Fun Atlantic Tarpon Facts For Kids

Rhea Nischal
Jan 05, 2023 By Rhea Nischal
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Discover fascinating Atlantic tarpon facts about its predators, body, fishing, habitat, and more!
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.4 Min

The Atlantic tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, is one of two species of tarpons, the other being the Pacific tarpon. It is a member of the family Megalopidae.

It is also commonly known as the silver king, the sabalo real, and the grand écaille. It is also commonly referred to as the silver king by anglers as it reflects bright light from its large silver scales as it jumps out of the water into the air.

It is a game fish that is identified by its characteristic bony throat plate and elongated last dorsal fin. It possesses silvery, large, and thick scales.

It can grow up to 6 ft (1.8 m) and usually weighs 100 lb (45.4 kg). It can, however, weigh more than 355 lb (161 kg)!

It is a slow-growing species that attains reproductive maturity at six to seven years of age. It looks similar to its cousin, the Pacific tarpon.

This dazzling fish can be found inshore in the warmer regions of the Atlantic Ocean, on Central America's Pacific side, as well as in rivers. It is native to the Atlantic ocean's warm coastal parts.

The Megalops atlanticus can be seen dwelling in mangrove lagoons and bays. It can also travel into fresh water from rivers.

It has also been observed that these fish break out of the water to gulp air as an extra source of oxygen! This fish is prized by sport fishers for its fighting spirit, but not for its flesh. It is a protected marine species as it has a conservation status of Vulnerable as per the IUCN's Red List.

It is threatened by predators, fishing, urbanization, human activities, habitat degradation, dams, and pollution. Keep reading to learn more fun facts about the habitat, predators, fishing, and more of this fish!

If you enjoyed reading our Atlantic tarpon fun facts, you must check out our cool African catfish facts for kids and African arowana interesting facts!

Atlantic Tarpon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Atlantic tarpon?

The Atlantic tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, is a silvery sport fish that is related to the ladyfish and the bonefish. It is found in the warmer parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

What class of animal does an Atlantic tarpon belong to?

The Atlantic tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, belongs to the class Actinopterygii and the genus Megalops.

How many Atlantic tarpons are there in the world?

The exact number of these fish is not known yet due to a lack of studies. This species of fish isn't commercially harvested. It is a sport fish that is released into the ocean after being caught.

This fish does face some threats to survival though. It is debated that the tarpon gets tired and typically dies from a lack of oxygen or is consumed by its predators like the hammerhead shark and the bull shark. It also faces the threat of habitat degradation.

Anglers practice catch-and-release with these fish. They required a tag in 1989 to do this, at a cost of $50.

Anglers were also required to provide details to the Florida Marine Research Institute about their catch, such as the location and date, weight and length, and the number of anglers engaging in tarpon fishing. When this permit was issued, tarpon killings dropped to 70 in 1998 from 342 in 1989.

Where does an Atlantic tarpon live?

This sport fish inhabits both the eastern as well as western sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It can be seen from Senegal to the Congo in the eastern region of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the western Atlantic Ocean, this tarpon can be seen inhabiting coastal waters near the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies. It is also present in Cape Hatteras, Nova Scotia, Bermuda, and Argentina.

It has also been spotted near Coiba Island and the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal. This fish is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean.

What is an Atlantic tarpon's habitat?

The Atlantic tarpon prefers a habitat with warm water. It can be spotted in bays, mangrove-lined lagoons, coastal water regions, and estuaries, with temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates.

The typical depth of its habitat can be as deep as 98 ft (30 m). The tarpon is a marine fish but it can endure euryhaline environments.

It is anadromous and can be seen traveling to freshwater from bays and river mouths. This tarpon can also endure a lack of oxygen in the water as it has an advanced air bladder that lets it inhale oxygen from the surface of the water.

It has been observed that the Atlantic tarpon is thermophilic, meaning that it can die due to a rapid decrease in temperature. When the temperature drops, the tarpon moves to deeper waters that are warmer.

Who do Atlantic tarpons live with?

These fish can be solitary and they forage alone. However, schools of this fish are also seen that comprise 20-200 fish.

How long does an Atlantic tarpon live?

The male Atlantic tarpon can live a life of over 30 years whereas females can have a life longer than 50 years. A female Atlantic tarpon in captivity has been recorded to live for 63 years!

How do they reproduce?

An adult female tarpon has the ability to spawn 12 million eggs. These fish have been observed to spawn all year round but they typically spawn in May, June, and July.

They are anadromous and migrate offshore to spawn. After this, the larvae (leptocephalus) are moved to inshore nurseries by the water current.

Babies of this fish species undergo a leptocephalus larval stage, which can only be seen in the true eels, ladyfish, and bonefish that are closely related to the Atlantic tarpon. A ribbon-like leptocephalus transforms into a juvenile tarpon after undergoing three stages of development.

Stage one of leptocephali lasts for two to three months and these leptocephali can grow up to 0.2-1.1 in (6-28 mm), with the shape of their head changing and their body getting thicker. Stage two goes on for 20-25 days in which the larvae don't grow.

The third is the final stage and it lasts for seven to eight weeks. In this stage, the larvae become juveniles and attain a length of 0.5 in (40 mm).

In this stage, the pigmentation of their body also becomes more profuse. Juveniles have to breathe through atmospheric oxygen.

They are obligate air breathers that need to break out of the water to survive. Juvenile tarpon males and females attain sexual maturity at the age of six to seven years when they are 4 ft (48 in) long.

What is their conservation status?

The tarpon has a conservation status of Vulnerable as per the IUCN's Red List. The population trend of this marine species is declining steadily. It faces a variety of threats such as fishing, predation, urbanization, human activities, dams, and pollution.

Atlantic Tarpon Fun Facts

What do Atlantic tarpons look like?

Atlantic tarpons range between 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) in length. They appear to have a greenish-black or dark blue dorsal side. The dorsal side also might be brassy. They also have characteristic dazzling silver-colored sides that possess large scales.

The caudal fin is forked and their faces are slightly upturned and have lobed, soft fins. Their distinguishing feature is that they have a modified swim bladder that allows them to inhale atmospheric oxygen. This quality makes them tolerant to waters that lack oxygen.

The Atlantic tarpon has a modified swim bladder that allows it to breathe through the atmosphere!

How cute are they?

It is an iconic Florida sport fish due to its incredible strength, dazzling beauty, and large size. It is quite beautiful and it has a silvery shiny body.

How do they communicate?

They have been observed to communicate with each other by thumping their modified swim bladder. This sound is also used when a predator is nearby.

How big is an Atlantic tarpon?

Atlantic tarpons range between 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) in length. Females are typically larger than males. The longest length of an Atlantic tarpon is the shortest length of one of its predators, the bull shark!

How fast can an Atlantic tarpon swim?

This unique marine creature can swim at a top speed of 35 mph (56 kph). It is also renowned for its ferocious fighting spirit.

How much does an Atlantic tarpon weigh?

They range between 100-355 lb (45.4-161 kg) in weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no particular names for tarpon males and females based on their gender.

What do you call a baby Atlantic tarpon?

A baby tarpon can be referred to as a larva, juvenile, or leptocephalus, depending upon its stage of growth.

What do they eat?

They are predators of coastal waters and they consume fish primarily. Their diet varies with their development stage. Stage one larvae get their nutrition from the seawater directly.

Small juvenile tarpons consume small fish, zooplankton, and insects. As they grow, they do not consume zooplankton primarily. They instead feed on fish and large invertebrates like crabs and shrimps.

Adults are known to consume marine catfish, sardines, crabs, shrimps, Atlantic needlefish, mullets, and pinfish. These coastal predators are known to feed at night as well as day. Adult tarpons swallow their victim as a whole.

Eggs and larvae of this species are known to become prey to small fish and zooplankton. Juvenile tarpons are also preyed upon by piscivorous birds. The main predators of adult tarpons include sharks like the hammerhead shark and the bull shark. Alligators and porpoises are also known to prey on these adults.

Are they dangerous?

These tarpon fish can spook easily and they show tiredness when around humans. They have, however, injured humans by accident. Injuries happen usually when anglers attempt to release the tarpon fish after fighting with them to catch them. A tarpon has even killed an angler with its violent thrashing. Despite this, they do not feed on humans.

Would they make a good pet?

These tarpons have been classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN's Red List. Thus, these tarpons wouldn't make great pets.

Did you know...

The commercial sale of tarpon is prohibited in Florida!

The tarpon is considered to be a prized game fish. However, the flesh of the tarpon isn't liked much in the United States as it is bony and hard to clean.

The tarpon is considered a delicacy in the West Indies, Africa, and Panama, where it is sold on a small scale.

How many species of tarpon are there?

There are only two species of tarpons, namely, the Indo-Pacific tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides) and the  Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus).

How many eggs do Atlantic tarpon lay?

An Atlantic tarpon can spawn up to 12 million eggs.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our sandfish surprising facts and Amur pike interesting facts pages!

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Atlantic tarpon coloring pages!

Atlantic Tarpon Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Seawater creatures, zooplankton (copepods and ostracods), insects, small fish, invertebrates

What Type of Animal were they?

Carnivores

Average Litter Size?

12,000,000 eggs

How Much Did They Weigh?

100-355 lb (45.4-161 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

in warm parts of ocean and rivers

Where Do They Live?

the western and eastern atlantic ocean

How Long Were They?

6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Actinopterygii

Genus

Megalops

Family

Megalopidae (Elopidae)

Scientific Name

Megalops atlanticus

What Do They Look Like?

Silver, greenish-black, dark blue

Skin Type

Wet, slimy scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

predators, fishing, urbanization, human activities, habitat degradation, dams, pollution

What is their Conservation Status?

Vulnerable
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Written by Rhea Nischal

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

Rhea Nischal picture

Rhea NischalBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

A background in Business Administration and Management from MCM DAV College, Rhea has led her to work for her father's global business. However, her passion for content production, where she manages operations to ensure all processes run smoothly. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the piano and spending time with her one-year-old nephew.

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Fact-checked by Gowri Rao

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gowri Rao picture

Gowri RaoBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

With a bachelor's degree in Economics from Krea University, Gowri is a highly skilled data analyst and an expert in regression and causation modeling. Her interests in economic trends, finance, and investment research complement her professional expertise. In addition to her professional pursuits, Gowri enjoys swimming, running, and playing the drums, and she is also a talented tutor.

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