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A giant sea bass, or Stereolepis gigas is a very large marine fish that is a member of the wreckfish family. Its habitat is limited to the eastern Pacific Ocean, and it is the largest type of bony fish to be found along the coasts of California, its offshore islands and Mexico. As the name suggests, the most distinguishing physical characteristic of this fish is its size. At maturity, the average giant sea bass will weigh about 60 pounds (27.2 kg). These fish might continue to grow after that, however, and very large specimens measuring more than 7 feet (2.13 m) long and weighing more than 560 pounds (254 kg) have been recorded.
The color of the giant sea bass as an adult differs a lot from its juvenile stage, so much so that juveniles are frequently mistaken for other fish. Juveniles have big, black spots and are a bright orange in color. As the juveniles age, the spots fade, and the fish becomes darker along with getting larger. By the time the giant sea bass reaches maturity, it is gray to solid black in color, and its underside is white. Interestingly, the adults have the ability to change color quickly, which scientist think is either a response to stress or a type of communication from one individual to another.
Giant sea bass are found only in a very limited area. Their range stretches from the very end of Baja California in Mexico to Humboldt Bay in northern California. This species also inhabits the northern section of the Gulf of California. For habitat, mature giant sea bass like to be around rocky areas or reefs with drop-offs and ledges that are close to kelp beds and are at depths of about 35-130 feet (about 10-40 m). Young giant sea bass are more often found along sandy bottoms or in kelp beds that are at depths of about 20-70 feet (about 6-21 m).
The giant sea bass is carnivorous. Although this species can swim very fast over a short distance, it can’t sustain a high speed and, because of that, it catches most of its prey on the sea bed. By rapidly opening its very large mouth, it is able to suck in organisms buried below the surface of the sea bed or crawling across the bottom. This fish preys on a variety of fish, such as sardines, mackerel and other bass. Its diet also includes stingrays, squid, octopuses and crustaceans.