Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Opistognathus aurifrons, Yellowhead Jawfish

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yellow head, rear bluey-white
dark bar through eye

Opistognathus aurifrons (Jordan & Thompson, 1905)

Yellowhead Jawfish

Elongate, compressed, tapering body; large bulbous head; eye large, high; front nostril a short tube without a cirrus; mouth opens at front, large, extends well to rear of eye; rear of top jaw straight to rounded; front of roof of mouth with teeth; gill rakers 40-62; fin spines flexible; dorsal and anal fins with long bases; dorsal XI, 14-18; anal III, 14-17; pelvic fins I, 5, outer 2 rays stout and unbranched, inner 3 rays weaker and branched, outer soft ray tightly bound to next ray, fin long, reaching to anal fin origin, fin base before the pectoral; tail rounded, shorter than head, 30-41% of SL; lateral line on front half of body only, high; scales small, smooth, none on head, body with 44-87 oblique scale rows.

Head and front of body yellowish to tan; a dark bar through eye; rest of body and fins pale bluey-grey; various black and blue marks on the head at different locations; inner lining of top jaw and adjacent membranes pale.

Reaches 12.7 cm.

In burrows, living in colonies on sand and rubble bottoms.

Depth range: 2-65 m.

The Gulf of Mexico to Brazil.

Note: Different local populations in different parts of the Greater Caribbean display varying combinations of black lines and spots and blue lines on different parts of the head. In addition individuals at the same location differ in those color markings. However, that geographic variation is not linked to predictable genetic variation, indicating that this is a single, geographically variable species.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Sand & gravel
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Soft bottom only
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Data
  • Planktivore
  • Data
  • Zooplankton
  • Pelagic fish eggs
  • Pelagic jellyfish/ctenophores
Egg Type
  • Brooded
  • Data
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • 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)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 12.7
Depth Range Min
  • 2
Depth Range Max
  • 65