Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Opistognathus maxillosus, Mottled Jawfish

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

nostril cirrus broad, branched
body: 5-6 dark bars + stripe
D spines stiff, straight, with tabs, front ocellus
D strongest blotch at spines VI-X
nostril cirrus broady rounded to flat & branched
in throat all dark
C: base - double white blotch, bordered by brown

Opistognathus maxillosus Poey, 1860

Mottled Jawfish

Elongate, compressed, tapering body; large bulbous head; eye large, high; front nostril a short tube with a broadly rounded to flat, branched cirrus; mouth terminal, large, extends well to rear of eye; rear of top jaw rigid, not ending in a thin flexible plate; front of roof of mouth with 0-3 blunt teeth; top jaw with 2+ rows of teeth along front side; 26-33 gill rakers; fin spines flexible; dorsal and anal fins with long bases; dorsal X-XI, spines stiff, tips pointed and usually with pale, slightly swollen fleshy tabs, 14-16; anal II-III, 14-16; pelvic fins I, 5, outer 2 rays stout and unbranched, inner 3 rays weaker and branched, 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.

Upper head and body yellowish brown, with mottling of thin dark lines; lower head and body white; body and tail base with a checkerboard pattern produced by a dark stripe along midside, crossed by 5-6 dark bars; the dark body bars join 5 black blotches along base of dorsal fin and 3 black blotches along base of anal fin;dorsal fin with 1st dark blotch often diffuse or absent, darkest and best defined blotch is on spines VI-X; lack blotches on dorsal and anal fin edged with white, rest of both fins grey-brown; tail fin with brownish base sounding 2 white blotches, rest of fin clear; blackish around opening to gut inside mouth.

Reaches 15.3 cm.

Lives in burrows on sand and rubble bottoms.

Depth range: 0-12 m.

The Bahamas to the S Caribbean.

Note: Its Brazilian sister species is O. thionyi.

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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
  • 15.3
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 12