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The Indo-Pacific serranid fish genus Plectropomus Oken, subfamily Epinephelinae, is distinctive in its usual dorsal ray formula of VIII, 11; 3 antrorse spines on the lower margin of the preopercle; large canine teeth, including 1 to 4 on the midside of the lower jaw; and moderately elongate body (depth 2.95-3.9 in SL).
We recognize 7 species in the genus: P. areolatus (Rüppell) with a truncate caudal fin, 15 or 16 (usually 16) pectoral rays, and embedded scales in the interorbital space (P. truncatus is a synonym); P. laevis (Lacepède) with an emarginate caudal fin, usually 17 pectoral rays and 2 color phases, one whitish with broad black bars dorsally on body, yellow fins, and a scattering of small blue spots, the other brown with dark bars faint to absent and numerous small blue spots (P. melanoleucus is a synonym); P. leopardus (Lacepède) with an emarginate caudal fin, modally 16 pectoral rays. and numerous tiny blue spots; P. maculatus with an emarginate caudal fin, usually 16 pectoral rays, long gill rakers (raker at angle longer than gill filaments), relatively few blue spots of moderate size, some of which on head and anterior body are horizontally elongate, and no blue spots on pelvic fins; P. oligacanthus with elevated anterior soft portions of the dorsal and anal fins, usually 15 pectoral rays, and vertical blue lines anteriorly on body (in addition to spots); P. pessuliferus (Fowler) with an emarginate caudal fin, 16 pectoral rays, short gill rakers (raker at angle shorter than gill filaments), some spots on side of body vertically elongate, and blue spots on pelvic fins; and P. punctatus (Quoy and Gaimard) with a truncate to slightly emarginate caudal fin, usually 17 pectoral rays, and no blue spots (body brown with irregular pale markings, the young with pale dashes) (P. marmoratus is a synonym).
P. areolatus and P. laevis are wide-ranging in the Indo-Pacific; P. leopardus occurs in the western Pacific; P. maculatus is an Indo-Malayan species which extends its range down both the eastern and the western coasts of Australia; P. pessuliferus is divided into 2 subspecies: marisrubri, named as new from the Red Sea, and pessuliferus which ranges from Fiji to the western Indian Ocean (P. p. marisrubri differs in having numerous blue spots and short lines on the cheek); P. punctatus is confined to the western Indian Ocean.