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Species: Stephanolepis setifer, Pygmy Filefish

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longitudinal rows short, dark lines
snout short, profile concave
male D2 - filamentous ray
D & A 27-29
pelvic flap small

Stephanolepis setifer (Bennett, 1831)

Pygmy Filefish

Body deep, compressed; a relatively short pointed snout; snout profile slightly concave; a small mouth that opens at front; teeth moderately strong, six in outer row on top jaws and six in a single row on bottom jaws; gill opening a short slit on side before pectoral base; 2 dorsal fins, 1st with II spines, 1st spine over rear 1/2 of eye, long, with hooked spines along its rear edge, does not fold down into a deep groove, erectile, can be locked in position by small 2nd spine, second dorsal fin ray elongate in male, 27-29 (27-30); anal fin 27-29 (26-30); pelvic fin rudiment evident as a spine protruding from a group of enlarged scales, those scales flexible dorsoventrally; scales minute, innumerable, skin rough; tail base without spines, its skin same as that on rest of body; male with patch of bristles on tail base; skin flap between pelvis and anus relatively small.

Color variable, brown to tan, with irregular bars and blotches of darker and lighter color; body often with narrow incomplete stripes formed by dark spots and streaks; tail fin with 2 indistinct dark bars.

Reaches 18 cm.

Lives in seagrass beds and on sand and mud bottoms; often with floating sargassum.

Depth range: 1-80 m.

N Carolina to Brazil.

Note: There is very little genetic difference between S. hispidus and S. setifer. DNA evidence indicates that S. hispidus is a northern species, with its range concentrated on the east coast of the US, extending down to the NE corner of the Yucatan Peninsula. While S. setifer is concentrated in the Caribbean the two species overlap in SE Florida. Hence records of S. hispidus in the Caribbean are suspect.

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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
  • Submerged vegetation
  • Mud
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Corallivore
  • Data
  • Omnivore
  • Data
  • Sponges/seasquirts/bryozoa
  • Benthic macroalgae/seagrasses
  • Hard corals
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Benthic
  • Data
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Extends N + S of GC
  • Extends North of GC
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-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
  • 18
Depth Range Min
  • 1
Depth Range Max
  • 80