Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Species: Prognathodes falcifer, Northern scythe butterflyfish, Northern scythe-marked butterflyfish

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nose stripe pale grey
point of inverted black V not reaching base of D spines
upper back & base of D yellow

Prognathodes falcifer (Hubbs & Rechnitzer, 1958)


Northern scythe butterflyfish,     Northern scythe-marked butterflyfish


Body a strongly compressed oval disc; mouth small, at end of a short, pointed, tubular snout that is 1/3-1/2 head length; cheek bone free and smooth; teeth long and slender; dorsal fin XIII, 19-20, triangular shape, 3rd  or 4th  spine longest, with notch between spiny and soft parts; anal rays III,14-16, 2nd  anal spine very long, much longer than 3rd; rear edges of dorsal and anal fins vertical; tail edge straight to rounded; lateral line in a high arch, incomplete (ends under dorsal fin), with 40-47 scales; scales rough, covering head and body, a low scaly sheath on base of dorsal fin.

Yellow with prominent black scythe-like marking  on side, also a blackish diagonal band from snout to dorsal fin origin; most of spiny dorsal and base of soft dorsal and anal fin black; tail fin grey with narrow black upper and lower borders; pelvics yellow, with black front spine.

Size: grows to 17 cm.

Habitat: usually seen alone or in small groups on rocky reefs.

Depth range 3-270 m

Southern California to the W Gulf of California and the Revillagigedo Islands.

Note; Very similar to P. carlhubbsi, which is found in the southern part of our region. The color patterns of  P. falcifer and P carlhubbsi differ as follows:  1. the dark band on the snout is black in  P. carlhubbsi  and grey in  P. falcifer.2. the tip of the scythe mark  reaches the base of the dorsal fin spines in  P. carlhubbsi  but ends well below those spines in P. falcifer. 3. the upper back and base of the dorsal fin are greyish in P. carlhubbsi and yellow in P. falcifer. These differences are relatively small, hence a genetic study would be useful to resolve doubts about the specific status of P carlhubbsi.

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  • Marine Only
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Near Bottom
  • Bottom + water column
  • Water column
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef only
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
  • Rocks
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Sessile molluscs
  • Sessile worms
  • Data
  • Sessile crustacea
  • Sea-stars/cucumbers/urchins
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Pelagic larva
  • No data
  • Pelagic
Global Endemism
  • East Pacific endemic
  • All species
  • Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Continent
  • Island (s)
  • TEP endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap)
  • North Temperate (Californian Province &/or Northern Gulf of California)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 17
Depth Range Min
  • 3
Depth Range Max
  • 270