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Sea of Cortez 810

Family Mullidae
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned)
Order: Perciformes

Key Features:
The primary identifying feature of the goatfishes is the presence of a pair of long barbels on the chin.  These barbels lie flat along the jaw while swimming, but are extended into the sand to search for prey while hunting.  Otherwise, goatfishes resemble mullets in most respects. 

Notable Species in the Sea of Cortez

Mulloidichthys dentatus
Mexican Goatfish
Pseudupeneus grandi squamis
Red Goatfish

Mexican Goatfish Mulloidichthys dentatus photographed scuba diving in La Paz, Baja, Mexico

Mulloidichthys dentatus
Mexican Goatfish

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico


Baja Mexico travel and scuba diving newsscuba

Family Mullidae
Goatfishes (Chivos, salmonetes)

Family Mullidae

Goatfishes possess a perch-like body that superficially resembles a mullet.  The key characteristic to identification of this family is the presence of a long pair of barbels on the chin.  While swimming, the barbels fold along the chin for streamlining, but when searching for food, extend perpendicularly to the chin.  These barbels are believed to have both taste and touch receptors along their length.  The barbels are inserted into the sand and flicked along the surface to detect the presence of the crustaceans, mollusks, worms and fishes that comprise their diet. 

While there are fifty-five species of goatfishes worldwide, only two are represented within the Sea of Cortez, and scuba divers commonly observe only one species.  Absent in the northern Gulf, the Mexican goatfish, Mulloidichthys dentatus, begins its northern range near Guaymas and San Carlos and becomes increasingly abundant as one moves south to Cabo San Lucas.  Outside of the Gulf it ranges from southern California to Peru and the Galapagos Islands. 

Usually found along rocky reefs, it feeds mainly at night. However, goatfishes are commonly active during diurnal hours as well, and maybe observed alternating between cruising the sand flats in search of food, and enjoying the cleaning services offered by butterfly fish and barberfish.  The other Sea of Cortez goatfish is the red goatfish, Pseudupeneus grandi squamis.   The red goatfish lives at deeper depths and has been observed by the author only at depths exceeding two hundred and fifty feet although it is reported to inhabit reefs as shallow as one hundred and fifty feet. 


Updated August 28, 2009

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