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Were Dusky Groupers Really This Big In Ancient Times
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[Image: duskygrouper.jpg]

If you look closely at this Roman mosaic you can see a large grouper swallowing a human man head first. That almost seems unbelievable, because groupers aren't found to be that large. But perhaps in the past they really were that size?

Quote:Modern groupers are known to reach about 3.5 feet long, and close to 5 feet is just possible under absolutely perfect circumstances, but this suggests they were once even bigger. Even adjusting for artistic licence, we're likely looking at a species that once enjoyed far more abundant food resources and, as a result, grew to generally greater lengths - enough to enter "sea monster" territory, at least as far as Roman mosaic-makers were concerned.

Secondly, the mosaics consistently depict people hunting the groupers with poles and harpoons. That fishing method wouldn't work out in the deep Mediterranean waters where the dusky grouper is now found. Instead, it strongly suggests that the grouper once lived in shallow waters, and in the intervening centuries has been forced out to the deep water. That fits with references made by the Roman authors Ovid and Pliny the Elder, both of who mention anglers fishing for groupers in shallow waters.

A new picture is potentially starting to emerge, thanks to these mosaics. Before the advent of more extreme commercial fishing practices, the groupers lived in the shallows, which provided them with far greater access to food. Consequently, they grew bigger and stronger than they do today. That's backed up by modern reserves, which have been built in shallow waters for the groupers and have since seen the fish grow up to 40 inches long, as opposed to 24 inches in more "natural" sites. It's all a remarkable example of how ancient art can become modern science.
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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Were Dusky Groupers Really This Big In Ancient Times - by John L - 12-12-2011, 10:54 PM

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