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Species: Peprilus triacanthus, Butterfish

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body depth 33-37% SL
often dark spots
17-25 large pores under front D
D & A front short, angular
top teeth 3-points

Peprilus triacanthus (Peck, 1804)


Body highly compressed, an elongate oval, depth 33-37% SL; eye relatively large, 27-29% of head length, with a fatty ring around it; snout short, mouth small, oblique, ends before or under front of eye; jaw teeth compressed, 3-pointed, in 1 row, no teeth on roof of mouth; dorsal and anal fins long based, with II-IV small, flattened, leaf-like spines, front lobes elevated, but short and triangular; no pelvic fins, but a small spine projecting from pelvis; pectoral fins long and pointed; tail fin deeply forked, stiff; scales very small, smooth, very easily shed; dorsal and anal fins covered with scales lateral line high, follows upper body profile, almost complete; a conspicuous series of 17-25 pores along front half of body under dorsal fin.

Pale blue above, silvery below; often with numerous irregular dark spots on upper body.

Size: grows to at least 30 cm.

Habitat: pelagic, forms large loose schools over sand and mud bottoms on the continental shelf and in large estuaries; juveniles under floating weeds and with jellyfish.

Depth: 15-420 m, usually in < 55 m.

Canada to southern Florida, rarely in the Gulf of Mexico & Cuba.

Note: There are two forms of this species: the shallow form (<50 m) has a deeper body and lacks spots; the deeper form (>250 m) is shallower-bodied and spotted, and very similar to P. burti.


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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom + water column
  • Mid Water
  • Near Bottom
  • Near Surface
  • Surface
  • Sand & gravel
  • Soft bottom only
  • Water column
  • Flotsam
  • Jellyfish
  • Mud
FishBase Habitat
  • Bentho-Pelagic
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Planktivore
  • Data
  • Zooplankton
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Mobile benthic worms
  • Pelagic jellyfish/ctenophores
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent only
  • Extends North of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
IUCN Red List
  • Not evaluated / Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 30
Depth Range Min
  • 15
Depth Range Max
  • 420