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Species: Cathorops nuchalis, Orinoco sea-catfish, Orinoco sea catfish

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body elongate
head shield: dense granules
D spine > pectoral spine
pectoral spine small serrations
not yellow
bone behind head shield 11.7-18.9% SL, profile straight
eye large (4.3-6.6% SL)
top barbel usually passes pectoral spine
gill rakers: 1st arch 18-23, 2nd arch 16-19
A 20-24

Cathorops nuchalis (Gunther, 1864)

Orinoco sea catfish

Body elongate; head rounded, rounded when viewed from above, moderately flattened above; eyes large (4.3-6.6% SL); shield on top of head rough, densely granular, covered with thin skin, not or barely extending to level of rear edge of eyes, its rear process 11.7-18.9% SL, funnel shaped, a broad based, narrow and short at rear, with a central keel that is straight in profile, meeting a small, crescent-shaped plate at front of base of dorsal fin spine ; a deep, long groove along top of head, extending almost to keel of rear head-shield process; 2 pairs of close-set nostrils; no fleshy furrow extends across snout and connects rear nostrils; mouth  small, lips thin;  three pairs of barbels (on chin and both jaws), barbels moderate, top one usually reaching past base of pectoral spine; one pair of tooth patches on roof of mouth, those small, with molar teeth;  gill opening restricted to sides by adhesion of gill membranes to breast; well developed, uniformly distributed gill rakers present on front and  rear surfaces of first two gill arches, 18-23 at front of first arch, 16-19 on second arch; no fleshy papillae between gill rakers;  dorsal spine long & thick;  pectoral spine long, shorter than dorsal spine, with inconspicuous short serrations; anal fin 20-24 rays; tail fin deeply forked; a complete lateral line, with branches to top and bottom base of tail fin, no scales.

Uniform grey; rear edge of gill cover and base of pectoral fin reddish; fins pale.

Reaches 30 cm.

Primarily freshwater, but enters brackish waters.

Depth: 0-50 m.

Lake Maracaibo to Guyana.

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  • Marine
  • Brackish
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Estuary
  • Mud
  • Soft bottom only
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Data
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Brooded
  • No pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species.
  • West Atlantic Endemic
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
Regional Endemism
  • All species..
  • Caribbean endemic
  • Continent only
  • GC endemic
  • Continent
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
IUCN Red List
  • Not evaluated / Listed
  • Not listed
Depth Range Max
  • 50
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Length Max
  • 30