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Species: Opistognathus signatus, Dark Spotted Jawfish

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body: scattered dark spots, no bars
D spines III-VII ocellus, rest dark + white spots
inside throat all dark
male: inside top jaw - 1 black stripe
C black & white bars
top jaw ends in long, thin, flexible plate

Opistognathus signatus Smith-Vaniz, 1997

Dark Spotted Jawfish

Elongate, compressed, tapering body; large bulbous head; eye large, high; front nostril a short tube with a simple cirrus; mouth terminal, large, extends well to rear of eye; rear of top jaw ending in a thin flexible plate, slightly elongate in female, very elongate in male (extends beyond edge of operculum); front of roof of mouth with 1-2 large, blunt teeth; 28-34 gill rakers; fin spines flexible; dorsal and anal fins with long bases; dorsal X-XI, 16-17; anal II-III, 16-17; 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, body with 57-70 oblique scale rows.

Head and body brown; a few scattered body scales heavily pigmented, forming isolated prominent dark spots; dorsal fin with a prominent large widely white-ringed ocellus between spines III-VII, rest of fin and anal fin dark, with numerous white spots; pectoral with pale speckles and spots; tail fin black, with 3 white bars; ear of inside mouth uniformly dark; inner lining of top jaw and adjacent membranes of adult males with 1 black stripe, females with no stripe or a brown stripe.

Reaches 8 cm.

Lives in burrows on sand and rubble bottoms.

Depth range: 8-68 m.

Nicaragua to Venezuela.

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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
  • Demersal
  • 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
  • Caribbean endemic
  • Continent
  • Continent only
  • GC endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 8
Depth Range Min
  • 8
Depth Range Max
  • 68