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Species: Opistognathus macrognathus, Banded Jawfish

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body: 5-6 dark bars
oblong black spot - center spiny D
D dark blotch spines VII-X
top jaw ends in long, thin, flexible plate
nostril cirrus simple, flattened
inside throat dark + 2 oblong pale areas
stripes on lining top jaw - male 2, female 1

Opistognathus macrognathus Poey, 1860

Banded Jawfish

Elongate, compressed, tapering body; large bulbous head; eye large, high; front nostril a short tube with a simple, flattened cirrus; mouth terminal, large, extends well to rear of eye; rear of top jaw ends in a thin flexible plate, slightly elongate in female, extending to top corner of operculum in male; front of roof of mouth with 1-2 blunt teeth; 31-43 gill rakers; fin spines flexible; dorsal and anal fins with long bases; dorsal X-XII, spines thin and flexible, 15-18; anal II-III, 15-16; pelvic fins I, 5, outer 2 rays stout and unbranched, inner 3 rays weaker and branched, outer soft ray not tightly bound to next ray, fin short, fin base before the pectoral; tail rounded, shorter than head, ~25% of SL; lateral line on front half of body only, high; scales small, smooth, none on head, body with 76-95 oblique scale rows.

Head and body tan; lower head and belly whitish, with a network of dark lines; body with a row of 5-6 large dark blotches along mid-side, another row on upper back extending onto base of dorsal fin; a prominent black spot on dorsal fin between spines VII-X, pectoral fin with numerous black speckles; gut opening inside mouth broadly surrounded with dark pigment except for an oblong pale bar below each tooth patch at upper rear of mouth; inner lining of top jaw and adjacent membranes of males with 2 brown stripes, 1 stripe in female.

Reaches 20 cm.

In burrows on sand and rubble bottoms.

Depth range: 0-44 m.

S Florida, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico to the S Caribbean.

Note: closely related to both O. robinsi and to O. brasiliensis, which is endemic to Brazil.

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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
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Brooded
  • Data
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • GC 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
  • 20
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 44