Reef Fishes of the Sea of Cortez: The Rocky-Shore Fishes of the Gulf of California, Revised Edition 9781477306925

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Reef Fishes of the Sea of Cortez: The Rocky-Shore Fishes of the Gulf of California, Revised Edition
 9781477306925

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REEF FISHES OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ

Number Forty-four The Corrie Herring Hooks Series

THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

REEF FISHES OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ The Rocky-Shore Fishes of the Gulf of California REVISED EDITION

DONALD A. THOMSON LLOYD T. FINDLEY ALEX N. KERSTITCH I L L U S T R A T E D BY

Alex N. Kerstitch

Tor Hansen

Chris van Dyck

Concepcion Jopolobampo

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FIGURE 25. Zoogeographical subdivisions of Gulf of California inshore fishes (based on Walker, 1960).

found from San Felipe or Puerto Peiiasco to Cabo San Lucas or Mazatlan. The relative abundance of the species in the Gulf of California is also included in this section. A species is considered abundant if it is found in large numbers throughout its principal range. A species is considered common if it is taken in most collections and frequently observed. A species is considered uncommon if it is infrequently collected or observed on the reefs. Rare species are those known from only a few specimens. In Figure 25 we use a modification of the zoogeographical subdivisions of Walker (1960) when relating relative abundance to distribution. The upper Gulf includes the 34

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TINSEL SQUIRRELFISH candil

Sargocentron suborbitalis

(Gill, 1863)

DISTRIBUTION.

PHOTOGRAPH.

This species ranges from the central Gulf (Isla San Pedro Martir) to Ecuador and to the far offshore islands except the Revillagigedos. It is DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. This species had been placed in the genera common along the shallow rocky shores of Holocentrus and Adioryx. Now placed in the the central and lower Gulf. genus Sargocentron (Matsuura and Shimizu, ECOLOGY. 1982), it may be easily distinguished from the Squirrelfishes, primarily nocturnal, hide in Panamic soldierfish (Myripristis leiognathos) small caves and crevices during the day. Ocby its prominent preopercular spine and long casionally they share their refuge with the third anal spine (both lacking in Myripristis) Panamic soldierfish, although they are more and its less intense red coloration. The body is often found apart. Unlike M. leiognathos, they silvery with a rosy-to-violet tint and lacks con- do not usually form large aggregations and are spicuous markings on the sides except at night often seen near the splash zone in depths of when two oblique posteriodorsal dark bars ap- less than 10 ft (3 m), where they dart between pear along the body. S. suborbitalis is the only large boulders when approached. They feed species of the genus in the eastern Pacific. at night, mostly on small crustaceans, after D . X I + 13-14; A. IV, 9. emerging from their daytime shelters (Hobson, 1965a). Adult, by Alex Kerstitch; see also Figure 32; grows to about 10 in. (254 mm).

60

FAMILY FISTULARIIDAE Cornetfishes

(Peces corneta)

The cornetfishes are elongated, depressed-bodied fishes with a greatly extended tubular snout, a relatively small mouth, and a long thin filament extending from the middle of the caudal fin (see Figure 33). They are closely related to the trumpetfishes (Aulostomidae), which are more robust and lack the caudal filament. The family contains only four species in one genus but is represented throughout the warm oceans of the world. Two species occur in the Gulf of California. No trumpetfishes have been recorded from the Gulf, but Aulostomus chinensis, an Indo-west Pacific migrant, has been recorded in Panama and several oceanic islands in the tropical eastern Pacific (Rosenblatt et al., 1972). REFERENCES.

Fritzsche (1976).

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FIGURE 33. The reef cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii, displaying its barred and striped phases. This cornetfish assumes a barred pattern (upper fish) when stationary on the bottom. When swimming, the bars fade and thin blue stripes appear (lower fish). This remarkable photograph was taken at the instant the lower fish began to swim away. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.)

61

Cornetfishes

FISTULARIIDAE

Peces corneta

REEF CORNETFISH pez corneta

Fistularia commersonii

Ruppell, 1838

ECOLOGY.

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

Young adult, 18.3 in. (465 mm), by Alex Kerstitch; see also Figure 33; grows to about 4 ft (1.2 m).

According to observations made by Hobson (1968), the reef cornetfish (discussed as F. petimba) is a stalking predator that actively hunts such ecologically diverse species as snake eels, DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. The systematics of the genus Fistularia has small blennioid fishes, herrings, and halfbeen clarified by Fritzsche (1976), who recog- beaks. This striped cornetfish can readily asnizes four extant species, two of which are sume a mottled or barred color pattern: a found in the Gulf. Fistularia commersonii, un- striped pattern seems to be more prevalent til recently confused with F. petimba (a wide- when swimming; bars or a mottled camouspread Indo-west Pacific species not found in flage pattern sometimes occur when motionthe eastern Pacific), is the common cornetfish less or when feeding (see Figure 33). It does in the Gulf. In life the reef cornetfish usually not feed or seek shelter after dark but slowly shows a pair of bluish stripes along the back swims about the reef away from cover. over an olive-gray background. D. 15-17; RELATED S P E C I E S . A. 14-16; Px. 13-15 (usually 15). The only other species in the Gulf is the deepDISTRIBUTION. water cornetfish, Fistularia corneta Gilbert and This Indo-Pacific cornetfish is widely distrib- Starks, 1904, which usually occurs at depths uted from the western Indian Ocean to the greater than 100ft(30 m). This species is distropical eastern Pacific, where it ranges from tinguished from F. commersonii by slightly Puerto Lobos, Sonora, and Bahia Magdalena, higher fin-ray counts (D. 17-20; A. 16-19; south to Panama and most of the far offshore P^ 15-18), a more anterior position of the islands. pelvic fins (insertion is closer to tip of the

62

Cornetfishes

FISTULARIIDAE

Peces corneta

Peru and many far offshore islands. In the Gulf it has been collected as far north as Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, B.C.N.

snout than to the caudal fin base), and wider interorbital space (less than 16 times into the snout length). It ranges from the outer coast of Baja California (Bahia San Hippolito) to

63

FAMILY SYNGNATHIDAE Pipefishes and seahorses

(Peces pipa y caballitos de mar)

These odd-looking fishes have elongated bodies encased in ridged bony plates arranged in sequential rings. Their snouts are tubular and their tiny mouths lack teeth. Fin spines and ventral fins are also lacking. The male has a ventral brood pouch in which to incubate the eggs deposited there by the female. He carries the eggs until they are ready to hatch and then "gives birth" to the young. Syngnathids may be found in a variety of habitats but are usually associated with seaweeds or branches of coral. There are 14 species with five subspecies of syngnathids in the eastern Pacific (Dawson, 1985). Among the five species in four genera of Gulf syngnathids only two pipefishes are commonly encountered on reefs (see Figure 34). The others, including the only eastern Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens, are more frequently collected offshore and along sandy shores in bays and estuaries. Worldwide, there are 51 genera with about 190 species of pipefishes and one genus with about 25 species of seahorse. REFERENCES.

Dawson (1981,1985); Fritzsche (1980); Ginsburg (1937); Herald (1940, 1953,1959).

FIGURE 34. A male snubnose pipefish, Cosmocampus arctus. This tiny pipefish ranges throughout the Gulf to northern California. (Illustrated by Tor Hansen.)

64

Pipefishes and seahorses

SYNGNATHIDAE

Peces pipa y caballitos de mar

FANTAIL PIPEFISH pez pipa chica

Doryrhamphus excisus

Kaup, 1856

from Bahia Magdalena, B.C.S. to Ecuador, inILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN. Adult male, 2.5 in. (63 mm), by Alex Ker- cluding Clipperton Island and the Islas Galastitch; maximum size about 3 in. (76 mm). pagos. In the Gulf, it is more common in the DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. central and lower regions but is known to This short-bodied pipefish can be easily rec- range to Isla Angel de la Guarda in the upper ognized by its conspicuous fanlike caudal fin Gulf. D. e. paulus Fritzsche, 1980, is endemic and dark brown to tan coloration. The fantail to the Islas Revillagigedo, and D. e. abbreviapipefish has the lowest number of total body tes is endemic to the Red Sea. rings (30 to 36 in the Gulf-occurring sub- ECOLOGY. species) of all eastern Pacific pipefishes. Other In the Gulf the fantail pipefish is found under Gulf pipefishes have 48 to 61 body rings. The dark ledges and in deep rocky crevices. When subspecies in the Gulf, D. e. excisus, has three under ledges, they are often observed swimlongitudinal serrated snout ridges, 17 to 19 ming upside down, the dorsal surface showing trunk rings and 13 to 17 tail rings. The male's a lighter color than the belly. Usually occurbrood pouch is located under the abdomen ring in pairs, they rarely swim far from their rather than positioned under the upper por- shelters. Although unaggressive toward other tion of the tail as in all other eastern Pacific species of fishes, they defend territories from syngnathids. D. 21-29; A. 4. intrusion by their own kind. When alarmed or challenged they spread and display the fanDISTRIBUTION. A widely distributed Indo-Pacific species, D. shaped caudal fin. The number of eggs that a male D. excisus excisus ranges from the Red Sea and East Africa to the eastern Pacific. Dawson (1981, can incubate at one time depends on the size 1985) has recognized three subspecies. The of the individual. This may be as few as 15 or wide-ranging D. e. excisus occurs from East more than 100 (Herald, 1953, as D. melanoAfrica to the eastern Pacific, where it is known pleura, a synonym). 65

FIGURE 35. The Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens Gerard, 1858, is the only seahorse in the eastern Pacific. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.) 66

Pipefishes and seahorses

SYNGNATHIDAE

RELATED S P E C I E S .

Four other pipefishes, including Syngnathus auliscus and the endemic S. carinatus, and one seahorse have been recorded from the Gulf. Only one of these, the snubnose pipefish, Cosmocampus arctus arctus (Jenkins and Evermann, 1889), sometimes occurs along rocky shores (see Figure 34). This small pipefish ranges from northern California to Mazatlan and throughout the Gulf (as far north as Puerto Penasco). It has only 14 to 17 trunk rings but has 36 to 41 tail rings, 18 to 23 dorsalfin-rays,and one or two rows of spots along the sides. This pipefish often swims in pairs close to seaweed, sometimes lying on a rocky bottom. Other Gulf pipefishes inhabit sandy or estuarine areas and are rarely found over reefs. Two other subspecies occur south of the

67

Peces pipa y caballitos de mar

Gulf: C. a. coccineus (Herald, 1940), from central Mexico (Bahia Banderas) to southern Peru and the Islas Galapagos; and C. a. heraldi (Fritzsche, 1980), endemic to Isla San Felix and the Islas Juan Fernandez far off the coast of Chile. The Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens Girard, 1858 (Figure 35), is frequently collected offshore in the Gulf by shrimp trawlers. The only seahorse in the entire eastern Pacific, it ranges from San Diego, California, to northern Peru and the Islas Galapagos and throughout the Gulf of California. It seems to be associated with beds of sea-whip corals on patch reefs offshore. Large numbers of seahorses were found washed ashore at Puerto Penasco during the 1971 winterkill (Thomson and Lehner, 1976).

FAMILY SCORPAENIDAE Scorpionfishes and rockfishes

(Peces escorpion)

Scorpaenids are mostly sedentary fishes known by their cryptic coloration, excessive spininess, and large heads, mouths, and pectoral fins. The family (and allies) is characterized by a bony ridge (suborbital stay) that runs below the eye across the cheek and often bears spines. Most species also have numerous backward-projecting spines on the head and some have venomous fin-spines. This family is particularly well represented in the temperate Californian waters by four genera and a whopping 64 species! Most (59), however, are in a single genus (Sebastes), the rockfishes. Worldwide, there are about 56 genera with about 388 species but only 16 species in four genera, seven of which are rockfishes (Sebastes), are established in the Gulf. We consider only four Gulf scorpaenids in three genera as reef fishes (Figure 36). The others are offshore, deeper water species or associated with soft bottoms. For discussions of the rockfishes occurring in the Gulf see Chen (1975) and Moser et al. (1977). The related family Cottidae (sculpins), common in cold temperate waters (44 species in California), is completely absent in the Gulf of California. REFERENCES.

Arambula-Greenfield (1973); Eschmeyer (1965, 1969); Eschmeyer and Herald (1983); Eschmeyer and Randall (1975); Ginsburg (1953); Hubbs (1945); Love (1996); Moser et al. (1977); Poss (1995); Swift (1986).

F i G u R E 3 6. The stone scorpionfish, Scorpaena mystes. This scorpionfish is well camouflaged by abundant skinflapsthat give thefishthe appearance of a seaweed-encrusted rock. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.) 68

Scorpionfishes and rockfishes

SCORPAENIDAE

Peces escorpidn

'#

STONE SCORPIONFISH lapon

Scorpaena mystes

Jordan and Starks, 1895

flashed when swimming away after being disILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN. Adult, 7.3 in. (185 mm), by Alex Kerstitch; see turbed. D. XII, 9-10; A., Ill, 5-6. also Figure 36; average adult size about 1 ft D I S T R I B U T I O N . (0.3 m); grows to about VA ft (0.46 m). A common fish throughout the Gulf, the stone scorpionfish ranges widely from southDISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. The stone scorpionfish has generally been ern California (Redondo Beach, one speciconsidered a subspecies of the spotted scor- men, see Swift, 1986) to Isla Juan Fernandez pionfish Scorpaena plumieri of the Atlantic far off the coast of Chile, as well as at Islas and is often referred to as S. plumieri mys- del Coco and Malpelo. Arambula-Greenfield tes (see Eschmeyer, 1969). We use the name (1973) treats the populations at the Islas Re5. mystes pending a revision of the genus Scor- villagigedo and Galapagos as a separate subpaena (see Eschmeyer and Randall, 1975). This species (of Scorpaena "plumieri"). scorpionfish can be readily distinguished from ECOLOGY. all Gulf rocky-shore fishes by its broad spiny Scorpaena mystes is a shallow-water scorpionhead, distinct pit below the eye, large pectoral fish that occurs commonly on seaweedfins with thickened rays, and usually abun- covered reefs as well as on open, sandy areas. dant skin flaps over the head and body which An opportunistic predator, this cryptic fish give it the appearance of a seaweed-encrusted lies unseen on the reef top waiting for small rock. Its overall appearance is drab, with fishes to pass by. The combination of cryptic grays, browns, reds, olive greens, and blacks appearance, venomous dorsal spines, and reintermixed. The more conspicuous young are luctance to move makes this fish a hazard to banded with dark bars and have a prominent swimmers. One snorkler, attempting to steady white caudal peduncle. Adults usually have a himself in a wave surge, mistook a large scorblack to red-orange patch (often with white pionfish for a rock. He nearly leapt out of the spots) in the axil of the pectoral fin which is water when he felt the painful sting of the ven69

Scorpionfishes and rockfishes

SCORPAENIDAE

omous dorsal spines. The diver s hand rapidly became swollen, and he felt ill for two days before recovering. RELATED S P E C I E S .

The only other member of this family commonly collected on shallow rocky reefs in the Gulf is the rainbow scorpionfish, Scorpaenodes xyris (Jordan and Gilbert, 1882), a small (usually about 3 in. or 76 mm), brownish to reddish fish with spotted fins and body that can usually be identified in the upper and central Gulf by a large, dark opercular spot (Figure 37), and by its 13 dorsal spines (Scorpaena mystes usually has 12). The rainbow scorpionfish ranges widely from islands off southern California (uncommon) to Peru, including the Islas Galapagos, Revillagigedo, del Coco, Clipperton, and Malpelo. In the Gulf, it ranges as far north as Puerto Refugio, Isla Angel de la Guarda.

FIGURE

Peces escorpion

Another scorpionfish, rare in the Gulf, is Scorpaena histrio Jenyns, 1840. We have collected only one specimen over a rocky bottom at 40 ft (12 m) at Isla San Pedro Nolasco, Sonora. It is also known from the Cape region and Mazatlan to Chile, including the Islas Galapagos. It differs from 5. mystes by its lack of a distinct pit under the eye, no axillary spot, only one or no spines on the suborbital stay (5. mystes has three or four), and by a head less broad than deep (it is as broad as deep in S. mystes). The other Gulf scorpionfishes and rockfishes are known from offshore and deep waters (at least three species of the poorly known genus Pontinus; most species of Sebastes) and/ or associated with sandy bottoms (Scorpaena guttata, S. russula, and S. sonorae). However, the California scorpionfish, S. guttata, is a common rocky-shore species from southern

37. The rainbow scorpionfish, Scorpaenodesxyris. Note the prominent lower opercular spot of this individual from the central Gulf. (Photograph by D. A. Thomson.)

70

Scorpionfishes and rockfishes

SCORPAENIDAE

California to central Baja California, with the population in the upper Gulf of California apparently isolated. Of the seven species of deep-water Sebastes in the Gulf, several are known only by their juvenile stages or from a few specimens of adults (Chen, 1975). Most records of adults of the more "common" species [5. exsul Chen, 1971; S. spinorbis Chen, 1975; 5. macdonaldi (Eigenmann and Beeson, 1893)] have come from deep-water hook-and-line fishing on the bot-

71

Peces escorpion

tom in the region of the midriff islands and, especially, Bahia de los Angeles, Baja California (Norte) (Milton Love, pers. comm.). Sebastes macdonaldi, the Mexican rockfish, is also caught on deep-water reefs at Guaymas, Sonora, and is the only Gulf-occurring species in the genus that also occurs outside the Gulf on the outer coast of southern Baja California north to central California in depths from 300 -780 ft (91-238 m) (Eschmeyer and Herald, 1983).

FAMILY SERRANIDAE Sea basses and groupers

(Cabrillas y meros)

The sea basses and groupers are generalized spiny-rayed fishes with few external characters to distinguish them from the other groups of perciform fishes. They have three flat spines on the operculum, and the posterior margin of the preopercle is usually serrate. Most have large mouths with strong teeth, and the maxillary bone of the upper jaw (see Figures 20 and 24) never slips under the cheekbone when the mouth is closed as it does in the snappers (family Lutjanidae) and grunts (family Haemulidae). Most sea basses and groupers are hermaphroditic. Some, such as species in the genus Serranus, have both egg- and sperm-producing tissues in their gonads at all ages (synchronous or simultaneous hermaphrodites), whereas others (e.g., Mycteroperca and Epinephelus) undergo a sex reversal with age (sequential hermaphrodites), with females transforming to males (protogyny). Sea basses and groupers range in size from less than a pound to giants of almost 1000 lbs (Figure 38). Most species live near the bottom and are voracious predators on fishes and crustaceans; however, some form mid-water aggregations and feed on plankton (Paranthias). Currently (Kendall, 1984; Nelson, 1994), three subfamilies (Serraninae, Anthiinae, and Epinephelinae), and about 62 genera and 449 species are recognized. There are 38 species in the Sea of Cortez, and 29 of these are associated with reefs or rocky bottoms. This is comparable to their diversity in the Red Sea and the Bahamas (see Table 1). In contrast, only 14 species have been recorded from waters off California (Eschmeyer and Herald, 1983; Robins et al., 1991), 12 of which also occur in the Sea of Cortez. Several of these are seen in California only during warm-water (El Nino) years. The soapfishes and their allies, including the three Gulf-occurring species in the genera Rypticus and Pseudogramma, were formerly placed in a separate family, the Grammistidae, but are now considered to constitute a tribe (Grammistini) within the subfamily Epinephelinae, along with the other Gulf-occurring tribes Epinephelini (groupers) and Liopropomini (basslets) (Johnson, 1983; Baldwin and Johnson, 1993). Soapfishes are characterized by their toxic mucous skin secretions (don't taste them!) and unusually elongated nasal organs. REFERENCES.

Allen and Robertson (1994); Anderson et al. (1990); Baldwin (1990); Baldwin and Johnson (1993); Bohlke (1960); Bussing (1980); Eschmeyer and Herald (1983); Fischer (1986); Fitch (1982); Franke and Acero (1995); Gosline (1960, 1966); Heemstra (1995b); Heemstra and Randall (1993); Johnson (1983,1988); Kendall (1984); Leis (1986); McCarthy (1979); Meisler (1987); Robins et al. (1991); Rosenblatt and Zahuranec (1967); Schultz and Reid (1939); Smith (1965,1971); Smith and Young (1966); Walford (1936a, 1936b, 1937).

72

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| ^ J ' # 1 | t* « FIGURE38. A jewfish, Epinephelus itajara, being examined by a marine biologist (Dr. Manuel C. MoUes) at Cabo San Lucas. This is one of the largest species of grouper. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.)

73

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

Cabrillas y meros

BARRED SERRANO guaseta serrano

Serranus psittacinus

Valenciennes, 1846

usually found near patch reefs on sandy or broken-shell bottoms. It is a solitary diurnal predator and always stays close to the bottom. It is seen more commonly during the winter when the juveniles, which can tolerate low DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. Species of the genus Serranus are small, hand- water temperatures [56°F (9.4°C) under labosomely colored basses that can in general be ratory acclimation], are first noticed. The recognized by their 10 dorsal spines, seven anal barred serrano is a simultaneous hermaphrosoft-rays, nondepressible teeth, andfinelyser- dite with the dominant individual acting as a rated preopercles; S. psittacinus has eight to haremic "male" mating with subordinate "fe12 diagonal rows of scales on the cheek, a se- male" hermaphrodites (Hastings and Peterries of about eight to ten broad dark bars on sen, 1986; Petersen, 1987). each side (often coalesced into a broad dark RELATED S P E C I E S . stripe), and about six to eight dark blotches Two other species of Serranus (S. aequidens (often tinged with orange) below the lateral Gilbert, 1890, and S. huascarii Steindachner, midline. D.X (rarely IX), 12 (11-13); A. Ill, 7. 1900), and many other species of the closely related and similarly appearing genus DiplecDISTRIBUTION. This species ranges throughout the Gulf (to trum (which have several enlarged spines Rocas Consag) but is commonest in the cen- bordering the preopercle) occur in the Gulf tral and lower regions. Outside the Gulf it ex- offshore over soft bottoms and are not reef fishes. tends to Peru and the Islas Galapagos. ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

Adult, 4.4 in. (110 mm), by Alex Kerstitch; see also Plate 4; maximum size about 7 in. (178 mm).

ECOLOGY.

Serranus psittacinus occurs from shallow water to depths of about 200 ft (61 m) and is

74

PLATE i. Bathymetric map of the Gulf of California showing locations of rocky and sandy shores within the Gulf (modified from Chart I of Fisher, Rusnak, and Shepard, 1964).

d.

PLATE 2. Eels (all photographs by Alex Kerstitch): a. Jewel moray (Muraena lentiginosa). b. Panamic green moray (Gymnothorax castaneus). c. Slenderjaw moray (Enchelycore octaviana). d. A garden eel (Heteroconger sp.) off Isla San Pedro Martir (probably H. digueti).

PLATE 3. Secretive fishes (all photographs by Alex Kerstitch): a. Sanguine frogfish (Antennarius sanguineus), b. Bandtail frogfish (Antennatus strigatus). c. Panamic soldierfish (Myripristis leiognathos). d. Barspot cardinalfish (Apogon retrosella).

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FIGURE 46. A juvenile broomtail grouper, Mycteroperca xenarcha, in the blotched or pinto color phase. Note the conspicuous black blotch on the dorsal surface of the caudal peduncle. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.)

FIGURE 47. An adult sawtail grouper, Mycteropercaprionura. Note the large spots and sawlike margin of the caudal fin that distinguish this species from M. rosacea. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch, taken at Sea World, San Diego.) 95

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

1.5 m, and about 100 lb, or 45 kg), and, although widely distributed, in the Gulf the larger adults are only frequently encountered along islands, such as San Pedro Martir, whereas young adults and juveniles show a preference for mangrove estuaries. What was once thought to be a red-spotted phase of M. xenarcha has been described as a separate species, M. prionura Rosenblatt and Zahuranec, 1967. This species, named the sawtail grouper, is covered with round reddish brown spots that become more numerous and smaller with growth, and which sometimes are underlain by scattered and much larger

96

Cabrillas y meros

dark spots, but is never so finely spotted as M. rosacea (see Figure 47). It has a sawlike caudalfinprofile similar to that of the broomtail grouper and seems to prefer deeper water than the other eastern Pacific Mycteroperca. It can be separated from the broomtail and leopard groupers by its total gill-raker count on the first arch (not counting rudiments): M. prionura (34 to 38), M. xenarcha (29 to 33), and M. rosacea (38 to 43), and their distinctive color patterns. It ranges from Isla Tiburon in the upper Gulf to southern lalisco. The juveniles of all species have normal caudal fin margins.

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

Cabrillas y meros

PACIFIC CREOLEFISH sandia, indio

Paranthias colonus

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

Young adult, 7 in. (178 mm), by Alex Kerstitch; see also Plates 6 and 7e; reaches a length of at least 14 in. (356 mm).

(Valenciennes, 1846)

spots extends from the middorsal region of the back to the caudal peduncle. The young are bright yellow to pinkish-yellow with bright blue dorsal spots. D. IX, 18-21; A. Ill, 9-11.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS.

DISTRIBUTION.

This small-headed grouper of the eastern Pacific is closely related to, and at times has been synonymized with, Paranthias furcifer (Valenciennes, 1828) of the Atlantic Ocean (e.g., Smith, 1971). However, Heemstra and Randall (1993) have found consistent differences in mean fin-ray counts and more subtle differences between populations from both oceans, thus validating our decision (followed by other recent authors) in the first edition of this book (1979) to regard them as separate species. A synonym of P. colonus is P. pinguis Walford, 1936. The adult Pacific creolefish can be readily distinguished from all Gulf serranids by its overall salmon-red color (darker above, lighter below) and deeply forked, lunate caudalfin.It is one ofthe few groupers to have nine dorsal spines. A row of four tofivelight bluish

The Pacific creolefish ranges from San Diego in southern California (rarely) to and throughout the lower and central Gulf to Peru and the Islas Galapagos. It also occurs at all the far-offshore oceanic islands in the tropical eastern Pacific. We have observed it as far north as Puerto Lobos (Cabo Tepoca), Sonora, in the upper Gulf.

97

ECOLOGY.

This abundant grouper is often found in large aggregations from the surface to 200ft(61 m), feeding on plankton and small organisms in the water column. It may be the most conspicuously abundant serranid in the Gulf and is the most common grouper at Isla San Ignacio Farallon, Sinaloa. RELATED S P E C I E S .

Two deep-water species of the genus Liopropoma occur in the Gulf. The scalyfin basslet,

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

L. longilepis Garman, 1899, so named because the soft dorsal and anal fins are densely covered with scales, is known from the area of Cabo San Lucas. The rainbow basslet, L. fasciatum Bussing, 1980, is known from a few

98

Cabrillas y meros

specimens from southern California to Panama. In the Gulf, it occurs mainly on the Baja side of the central and lower parts but has been seen by us at Isla San Pedro Nolasco at depths between 200 and 250 ft (61 to 76 m).

Sea basses and groupers

llillllill

SERRANIDAE

mmi

Cabrillas y meros

8|p

^^^^i^^^ft

%SmjpPflpli^

"^^^^^^^0:

MOTTLED SOAPFISH jabonero moteado

Rypticus bicolor

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

Adult, 7.3 in. (181 mm), by Alex Kerstitch; reaches a length of about 1 ft (0.3 m). DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS.

Soapfishes are characterized by their skin secretions of mucus which lather like soap when agitated. Soapfishes lack anal spines, have small embedded cycloid scales, and their rounded soft-dorsal, caudal, and anal fins are thick and fleshy. The mottled soapfish varies in coloration from a deep chocolate-brown with light tan spots (juveniles) to a pale brown with lighter irregular blotches which often coalesce (adults). A conspicuous white stripe runs between the eyes from the dorsal fin to the tip of the chin. It differs from the twicespotted soapfish, R. nigripinnis, by having usually three dorsal spines and by its projecting lower jaw which bears a fleshy protuberance. D. Ill (rarely II), 23-26; A. 16-18.

Valenciennes, 1846

Romero, 1989), and the upper Gulf (where it is rare) to Peru. It also occurs at the Islas Galapagos and other far-offshore oceanic islands, except the Islas Revillagigedo where it is replaced by the similar Socorran soapfish, R. courtenayi McCarthy, 1979. The mottled soapfish is the twin species of the commonest and largest soapfish in the tropical western Atlantic, the greater soapfish, JR. saponaceus (Schneider). ECOLOGY.

The mottled soapfish is nocturnal and during the day seeks shelter under ledges or wedges itself tightly into crevices. Normally found in shallow waters, it has been recorded at a depth of 225 ft (69 m). Soapfishes probably have few predators because their toxic secretions can cause hemolysis of the red blood cells. The toxin has been named "grammistin" by Randall et al. (1971), who found that a "taste test" of the skin mucus of six genera of soapfishes DISTRIBUTION. Common in the central and lower Gulf, JR. bi- was useful in initial taxonomic screening. Both R. bicolor and R. nigripinnis somecolor ranges from Bahia San luanico on the outer coast of Baja (Chavez and Rodriguez- times exhibit a peculiar behavior during feed-

99

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

ing. In approaching small prey fishes, they virtually "stand on their heads," their bodies quivering rapidly and displaying their con-

100

Cabrillas y meros

spicuous white dorsal stripes. This seems to attract small fishes which are suddenly seized by the soapfishes as they approach.

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

Cabrillas y meros

TWICE-SPOTTED SOAPFISH jabonero negrillo

Rypticus nigripinnis

Gill, 1861

pear (see Figure 48). Juveniles and adults show ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN. Juvenile, 3.8 in. (97 mm), by AlexKerstitch; see four large distinct oval pores along the prealso Figure 48; grows to about 8 in. (203 mm). opercular margin (preopercular pores are more numerous and much smaller in R. biDISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. Compared to R. bicolor, the adults and large color). This species usually has only two dorjuveniles of this dark brown soapfish have sal spines (usually three in R. bicolor), and the more numerous and smaller yellowish tip of the chin is more rounded, not as sharply blotches on the body and on the darker (es- pointed (when viewed ventrally), and lacks a pecially distally) fins. Also, the blotches are in fleshy protuberance. D. II (rarely III), 24-28; a more "regular" pattern, giving this fish a A. 14-18. more "spotted" or "reticulated" appearance, D I S T R I B U T I O N . especially on the belly. In large adults some Not so common as the mottled soapfish, the of the larger blotches may have dark centers, twice-spotted soapfish ranges throughout the thus appearing "doubly spotted" or "ocel- Gulf (rare at Puerto Penasco) and Bahia Allated." Very young R. nigripinnis show two mejas (below Bahia Magdalena on the outer thin, yellow lateral stripes on a very dark body, coast of Baja) to Peru and the Islas Galapagos and a broader, continuous yellow stripe run- (where it is uncommon). ning from the chin and over the snout and ECOLOGY. nape to and along the base of the dorsal fin, This soapfish does not grow so large as around the caudal-fin margin, and then for- R. bicolor. Little is known about this shy and ward along the base of the anal fin. As an in- highly secretive species. Even in aquaria it redividual grows, these stripes disappear (a thin mains hidden most of the time, whereas JR. bione behind the eye may persist for awhile on color tames readily and can be fed by hand. the head) and the small yellowish blotches ap- One specimen oiR. nigripinnis lived for three

101

Sea basses and groupers

SERRANIDAE

Cabrillas y meros

48. A juvenile twice-spotted soapfish, Rypticus nigripinnis. The smallest juveniles of this species have broad yellow stripes that later break up into rows of light spots as thefishmatures (Photograph by D. A. Thomson.)

IGURE

spines and three anal spines (D. VII-VIII, 20 24; A. Ill, 17-20), an interrupted, disjunct RELATED S P E C I E S . lateral line, and a large black spot on what The only soapfish ally in the eastern Pacific is appears to be a spineless operculum. Two or the Pacific reef bass, Pseudogramma thauma- three wide dark stripes occur behind and besium (Gilbert, 1900). This small (to 4 in. or low the eye. This secretive and uncommon 10 cm) dark brown fish resembles species of species ranges from the central Gulf (Guaythe genus Rypticus but does not produce their mas) to Isla Gorgona, Colombia. Some ichbitter-tasting skin secretion (grammistin). It thyologists place it in a separate subfamily or also differs in having several more dorsal even a separate family (e.g., Schultz, 1966). years in captivity, never changing its secretive habits.

102

FAMILY POLYPRIONIDAE Wreckfishes

(Peces naufrago)

The only member of this small family occurring in the entire eastern Pacific is the taxonomically enigmatic giant sea bass or pescara, Stereolepis gigas. A distant relative, the wreckfish, Polyprion americanus, is an uncommon fish associated with steep rocky bottoms and drop-offs (including shipwrecks) in deep waters of the temperate Atlantic and Indian Oceans and off New Zealand (Robins and Ray, 1986). The giant sea bass occupies a similar, but often shallower, habitat off California (mainly southern California), the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula, and (disjunctly) in the northern Gulf of California. The giant sea bass formerly has been placed by ichthyologists in the family Serranidae or in the families Percichthyidae, Moronidae, or Acropomatidae, but we follow the recent comparative research on teleostean fish scales by Roberts (1993), who allies it with Polyprion in a separate family, the Polyprionidae. REFERENCES.

Eschmeyer and Herald (1983); Heemstra (1995a); Johnson (1983); Love (1996); Miller and Lea (1972); Nelson (1994); Roberts (1993); Robins and Ray (1986); Walford (1937).

103

Wreckfishes

POLYPRIONIDAE

Peces naufrago

GIANT SEA BASS pescara

Stereolepis gigas

Ayres, 1859

ered by skin and scales. The long spiny-rayed portion and the short soft-rayed portion of the dorsal fin show a definite indentation between them but are contiguous at their bases in young individuals (D. XI-XII, 9-10), only DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. Although not a "true" sea bass (family Ser- becoming slightly separated in fish of large ranidae), the species name,gigas, and the com- size (D. X-XI + 1,9-10), A. Ill, 8-9. The tip mon name of the giant sea bass are apt in that of the tail fin is truncate or straight-edged, it grows to become one of the largest reef- not rounded as in most serranids such as speassociated fishes in the entire eastern Pacific cies in the genus Epinephelus. The form of the Ocean, exceeded only by the giant grouper, or body, the relative size of the pelvic fins, and jewfish, Epinephelus itajara. The largest indi- the coloration undergo notable changes as vidual on record weighed 563 lb (255.4 kg) an individual grows. As a young fish of a few and measured 7 ft 5 in (2.3 m) in length, but inches in length, the body is disproportionthey likely grow larger. A specimen weighing ately deep (almost as deep as long) and the 435 lb (197.3 kg) was determined to be 72 to black pelvic fins are very large in comparison 75 years old (Fitch and Lavenberg, 1971), but with those of the adult. These changes in form they likely grow older. The jaws of the giant and fin size are well illustrated by Walford, sea bass carry numerous, small cardiform (vil- 1937 (p. 99, taken from Higgins, 1920). The liform) teeth, completely lacking the canine coloration of the very young fish is a rich teeth of the serranid sea basses and groupers. brick-red overall, with six irregular rows of Also, unlike most serranids, there are only two black spots on the side, giving it a "polka-dot" rounded spines on the upper portion of the appearance. As an individual matures, the operculum, which are almost completely cov- body coloration gradually darkens until the PHOTOGRAPH.

Figure 49, at Scripps Institute of Oceanography Aquarium, La Jolla, California, by Alex Kerstitch.

104

Wreckfishes

POLYPRIONIDAE

adult is an almost uniform dark brown or gray-black (another common name used formerly was black sea bass), with remnants of the now faint black spots on the body distinguishable only when the fish is seen alive underwater. These changes in coloration are illustrated on color Plate 29 in Eschmeyer and Herald (1983). DISTRIBUTION.

Although more commonly occurring in southern California and northern to central Baja California, the giant sea bass has been reported from Humboldt Bay in northern California south to Bahia Magdalena on the outer southwestern coast of the Baja California Peninsula and "throughout the Gulf of California south to Oaxaca." However, we have been unable to verify the record from Oaxaca and, indeed, doubt that it occurs "throughout the Gulf of California" since we are aware of specimens only from the northern Gulf, mainly around the midriff islands and northward, with the southernmost specimen from Estero Tastiota on the coast of Sonora between Bahia Kino and Guaymas. We thus suspect that this fish is disjunctly distributed and, along with several other species of "northern" or temperate-water-adapted species found in the Gulf only in its northern part, does not occur in the southern Gulf. (We judge a record from Bahia de La Paz in Baja California Sur cited by Abitia-Cardenas et al., 1994, based on a report by Pellegrin, 1908, to be an error in identification by that latter author.)

Peces naufrago

ECOLOGY.

In southern California, adult giant sea bass are found on rocky bottoms and along drop-offs in depths ranging from about 40 -226 ft (1269 m), with the largest individuals preferring depths of more than 100 ft (30.5 m). Smaller individuals, including the red-colored young juveniles, can often be found on sandy bottoms closer inshore, mostly between 18-70 ft (5.5-21 m). The same depth and bottomtype preferences appear to hold for this species in the Gulf of California, where patch reefs in deeper water harbor the largest individuals, but little biological information is available for the population in the Gulf. Although mostly associated with the bottom where it feeds on various species offishes,lobsters, and crabs, this voracious predator will leave it to feed in midwater on such fast swimmers as mackerels, small tunas, and sharks. Unfortunately, severe overfishing of5tereolepis gigas throughout its range, including the Gulf of California, has drastically reduced population sizes as well as size of the larger fish. Currently, in California, all giant sea bass caught by sport fishermen must be released, and we, along with Milton Love (1996), would hope that all individuals be released, whether caught by sport or commercial fishermen, until fishery biologists can determine what capturelevel will not adversely affect a sustainable population of this long-lived, amazing giant.

105

FAMILY KUHLIIDAE Flagtails, daras These basslike fishes are tropical Indo-Pacific forms that resemble freshwater sunfishes (Centrarchidae) and often migrate into freshwater streams. They have few distinguishing characteristics other than their forked caudal and deeply notched dorsal fins. The only kuhliid reaching the eastern Pacific, Kuhlia mugil (Forster and Schneider, 1801), is readily recognizable by its overall silvery body and four oblique dusky bars and center streak on its deeply forked tail. It is collected commonly only in the Cabo San Lucas region of the Gulf but ranges to Colombia and the Islas Galapagos. K. argae Jordan and Bollman, 1889, described from eastern Pacific specimens, appears to be conspecific with K. mugil (see Rosenblatt et al., 1972, as K. taeniura). In Hawaii the kuhliid K. sandvicensis is called the aholehole. It grows to about 1 ft (0.3 m) in length and is considered a fine food fish. Worldwide, there is one genus (perhaps two) with about six species. REFERENCES.

Randall (1976,1996); Rosenblatt et al. (1972).

106

FAMILY PRIACANTHIDAE Bigeyes

(Catalufas, semaforos)

Large eyes, large oblique mouths, and rough ctenoid scales are characteristic of this small family of red or silvery red and predominantly nocturnal reef fishes (Figure 50). The most important diagnostic characteristic of the family is a broad membrane that joins the inner ray of each large pelvic fin to the abdomen. Most bigeyes are deep-water fishes and are rarely seen by the average scuba diver. There are two genera and two species in the Gulf (another two wide-ranging species may eventually be found there) of the four genera and 18 species in the family worldwide. REFERENCES.

Clark (1936); Fitch and Crooke (1984); Fitch and Schultz (1978); Fritzsche and Johnson (1981); Hildebrand and Barton (1949); Myers (1958); Starnes (1988, 1995); Tavern (1988).

FIGURE 50. The popeye catalufa, Pristigenys serrula. Note the large eye of this member of the bigeye family. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch, taken in Scripps Aquarium, La Jolla, California.)

107

Bigeyes

PRIACANTHIDAE

Catalufas, semaforos

POPEYE CATALUFA catalufa semaforo

Pristigenys serrula

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

From Kumada and Hiyama (1937); see also Figure 50; attains a length of about 14 in. (355 mm).

(Gilbert, 1891)

is from the southern end of Isla Angel de la Guarda. ECOLOGY.

The popeye catalufa, like most other members of this small family, is a shy nocturnal fish that A pink to crimson fish with large eyes, the prefers the deeper water around islands. It may popeye catalufa can be recognized easily by be found with squirrelfishes and cardinalits color and distinctive shape. The squirrel- fishes but tends to range deeper (to over 328 ft, fishes (Holocentridae), cardinalfishes (Apo- or 100 m). Little is known about its ecology gonidae), and some snappers (Lutjanidae) are because of the depths in which it generally the only other rocky-shore species with over- lives. We have collected adults in deep water all bright red coloration in the Gulf. P. serrula at Cabo San Lucas and subadults (3 to 4 in., and other family members are more com- or 76 to 102 mm) from commercial shrimp pressed than thesefishesand have a larger head trawls in the vicinity of Guaymas. and eye and more oblique mouth, as well as RELATED S P E C I E S . the characteristic broad membrane connect- Only one other member of this family defiing the inner ray of each ventral fin to the ab- nitely occurs in the lower Gulf. The glassdomen. D.X, 10-12; A. Ill, 10-11; P 2 .17-18. eye, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Lacepede, 1801), is a circumtropical species that occurs DISTRIBUTION. Ranging from Oregon and central California commonly in the western Atlantic and eastern (rare, during El Nino years), to Chile, P. ser- tropical Pacific, usually near offshore islands rula is uncommonly collected on or near (Figure 51). We have observed this species on rocky reefs in the central and lower Gulf. The shallow reefs at Isla Jaltemba (Isla la Pena), northernmost record we know of in the Gulf Nayarit, and Cabo San Lucas, but we know of DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS.

108

Bigeyes

PRIACANTHIDAE

Catalufas, semaforos

#

^S^m^i^i

,-^8t$

mm

FIGURE 51. The glasseye, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus. Note the more attenuate body form compared to Pristigenys serrula. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch, taken in the Scripps Aquarium, La Jolla, California.) no Gulf records north of the Cape region of Baja California Sur. In the eastern Pacific outside the Gulf it has been recorded from Isla Guadalupe, far offshore Baja California (Norte), and south to at least Ecuador and Islas Galapagos, including the Islas Revillagigedo and del Coco. Its higher fin-ray counts and single long spine at the angle of the preopercle distinguishes it from P. serrula, which has only a serrated preopercle. Although normally overall reddish in coloration, it shows a series of silvery bands and blotches along the back and sides when in stress.

Two other priacanthids have been recorded from the tropical eastern Pacific but as yet have not been collected in the Gulf. Cookeolus japonicus (Cuvier, 1829), from Rocas Alijos off Baja California Sur, and Islas Revillagigedo to Peru, and Priacanthus alalaua Jordan and Evermann, 1904, from Rocas Alijos and Islas Revillagigedo (and the Hawaiian Islands), both resemble H. cruentatus more than they do P. serrula.

109

FAMILY APOGONIDAE Cardinalfishes

(Cardenales)

Cardinalfishes are usually small rosy-to-bright-red nocturnal fishes common on shallow tropical reefs. They have a separated dorsal fin and two anal spines rather than the three typical of most percoid fishes (Figure 52). Most are mouth brooders, which incubate the egg mass in the mouth. Although four species of the genus Apogon have been recorded from the Gulf, only one species (A. retrosella) is common. Worldwide, this fairly large family is represented by 207 species in 22 genera. REFERENCES.

Bohlke and Randall (1968); Breder (1936); Fraser (1972); Herre (1936); Hobson (1969a, 1972).

•^ 52. The pink cardinalfish, Apogonpacificus (upper), and the barspot cardinalfish, Apogon retrosella (lower). Cardinalfishes have separated dorsalfins,large eyes, and two anal spines. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.)

FIGURE

110

Cardinalfishes

APOGONIDAE

Cardenales

BARSPOT CARDINALFISH cardenal

Apogon retrosella

(Gill, 1862)

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

DISTRIBUTION.

Adult, 3.2 in. (80 mm), by Tor Hansen; grows to about 4 in. (102 mm).

Commonest of the Gulf cardinalfishes, A. retrosella occurs on all rocky reefs from the northern Gulf to Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. We have collected it as far south as Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and as deep as 200 ft (61 m) at Cabo San Lucas.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS.

Overall pinkish to brilliant red in coloration, a conspicuous black saddlelike bar under the second dorsal fin, and a large black spot on the caudal peduncle readily distinguish Apogon retrosella from all other shallow-water fishes in the Gulf. Although the red coloration sometimes tends to become faint and the black markings suffuse in large adults, the only other overall bright redfishcommonly encountered on the reefs is the soldierfish, Myripristis leiognathos. The soldierfish lacks black markings and, unlike A. retrosella, has strong dorsal, pelvic, and anal spines. Young barspot cardinalfish show a pale-to-rosy-pink color but have the black markings of the adult. The bright scarlet coloration of the adults fades quickly after death and usually completely disappears after preservation. D. VI + I, 9-10; A. II, 7; Pi.12.

Ill

ECOLOGY.

Essentially a nocturnal species, the barspot cardinalfish seeks shelter under reef ledges in the day and hovers in open water close to shelter at night. At night in Puerto Pefiasco it can be easily collected from tide pools with dip nets. This species probably feeds exclusively at night, preying on small crustaceans and fishes. In the Cape region Hobson (1968) observed cardinalfish emerging from their cover after sunset and aggregating in midwater to feed on plankton. Their activity could be directly correlated with available light. On bright moonlit nights they remained rather close to their shelter in relatively tight aggregations, whereas during dark nights they dispersed.

Cardinalfishes

APOGONIDAE

Barspot cardinalfish can be seen in the open during the day in deeper waters. A. retrosella, like most cardinalfishes, is a mouth brooder (see Charney, 1976). At Puerto Pefiasco in late September we have collected males who were carrying bright orange egg masses in their mouths. The eggs are not loose but are secured by fibrous tissue to form a compact cluster.

Cardenales

dal spot (see Figure 52). It does possess a shorter dark bar on the body below the second dorsalfin,but unlike A. retrosella the dark pigment does not encroach on the usually colorless fin. The plain cardinalfish, A. atricaudus Jordan and McGregor, 1898, which occurs in the Islas Revillagigedo, has been collected at Cabo San Lucas. It has a relatively slender body and long caudal peduncle compared with the species already discussed and lacks RELATED S P E C I E S . The northern ranges of three other species of both body bar and caudal peduncle spot. Small Apogon extend into the Gulf. The tailspot car- individuals have a prominent dark blotch on dinalfish, A. dovii Gimther, 1861, extends from the first dorsal fin which becomes less apparMazatlan to Peru. It is similar to A. retrosella ent (but still remains) in larger individuals. A in coloration and has a dark caudal spot but record of the Guadalupe cardinalfish, A. gualacks the dark saddlelike bar diagnostic of dalupensiSy from Cabo San Lucas was probaA. retrosella. The pink cardinalfish, A. pacificus bly based on misidentification of A. atri(Herre, 1935), a smaller species known from caudus, which it closely resembles (Hobson, Isla San Pedro Nolasco and Cabo San Lucas 1969a). (to 200 ft, or 61 m) to Peru, has no dark cau-

112

FAMILY MALACANTHIDAE Tilefishes and sand tilefishes

(Blanquillos)

Although Dooley's (1978) revision of the tilefishes separates them into two families, Branchiostegidae and Malacanthidae, Nelson (1994) prefers to recognize only the latter, with subfamilies Malacanthinae (sand tilefishes) and Latilinae (tilefishes). Sand tilefishes do not occur in the Gulf of California, but three species of the subfamily Latilinae (=Branchiosteginae) in the genus Caulolatilus are common in moderately deep water over rubble bottoms. The sand tilefishes are slender-bodied fishes that live at depths of less than 50 m and construct burrows or mounds. The tilefishes in the other subfamily are deeper-bodied, robust fishes with a predorsal ridge but without the enlarged preopercular spine characteristic of the Malacanthinae. Worldwide, there are five genera and 39 species in the family. In the tropical eastern Pacific there are three species of Caulolatilus (Latilinae) and one species of Malacanthus (Malacanthinae), but only the former inhabit the Gulf of California (see species account). A sand tilefish, the flag blanquillo (Malacanthus brevirostris Guichenot, 1848), a widespread Indo-Pacific species, ranges from the Red Sea to Colombia (Allen and Robertson, 1994). REFERENCES.

Dooley (1978); Johnson (1984); Nelson (1994).

FIGURE 53. The Pacific golden-eyed tilefish, Caulolatilus affinis. Tilefishes have long dorsal and anal fins. The Gulf species are associated with sand, mud, and rubble bottoms and patch reefs. (Photograph by Alex Kerstitch.)

113

Tilefishes and sand tilefishes

MALACANTHIDAE

Blanquillos

PACIFIC GOLDEN-EYED TILEFISH blanquillo cabezon, pez conejo

Caulolatilus affinis

to shore. It is an abundant bottom fish and is caught frequently by fishermen in the Guaymas area. We have never collected it in less than 100 ft (30 m) of water.

ILLUSTRATED SPECIMEN.

Composite from three fish; juveniles, 7.3 to 8.1 in. (185 to 205 mm), by Tor Hansen; see also Figure 53; largest known specimen, 19.5 in. (495 mm). DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS.

Tilefishes can be easily recognized by their long dorsal and anal fins, each of subequal height throughout its length. Overall body coloration of C. affinis is olive-green with silvery sides. Freshly caught specimens have lavender margins around their dorsal scales and a yellow stripe below and in front of the eye. A conspicuous dark, fleshy patch occurs in the upper axil of the pectoral fin. The tail is slightly forked in adults. D. VIII, 24 (22-25); A. II, 23 (21-24). DISTRIBUTION.

This tilefish occurs throughout the Gulf over rubble and sandy bottoms at moderate depths. It is also known from Costa Rica to Ecuador and the Islas Galapagos. ECOLOGY.

This blanquillo lives in water at least 100 to 607 ft (30 to 185 m) deep near patch reefs close

Gill, 1865

RELATED S P E C I E S .

The ocean whitefish or pez pierna, Caulolatilus princeps (Jenyns, 1840), is known from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to and throughout the Gulf of California, and from Ecuador, Peru, and the Islas Galapagos. C. princeps is more slender and has a less abrupt head profile than C. affinis and has an emarginate rather than truncate caudal fin. It lacks the diagnostic markings of C. affinis and typically has nine dorsal spines and smaller scales (99 to 115 pored lateral line scales compared to 80 to 91 in C. affinis). C. hubbsi Dooley, 1978, distinguished by a large mouth and thick fleshy lips, ranges from Islas Santa Ines, B.C.S., in the Gulf (apparently an old record from southern California) to Peru and the Islas Galapagos. It occurs sympatrically with C. affinis and C. princeps but prefers shallower water (58 to 134 ft or 18 to 41 m). It is intermediate between these two species in some

114

Tilefishes and sand tilefishes

MALACANTHIDAE

Blanquillos

characters but can be distinguished from toral axil, and from C. princeps by its nearly C. affinis by its higher number of pored lateral truncate (versus emarginate) tail and more line scales (100 to 110) and lack of a snout/ rounded profile. undereye stripe and dark blotch over the pec-

115

FAMILY LUTJANIDAE Snappers

(Pargos)

The snappers constitute a large family of warm-water marine fishes prized as food (worldwide, about 21 genera and 125 species). Most are shallow-water reef fishes but several species, especially the juveniles of reef snappers, inhabit mangrove estuaries. Some, such as the commercially exploited red snappers, are deep-water bottom fishes, and a few are midwater (Atlantic yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus). In tropical seas they have a reputation for becoming ciguatoxic (tropical fish poisoning), but fortunately ciguatera has not been found in the Sea of Cortez. In the Gulf there are nine species in two genera: five species are commonly found around shallow reefs, two occur in deeper water, one in midwater, and another is an estuarine species. The snappers are more difficult to classify ecologically than most other Gulf fishes. Their food and habitat requirements are rather generalized, and they roam the shorelines over a variety of bottom types. Their young are found in estuaries and lagoons, around piers in harbors, and in rocky tide pools. Most snappers can be recognized by their distinctive head profiles. They have moderately long snouts and, compared with sea basses, rather small mouths (see Figure 54). Their jaws are strong and armed with robust canine teeth in contrast to the weak jaw teeth of the similarly appearing grunts. They can be distinguished from sea basses by noting that the maxilla of the upper jaw slips under the cheek (lachrymal) when the mouth is closed, whereas it does not in sea basses. REFERENCES.

Breder (1936); Meek and Hildebrand (1925); Nelson (1994); Walford (1937).

FIGURE 54. The Pacific dog snapper, Lutjanus novemfasciatus. This is the largest of the Gulf snappers. Adults are seen over reefs and juveniles are common in mangrove esteros. (Photograph courtesy of E. S. Hobson). 116

LUTJANIDAE

Snappers

Pargos

fc:V#

t—