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Atlantic Tarpon


Megalops atlanticus

Today's Research for Tomorrow's Oceans

Species Type:


Common Name(s):



Tarpon can grow to be 4–8 ft (1.2–2.4 m) long and weigh 60–280 lb (27–127 kg).


Larval tarpon don't forage food, instead they absorb nutrients in the water. As they grow older, they begin eating zooplankton, insects and small fish. At full size, these nocturnal hunters will feed on larger fish, swallowing them whole.

Range & Habitat:

Tarpon can survive in both freshwater and saltwater habitats due to their adaptable swim bladders. They start their lives in freshwater environments and move out into the open ocean as they mature. Tarpon can be found along the western Atlantic coast, eastern Atlantic coast, and along the coastlines of Southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti and Australia.


Tarpon have special lung like features in their swim bladder that allow them to breathe oxygen from the surface if there isn’t enough readily available to them in their habitat. Tarpon live in mangrove communities, bays, estuaries, and can even travel upstream to nearby freshwater rivers. Despite the fact that they spawn year round and produce 12 million eggs during their lifespan, Tarpons are still listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.