Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Family: NOMEIDAE, Driftfish, Driftfishes, Fatheads, Man-of-war Fishes

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

eye with fatty ring
D X-XII + 0-III, 15-32
D1 - groove at base
teeth minute, jaws, roof mouth, gills
pectoral long
pelvic - groove at base, joined to belly
flank: mucus canal system



General features of driftfishes, which reach up to 1 m, include an oval to elongate, laterally compressed body; eye large, usually with a fatty ring around it; mouth small, usually ends before eye; teeth minute, usually conical, ~ 1 row on jaws; center and sides of roof of mouth and bases of gill arches with minute teeth; operculum very thin, with 2 flat spines; 2 dorsal fins, IX-XII slender spines + 0-III, 15-32, the longest spine at least equal in height to the longest soft dorsal ray; second dorsal and anal fin bases of equal length and sheathed in scales, usually with > 15 soft rays; 1st dorsal and pelvic fins fold into grooves at their bases; pectoral fins long and wing-like, with oblique bases; adults with pelvic fins that attach to the abdomen by a thin membrane; tail base slender, compressed, without keels; scales smooth, thin, easily shed; lateral line high, follows upper profile, often ends before tail base; mucous canal system under thin skin along midline of flank obvious in most species.

Adult drift-fishes live on the high seas or on the bottom on the outer continental shelf. Juveniles often swim with pelagic jellyfishes and siphonophores near reef areas. Distribution is worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. The family, contains 4 genera and about 18 species; in our area there are five species in three genera, all with worldwide distributions.