Great Barracuda photographed in St. Lucia on a shallow reef.
Barracuda Use Sharp Teeth to Prey on Other Fish
Found across the globe in tropical seas, except the east Pacific, the great barracuda is typical of the approximately 20 species of barracuda. It may be distinguished from other barracuda by the black spots on its lower sides. It has a long, slender body, a pointed head and two rows of razor-sharp teeth.
Juvenile great barracuda usually live among sea grasses and mangroves where they are hidden from predators. In their second year, they typically move to coral reefs. Sometimes found in the open sea, they often remain near the surface, though they may be found as deep as 325 feet.
Sight-oriented, great barracuda locate their prey visually, swimming as fast as 36 miles per hour to swallow small prey whole or using their sharp teeth to rip larger prey into pieces. They prey on a wide variety of fish, including anchovies, groupers, grunts, herrings, jacks, killifishes and mullets. Few predators are able to catch barracuda, but sharks, tuna and goliath groupers may prey on smaller adults.
Although barracuda have formidable arrays of teeth and the disconcerting habit of curiously following divers and swimmers, attacks on humans are rare. Most often, an attack consists of a single strike when the fish tries to steal prey from a spear or mistakes a shiny object for a fish. While serious, attacks are seldom lethal, but can result in lacerations and the loss of some tissue.