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Its color is typically greyish red, but it can change color from bright red to copper red. It has a dark stripe running across its eye if observed from the top when it is under water. This species can reach a length of 89 cm (35 in), though most do not exceed 40 cm (16 in). The greatest recorded weight for this species is 20 kg (44 lb). The mangrove snapper can be confused with the Cubera snapper or black snapper, Lutjanus cyanopterus. Mangrove snapper are typically much smaller than Cubera, but when they are of similar size, the two species can only be distinguished by examining the tooth patch on the inside roof of the mouth. Many specimens caught in Florida, specifically Punta Gorda, are actually misidentified dogtooth or dog snapper, Lutjanus jocu. The best way to distinguish between the two species is dog snapper has a lighter triangle of color with a blue band under the eye and large, sharp fangs in the front (canines), hence its common name. These fangs can deliver a painful bite, even in a small fish. The mangrove snapper feeds mostly on small fishes and crustaceans. It was also observed as systematically waiting under maternal colony of Buffy flower bat for falling bats near the entrances of Lucayan cavern, Bahamas.
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