Larval Fish: Family Microdesmidae

The microdesmids, or wormfishes, are elongate gobioid fishes that live in shallow waters of tropical and subtropical seas. Adults are secretive in their habits and are seldom seen. The larvae are among the largest and most conspicuous that we collect at Carrie Bow Cay. They have a combination of melanophores and erythrophores along the anal-fin base and either red or yellow on the caudal peduncle. Five species are represented among our material, two of which have not been collected as adults in Belizean waters. These larvae were described by Smith and Thacker (2000, Bull. Mar. Sci., 67: 997-1012).

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Microdesmidae, USNM 350589 Microdesmidae, USNM 350589

Cerdale floridana, 19 mm SL, USNM 350589. This is the most common microdesmid larvae collected at Carrie Bow Cay and the only one that has been collected as adults around the island. The larvae have a reddish patch on the caudal peduncle and lack the short streak of black pigment there, which all the other species have.

Microdesmidae, USNM 350596 Microdesmidae, USNM 350596

Microdesmus bahianus, 16 mm SL, USNM 350596. These larvae have very heavy pigment along the dorsal and ventral surface of the gut. The caudal peduncle is yellow with a dark lateral streak. The species has not been collected as an adult in Belize.

Microdesmidae, USNM 350902 Microdesmidae, USNM 350902

Microdesmus carri, 27 mm SL, USNM 350902. This species resembles Cerdale floridana in having red on the caudal peduncle, but M. carri has a black streak. This is one of the largest microdesmid larvae, reaching at least 27 mm before settling.

Microdesmidae, USNM 350898 Microdesmidae, USNM 350898

Microdesmus longipinnis, 22.5 mm SL, USNM 350898. This specimen was collected in Tobago and photographed after preservation. BHT was added to the alcohol to preserve the color. The caudal peduncle is yellow, with a relatively long black streak.

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