volume 16. Groupers of the world (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rockcod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis, No. 125. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Ma, K.Y., and M.T. Craig.  2018.  An inconvenient monophyly: and update on the taxonomy of the groupers (Epinephelidae).  Copeia 106: 443-456.

Morris, A.V., C.M. Roberts, and J.P. Hawkins. 2000. The threatened status of groupers (Epinephelinae). Biodiversity and Conservation 9:919-942.

Mundy, B.C. 2005. Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Museum Bulletin in Zoology 6. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: A field guide for divers and aquarists. Coral Graphics, Davie, FL.

Randall, J.E. 1983. Red Sea fishes. IMMEL Publishing, London.

Randall, J.E. 1987. Introductions of marine fishes to the Hawaiian Islands. Bulletin of Marine Science 41:490-502.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, HI.

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

Randall, J.E., and P.C. Heemstra. 1991. Revision of Indo-Pacific groupers (Perciformes: Serranidae: Epinephelinae), with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 20:1-332.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). 2008. Exotic species sighting program and volunteer survey project database, accessed March 10, 2008.

Smith, J.L.B. 1954. Four rare serraniform fishes from East Africa. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, series 12 7:925-933.

Williams, A.J., C.R. Davies, B.D. Mapstone, L.M .Currey, D.J. Welch, G.A. Begg, A.C. Ballagh, J.H. Choat, C.D. Murchie, and C.A. Simpfendorfer. 2009. Age-based demography of humpback grouper Chromileptes altivelis: implications for fisheries management and conservation. Endangered Species Research 9:67-79.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 3/26/2021

Peer Review Date: 8/13/2015

Citation Information:
Schofield, P.J., 2024, Chromileptes altivelis (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1828): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=966, Revision Date: 3/26/2021, Peer Review Date: 8/13/2015, Access Date: 7/17/2024

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 [7/17/2024].

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