Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Family: OSTRACIIDAE, Boxfishes, Cowfishes

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body = rigid box



Boxfishes are small to medium sized fishes (to ~ 45 cm) in which the body is oblong, thick, enclosed in a triangular, rectangular or pentagular bony box or carapace formed by thickened, joined, enlarged, usually hexagonal scale plates; carapace with openings for mouth, eyes, gill slits and fins and tail base; mouth small, opens at front, lips fleshy; teeth moderate, conical, usually < 15 per jaw; gill openings are short, oblique slits in front of pectoral bases; no spiny dorsal, soft dorsal and anal fins at rear of carapace; no pelvic fins; tail base slender, flexible; tail fin a fan with a rounded end; dorsal, anal and pectoral fin rays branched; lateral line inconspicuous.

Boxfishes are slow swimming fishes that live on reefs and adjacent sand and seagrass bottoms. The diet of boxfishes includes tunicates, sponges, soft corals, crustaceans, worms, and algae. Boxfishes produce a toxic slime that can kill other fishes or themselves in a confined space such as an aquarium.

About 39 species and 12 genera of boxfishes are known worldwide. Two wide ranging Indo-Pacific species are encountered in our area, including one on reefs and another that appears here as pelagic young, usually out at sea.