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Family Apogonidae
Cardinalfishes
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned)
Order: Perciformes

Key Features:
A widely represented family; members of the family Apogonidae are found in most tropical oceans, as well as brackish and even freshwater environments.  Cardinalfish are a mainly nocturnal family and the males of this family are mouth brooders.  Cardinalfishes have a roughly torpedo shaped body with a separated dorsal fin, and two anal spines, unlike most other fishes in perciformes that have three.        



Notable Species in the Sea of Cortez

Apogon retrosella
Barspot Cardinalfish
Apogon dovii
Tailspot Cardinalfish
Apogon pacificus
Pink Cardinalfish
Apogon atricaudus
Plain Cardinalfish
 
 

Apogon retrosella, Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico in the Sea of Cortez

Apogon retrosella
Barspot Cardinalfish

Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico

Family Apogonidae
Cardinalfishes (Cardenales)


Cardinalfish are typically small nocturnal fishes with a red or pinkish hue.  Cardinalfish have a unique mouth brooding behavior in which the male carries the brood of eggs protected within his mouth, fasting throughout the incubation period.  This period may last only three to four days in some species but can by prolonged to fifteen to twenty days in a few Indian Ocean species. 

Within the Sea of Cortez, only one species is considered common, the barspot cardinalfish, Apogon retrosella.  Individuals of this species are often seen at night in the tidepools of Puerto Penasco.  It is also found along the coast of both Baja and mainland Mexico.  Scuba divers may see them hiding under boulders and in rocky crevices at the popular dive sites off of San Carlos, Sonora including Isla San Pedro Nolasco.  Its range extends throughout the Gulf to La Paz and Cabo San Lucas where it has been found at Lands End even at depths exceeding two hundred and fifty feet. 

Three other species of cardinalfish are found in the Gulf, each of which may be differentiated from the barspot in that the barspot, as the name implies, possesses a saddle-like bar under the second dorsal fin as well as a distinct dark spot on the caudal peduncle.  Amongst the other three uncommon cardinalfishes the only one that is seen by scuba divers through the central Gulf is the pink cardinalfish which is rarely but occasionally observed both on the mainland at Isla San Pedro Nolasco, as well as at the tip of Baja and Cabo San Lucas. 

 

 

 

 

Updated August 28, 2009

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