Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Aluterus scriptus, Scrawled Filefish, Scrawled Leatherjacket

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head: both profiles concave
blue spots & lines + black spots
tail base depth > length
C > snout, rounded

Aluterus scriptus (Osbeck, 1765)

Scrawled Filefish, Scrawled Leatherjacket

Body a very compressed elongated oval a long pointed snout, upper and lower profiles strongly concave; a small mouth that opens above center line; teeth moderately strong, six in outer row on top jaw and six or less on outer row on bottom jaw; gill opening a short slit on side before pectoral base; 2 dorsal fins, 1st with II spines, 1st long, slender, smooth, over eye, erectile, can be locked in position by minute 2nd spine; second dorsal fin 43-49 rays; anal rays 46-52; pectoral rays modally 14 (13-15); median fins rays unbranched; tail base shorter than deep; tail fin longer than snout, 33-61% of SL, rounded, the back edge often ragged; pelvic fins absent, pelvic spine rudimentary or absent; no group of enlarged scales encasing area where pelvics should be;scales minute, innumerable, like hairs, skin rough, like sand-paper; no patch of enlarged scales above pectoral base; lateral line inconspicuous.

Olive brown to grey with irregular blue spots and short lines and small black spots; pelagic juveniles may be brown with dark spots.

Size: grows to 110 cm.

Inhabits coral and rocky reefs, the young are sometimes seen around floating debris, at a considerable distance away from land; feeds on algae, hydrozoans, gorgonians, anemones, and tunicates.

Depth: 0-120 m, usually < 30 m.

Circumtropical distribution; Massachusetts to Brazil.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom only
  • Rocks
  • Submerged vegetation
  • Water column
  • Corals
  • Flotsam
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef and soft bottom
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Corallivore
  • Data
  • Omnivore
  • Data
  • Soft corals/hydroids
  • Sponges/seasquirts/bryozoa
  • Benthic macroalgae/seagrasses
  • Benthic microalgae
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
  • Pelagic jellyfish/ctenophores
Egg Type
  • Benthic
  • Data
  • No pelagic phase
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans)
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Continental primarily
  • Extends N + S of GC
  • Extends North of GC
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 110
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 120