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Sea of Cortez 810

Family Ostraciidae

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned)
Order: Tetraodontiformes

Key Features:
A bony carapace encases the body giving an armored appearance.  Only fins, eyes, and mouth are movable.  Squat body and generally poor swimming abilities. Propulsion is provided by pectoral fins and tail.    Pelvic skeleton and spinous dorsal lacking.

Notable Species in the Sea of Cortez

Ostracion meleagris
Ostracion diaphana

Spotted Boxfish
Spiny Boxfish

Ostracion meleagris boxfish seen scuba diving in Cabo Pulmo, Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico

Ostracion meleagris
Spotted Boxfish
Bahia las Frailes , Baja California Sur, Mexico

Family Ostraciidae
Trunkfishes (Peces cofre)

Within the Sea of Cortez the trunkfishes are represented by only two species, one of which is a pelagic cruising species and is not often seen by scuba divers.  The only other trunkfish in the Sea of Cortez is the spotted boxfish, Ostracion meleagris.  The spotted boxfish is a wide-ranging Indo-Pacific species.  The distribution of this comical fish within the Gulf of California is limited only to the Cape region, where it is infrequently encountered in La Paz and Cabo San Lucas.  It is found with much greater frequency in the reef systems of Cabo Pulmo and Bahia Las Frailes.

These heavily armored fishes are characteristically poor swimmers but posses a potent toxin, ostracitoxin, which is released in their skin secretions when stressed.  There is strong sexual dimorphism in this species.  Females and juveniles are overall dark blue in color and covered with small white polka dots.  Males on the other hand are a deep royal blue with bright yellow spots over the dorsal surface.  The dissimilar appearance between the sexes is so strong that they were originally classified as two different species. 


Updated August 28, 2009

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