Fishes of the family Ambassidae have perch-like bodies, a dorsal fin that is notched deeply, and a forked caudal fin. The bodies of many species are transparent or partially so. Body sizes range up to 10.2 in (26 cm) in total length, but most species are considerably smaller. The six species comprising the Polyprionidae are all large, robust grouper-like fishes with large heads and mouths, two rounded spines on the opercle, pelvic fins with one spine and 5 soft rays, and continuous lateral lines. Color patterns range from silvery to blue-gray to mottled. Body sizes range from 59 in (150 cm) to over 98 in (250 cm) in total length.
The Serranidae has considerable variation in morphology and body size. Most species have a single dorsal fin bearing spines and soft rays, small ctenoid scales, 2-3 flattened spines on the opercula, a continuous lateral line, a maxillary (upper jaw) that is exposed fully, and a lower jaw that extends beyond the maxillary. Members of the subfamily Anthiinae are rather small and quite colorful. Most water column-dwelling species have lunate caudal fins, while benthic-dwelling species tend towards caudal fins that are truncate. Males are often sexually di morphic; that is, they are distinguished in appearance from females with regard to body size, fin elongation, and color pattern. Groupers and soapfishes (tribe Epinephelini) are usually robust, bass-like fishes, although some soapfishes are elongate and slender. Most species have large heads and mouths, well-developed spines in the dorsal fin, and caudal fins that range from truncate to emarginate, lunate, or rounded. Swissguard basslets (tribe Lioproprionini) tend to be small and slender with flattened heads, and are often colorful. Soapfishes have dermal glands that secrete a toxin that is an effective antipredator mechanism. Groupers, soapfishes, and Swissguard basslets tend to be sexually dimorphic for body size, with males being larger than females. Adult body sizes range from less than 3.9 in (10 cm) to over 118 in (300 cm) in total length.
Species of the Grammatidae tend to be small and colorful. They have an interrupted lateral line, arranged in two segments; alternately, the lateral line is absent. There are 11-13 spines in the dorsal fin and one spine and five soft rays in the pelvic fin. Body sizes are usually less than 3.9 in (10 cm) in total length. The Callanthiidae is distinguished by having an compressed, oblong-shaped body, a single dorsal fin with 11 spines and 9-10 soft rays, an opercle with 1 or 2 spines, a lateral line running along the base of the dorsal fin, and truncate, emar-ginate, or excessively lunate caudal fins. Most have color patterns of bright orange, yellow, and red. Adults range in size from about 3.1 in (8 cm) to over 23.6 in (60 cm). Members of the Pseudochromidae follow one of two body plans. Those in the subfamily Pseudochrominae have somewhat elongate bodies; a long, continuous dorsal fin; small scales (cycloid anteriorly and ctenoid posteriorly); and many have rather brilliant color patterns. Some species lack a lateral line while others have one that is interrupted. Most species are less than 4.3 in (11 cm) in total length. Those in the subfamily Congrogadinae are eel-like in appearance and rather drably colored. Both dorsal and anal fins are long and continuous. They reach up to 20 in (50 cm) in total length. Species in the family Plesiopidae tend to be similar in shape to those in the Pseudochromidae, except that their bodies may be deeper in some genera. The dorsal fins have considerably more spines (11 to 14), too. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are large and exaggerated in the genera Calloplesiops and Paraplesiops. Most species are drably colored in comparison to the pseudochromids, but some species are remarkably colorful. Body sizes are usually less than 10 in (25 cm) in total length, many much smaller.
The Glaucosomatidae resembles deep-bodied serranids or haemulids. They have 8 spines and 12-14 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 3 spines and 12 soft rays in the anal fin. The maxilla is scaled, and the lateral line is straight and reaches the caudal fin. The caudal fin is either lunate or truncate. Color patterns tend to be dull gray or silver. Some have horizontal stripes that are black or yellow in color; one species, Glaucosoma hebraicum as a juvenile, has a distinctive black chevron stripe on the head and through the eye. Adults range from 15.7 in (40 cm) to over 47 in (120 cm) in total length. The Opistognathidae is recognized by having elongate, slender, or tapering bodies (although some are larger and robust), an enlarged head, large eyes, a continuous dorsal fin with 9 to 12 spines, pelvic fins placed ahead of the pectoral fins, and a lateral line that runs just under the dorsal fin and terminates halfway along the body. The scales are cycloid and the head is scaleless. Body sizes range up to 20 in (50 cm) in total length, but many species are much smaller. Members of the family Priacanthidae have deep, compressed bodies with very large eyes, a large, obliquely positioned mouth, a lower jaw that projects outward, rough scales, and scales on the head. Color patterns are usually red or coppery red and can be changed behaviorally to silver or mottled red and silver. Adults range in size to over 20 in (50 cm) in total length, but most species are less than 12 in (30 cm) long. Fishes of the family Apogo-nidae are generally small and compressed laterally, although some are elongate in shape. There are two dorsal fins, the first with 6-8 spines and the second comprised of soft rays. The anal fin has 2 spines. The mouth is relatively large and placed obliquely. The eyes are also large and adapted for low light conditions. Many species are colorful, but some are nearly transparent with faint shades of red, yellow, silver, or bronze. Adults range in size up to 10 in (25 cm) in total length, but the majority of species are considerably smaller.
The Sillaginidae is distinguished by having elongate bodies with two dorsal fins, the first bearing 10-13 spines and the second a single spine and 16-27 soft rays. The anal fin is elongate, with two spines and 14-26 soft rays. Color patterns tend to be silvery, white, or tan to match the color of the sea bottom. Fishes of the family Malacanthidae follow two body plans. Those in the genera Hoplolatilus and Malacanthus have relatively slender, elongate bodies with slightly rounded or pointed heads, truncate or somewhat-forked caudal fins, continuous dorsal fins, small scales that are largely ctenoid, and one spine or the opercle. Hoplolatilus species are often quite colorful, while Malacanthus tend to be striking despite coloration limited to black, white, some blue, or pale green. Tilefishes in the genera Branchiostegus, Caulolatilus, and Lopholatilus tend to be stockier, with larger, blunter heads. Colors range from pale or drab shades of brown, bronze, and green to pink. Body sizes range up to 49 in (125 cm) in total length. The single species of Rachycentridae, Rachycentron canadum, has an elongate body and depressed head. There are 6-9 short free spines positioned ahead of the long dorsal fin. There are 1-3 spines and 26-33 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 2-3 spines and 22-28 soft rays in the long anal fin. The caudal fin is lunate, with the lower lobe shorter than the upper. The body has a pattern of three darkly colored lateral stripes along the flank and, in juveniles and young adults, a long whitish silver stripe runs dorsally from the snout to the caudal peduncle. This species grows to over 79 in (200 cm) in total length.
The Carangidae is diverse in body form. Most species have deep, compressed bodies, two dorsal fins, forked caudal fins, and slender caudal peduncles bearing bony scutes. Some species are elongate and fusiform. Colors are typically silver or gray with ornamentation in black, blue, green, olive, or yellow. The pilotfish, Naucrates ductor, is bright yellow with black vertical stripes, however. Most species are less than 39 in (100 cm) in total length, but some will grow to over 98 in 250 cm). The Menidae has a disc-like body, a sharply angled, deep breast, and a nearly horizontal dorsal surface. The dorsal and anal fins are spineless but bear 43-45 and 30-33 soft rays, respectively. The first pelvic fin ray of adults is elongate, and the caudal fin is deeply forked. Color is blue dorsally and
white ventrally, with 2-3 rows of dark spots along the dorsal flank down to the lateral line. The Leiognathidae is distinguished by strongly compressed bodies; small cycloid scales; gill membranes that are unified at the isthmus; a continuous dorsal fin with 8-9 spines and 14-16 soft rays; an anal fin with 3 spines and 14 soft rays; and a forked caudal fin. These fishes also possess luminous organs on the throat and the ability to secrete mucus from their skin. Members of the Bramidae are deeply compressed with long, continuous dorsal and anal fins, long pectoral fins, and forked or widely forked caudal fins. Color patterns range from silver to bronze, dull red, or black. Members of the genus Pteraclis, the fan fishes, have excessively large dorsal and anal fins that give these fishes a fan-like shape. Adults range up to 39 in (100 cm) in total length, although most species are half of that size.
Species of the Lutjanidae have ovate or elongate bodies that are compressed moderately. The single dorsal fin is notched with 10 spines and 8-18 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 7-11 soft rays. The caudal fin is either truncate, emarginated, or forked deeply. Color patterns are highly variable. Most species are less than 39 in (100 cm) in total length, but some will grow to over 59 in (150 cm). The colorful Cae-sionidae is distinguished by slender and rather streamlined bodies, with small mouths and a protrusible upper jaw. There is a single dorsal fin with 9-15 spines and 9-21 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 9-13 soft rays. The caudal fin is forked deeply. Color patterns range from blue to silvery blue, with yellow, pink, or red accents. Most species are less than 23.6 in (60 cm) in total length. The single species of Loboti-dae, Lobotes surinamensis, has an oval or oblong and compressed body, a single dorsal fin with 11-12 spines and 15-16 soft rays, an anal fin with 3 spines and 11-12 soft rays, and 17 soft rays in the pectoral fin. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are all rounded. The scales are ctenoid. Adults are dark brown or greenish yellow along the back, and silverfish gray along the flanks; juveniles tend to be brown and yellow, and are usually mottled. This species grows to about 39 in (100 cm) in total length.
Members of the Gerreidae are silvery in color, have moderately deep and compressed bodies, a head that is concave in profile ventrally, and protractile mouths. The scales are ctenoid and large, and the caudal fins are forked. Most species are less than 14 in (35 cm) in total length. The Haemulidae resembles the Lutjanidae in body shape, but a number of species tend to be more robust; have smaller mouths, thicker lips, and conical teeth; and lack canines. Their dorsal fins are continuous with 9-14 spines and 11-26 soft rays, and the anal fins are much shorter with 3 spines and 6-18 soft rays. The caudal fins are truncate to slightly emarginate. Color patterns are variable. Most species are less than 23.6 in (60 cm) but some grow to at least 39 in (100 cm) in total length. The Dinopercidae is distinguished by an oval, compressed body, a protruding lower jaw, a continuous dorsal fin with 9-11 spines and 18-20 soft rays, an anal fin with 3 spines and 12-14 soft rays, and a truncate caudal fin. Scales are ctenoid and cover the body, head, and fins. Color patterns range from a dull blackish brown with white specks to a barred pattern of alternating dark and whitish colors. Size ranges of adults are from 12 in (30 cm) to over 30 in (75 cm) in total length. The diverse Sparidae is snapper-like in appearance, with compressed oblong or ovate bodies, a dingle dorsal fin with 10-13 spines and 8-15 soft rays, an anal fin with 3 spines and 8-14 soft rays, a forked or emarginate caudal fin, weakly ctenoid scales, scaly cheeks and opercula, and conical, incisiform or molar teeth. Color patterns are variable but often have a metallic sheen. Adult body sizes range from about 12 in (30 cm) to over 79 in (200 cm) in total length. The Lethrinidae resembles both the Lutjanidae and Haemulidae in appearance. There are 10 spines and 9-10 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 3 spines and 8-10 soft rays in the anal fin. The caudal fin is emarginate or forked. The lips are thick, the mouth terminal, and the front of the jaws support canine teeth while conical or molariform teeth are positioned along the side of the jaws. Color patterns are largely drab in most species, ranging from gray to silvery gray, olive, yellow, or brown. Some are distinctively black or yellow and have red, blue, black, yellow, or white markings or stripes. Adult body sizes range from about 12 in (30 cm) to over 39 in 100 cm) in total length.
Fishes of the family Nemipteridae have slender or ovate bodies, 10 spines and 9-10 soft rays in the dorsal fin, 3 spines and 7-8 soft rays in the anal fin, and forked caudal fins. Their eyes are relatively large. Color patterns are variable and often bright and distinctive. Body sizes of most adults are less than 14 in (35 cm) in total length. The very distinctive Polynemidae is distinguished by a blunt, rounded snout, elongate body, two dorsal fins, and a deeply forked caudal fin. The unusual pectoral fin has a detached lower portion consisting of 3-7 free rays that may be used to detect prey in turbid water. Color patterns tend to be, for the most part, drab shades of olive and silver. Adults can grow up to 71 in (180 cm) in total length. The highly diverse Sciaenidae has long notched dorsal fins, with 6-13 spines in the anterior portion and 1 spine and 20-35 soft rays in the anterior portion. There are 1-2 weak spines and 6-13 soft rays in the anal fin. The caudal fins are mainly emarginate or rounded. Color patterns vary from silvery white or gray to light brown, yellow, pale pink, or pale blue. Some species, such as those in the genus Equetus, are striking, however. Adult sizes range from less than 3.9 in (10 cm) to over 79 in (200 cm) in total length.
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