Despite spending the majority of their lives in coastal waters, tarpon actually begin life far from it. Spawning takes place offshore in the Gulf Stream waters of the Atlantic Ocean (about 20 miles east of Florida) and in the Gulf of Mexico (about 150 miles west of Florida). This has been verified through both satellite tagging and the capture of tarpon larvae. Tarpon have a unique larvae phase, called leptocephalus, that they share with bonefish, ladyfish and eels. In the first development stage, leptocephali have a limited ability to adjust for the ocean’s salty environment. Therefore, they must be born in waters with stable salinity. This explains why tarpon spawn offshore. If these leptocephali were in Florida Bay, the tide change would alter the salinity of the water and the larvae would die from either shrinking (in higher salinity) or exploding (in lower salinity). Ironically, scientists conducting research projects in the 1970s and 1980s tried to discover tarpon eggs and larvae by chasing nearshore tarpon schools. It was not until the 1990s that large numbers of larvae were discovered 150 miles west of St. Petersburg, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. Another interesting aspect of leptocephalus larvae is their unique behavior of being swimming machines that do not eat, as opposed to the larvae of, say, snapper or billfish, which feed immediately after birth. Instead, leptocephalus larvae have long, slender bodies and very low energy requirements, and they avoid predation by being transparent. During this phase, their teeth point outward and work similarly to a weed guard on a fly to prevent items from entering their mouth. There has been some discussion in scientific literature about whether the teeth are used to pierce jellyfish and suck out nutrients — but this is still a topic of debate.