Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Family: OPISTOGNATHIDAE, Jawfishes

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

bulbous head
eyes large, high
large mouth
pelvic: I, 5, outer 2 strong, unbranched



Small to medium sized fishes (3-50 cm), with narrow tapering bodies; an enlarged, bulbous head and a large mouth; eyes large, high on head; dorsal fin continuous, IX-XII spines, no notch between spines and rays; dorsal and anal fins with long bases; pelvic fins I, 5, outer 2 rays stout and unbranched, inner 3 rays weaker and branched, fin base before the pectoral; tail fin round to long and pointed; lateral line high on side, ends under the middle of the dorsal fin; scales smooth, on body only.

Jawfishes construct elaborate burrows by scooping sand or small stones with the mouth and can shift larger rocks by using their powerful jaws. The burrows are frequently lined and reinforced with pebbles and shell fragments. These fishes exhibit the unusual habit of oral egg incubation. They feed chiefly on benthic and planktonic invertebrates.

The group occurs in all warm seas, containing an estimated 61 species in 5 genera. In our region there are 12 species from two genera, all endemics.