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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
Family Lethrinidae
updated Sep 2020
Where seen? These large-scaled fishes are sometimes seen on some of our shores, among seagrasses.

What are emperors? Emperors belong to Family Lethrinidae. According to FishBase: the family has 5 genera and 39 species in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Some can reach 1m long. They are sometimes also called emperor-snappers.

Features: Body typically fish-shaped with large scales in a 'distinctive pattern' -- a kind of diamond pattern. They have large eyes, thick lips and canine teeth. Young fishes tend to be found nearer the shore while adults are found offshore.

What do they eat? They hunt on the sea bottom for a variety of small animals. These are picked off by sight, or the fishes may sift through the sand by taking a mouthful and filtering the edible bits out through gill rakers. Those with molar-like teeth crunch on hard-shelled animals. Most feed at night, usually in sandy or rubble areas near reefs.

Baby emperors: In some species, females can change gender to males.

Human uses: Large species are important commercially as seafood. In some countries, they are the most important catch by weight.

Status and threats: None of our emperors are listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Over-collection and over-fishing can also impact local populations.

Some Emperors on Singapore shores

Family Lethrinidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Jeffrey K. Y. Low, 1998. A Guide to the Common Marine Fishes of Singapore.
**from WORMS

  Family Lethrinidae
  Lethrinus amboinensis
Lethrinus erythropterus
Lethrinus harak
*Lethrinus lentjan
(Pink ear emperor)
Lethrinus nebulosus
(Spangled emperor)
Lethrinus rhodopterus=**Lethrinus harak

  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
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