Larval Fishes from Carrie Bow Cay, Belize - National Museum of Natural History - Division of FishesLarval Fishes Home

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Larval Fish: Family Apogonidae

Cardinal fishes (Apogonidae) are common inhabitants of the waters around Carrie Bow Cay. They are largely nocturnal, hiding in caves, crevices, and overhangs during the day and coming out to forage at night. Most western Atlantic species are reddish in color, with or without various dark markings. Larvae are also characterized by their reddish color, sometimes with the addition of some yellow pigment in the fins. Various species or "types" can be distinguished by variations in the kind and distribution of pigment, but not all of them have been conclusively linked to adult species. There is little or no variation in meristic characters between the local apogonid species, and identification is largely based on color pattern. Only when the distinctive adult patterns begin to develop can the larvae be identified.

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Apogonidae, USNM 353945

Apogonidae, 10 mm SL, USNM 353945: This specimen has no red or yellow on fins; it has small black spots on the pelvic fins.


Apogonidae, USNM 353961

Apogon maculatus, 12 mm SL, USNM 353961: The three characteristic markings of this species are beginning to develop: the short dark stripe behind the eye, the dark, saddle-like spot at the posterior base of the soft dorsal fin, and the dark bar on the caudal peduncle. The dorsal and anal fins have no red or yellow pigment.


Apogonidae, USNM 353962

Apogon maculatus, 12 mm SL, USNM 353962: Although the same size as the previous specimen, this one is slightly more advanced in its development. The three dark markings are somewhat more extensive. Note that the caudal bar begins as two discrete spots, above and below the midline, which later enlarge and merge.


Apogonidae, USNM 352908

Apogon planifrons, 11.5 mm SL, USNM 352908: The dark bar is located below rather than behind the second dorsal fin and does not reach all the way to the ventral margin. At 11.5 mm, the bars are almost completely developed.


Apogonidae, USNM 353126

Apogonidae, 11 mm SL, USNM 353126: This specimen has no red on the fins, but it has yellow on both the spinous dorsal fin and the pelvic fins. There are also small black spots on the pelvic fins. Its identity has not been determined.


Apogonidae, USNM 353532

Apogonidae, 11 mm SL, USNM 353532: Note the strong red pigment on both the spinous dorsal and pelvic fins, the two reddish patches on the soft dorsal and anal fins, the reddish patches on the caudal fin, and the reddish spot on the caudal peduncle. There are no obvious black markings developing. Its identity has not be determined.


Apogonidae, USNM 353894

Apogonidae, 8 mm SL, USNM 353894: Note the red on the basal part of soft dorsal, anal and pelvic fins, and the yellow on spinous dorsal fin. There are no black spots on the pelvic fins.


Apogonidae, USNM 353897

Phaeoptyx, 15 mm SL, USNM 353897: Black pigment is distributed as small spots scattered over the entire body, and a diffuse dark bar on the caudal peduncle.


Apogonidae, USNM 353895

Astrapogon, 10 mm SL, USNM 353895: The three species of Astrapogon are distinguished by differences in the number of gill rakers, the relative length of the pelvic fins, and subtle differences in the shape of the snout; none of which is very useful in larvae. The number of gill rakers overlaps between species, making that character even less useful. We have not been able to make a specific identification of our larvae. Astrapogon larvae are quite striking in appearance, with their large, heavily pigmented pelvic fins and prominent, dendritic melanophores on the body.


Apogonidae, USNM 353557

Astrapogon, 16 mm SL, reared, USNM 354557: This specimen was reared from a capture size of approximately 10 mm to 16 mm SL.


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