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Species: Symphurus plagiusa, Blackcheek Tonguefish

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

variable, partial cross-bars
inside opercle v dark
gut cavity pale
D 81-91; A 66-75; C 10
lower jaw - fleshy ridge
no/weak pupil cover
lateral scales 76-86

Symphurus plagiusa (Linnaeus, 1766)

Blackcheek Tonguefish

Body highly compressed, elongate, oval, tapers to pointed tail; body relatively deep; snout rounded; eyes small, close together on left side, lower eye smaller; no or a weak cover on pupil; front nostril on blind side a bump; mouth small, arched (strongly on blind side), at front or a little under snout; eye side lower jaw with a fleshy crest; top jaw on eye side usually without teeth; preopercle edge covered with skin; dorsal fin origin ~ above upper eye, 81-91 rays; anal fin 66-75 rays; pectoral fins absent, represented by a fine membrane; only left pelvic fin present, 4 rays, on body midline, joined to anal fin by delicate membrane; dorsal and anal fins confluent with the pointed caudal fin; tail fin 10 rays; scales rough, on both sides; rays of dorsal and anal with 1 row of rough scales on blind-side; large fish with scales along 3/4 of each dorsal and anal ray on eye side; 76-86 lateral scales; no scales over front of eye; no lateral line.

Top side brown, with varying numbers (usually 4-5) of dark crossbars; most fish with a large, conspicuous black spot on top part of operculum on eye side; inside gill chamber dark on both sides; lining of gut cavity pale; blind side yellowish, without dark dots; fins dusky, without spots or blotches .

Size: 23 cm.

Habitat: sand and mud bottoms of estuaries.

Depth: 1-183 (usually 1-30) m.

New York to the Gulf of Mexico; the Bahamas, Cuba

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  • Brackish
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Sand & gravel
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Soft bottom only
  • Estuary
  • Mud
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
  • Mobile benthic worms
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Continental primarily
  • Extends North of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 23
Depth Range Min
  • 1
Depth Range Max
  • 183