Bonefishes, Albula vulpes
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Description & Behavior
Bonefishes, Albula vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758), are one of the most important game fishes in the world. These beautiful fish can reach weights and lengths of up to 10 kg and 104 cm respectively, though a more representative size would be about a third of that. Bonefishes have 15-19 dorsal soft rays, 7-9 anal soft rays, 12-14 branchiostegal rays, and 69-74 vertebrae. Bonefishes appear blue-greenish above, with bright silver scales on the sides and below. Dark streaks run in between their rows of scales, predominantly on their dorsal side. Their bodies are long, thin, and fusiform, with bluntly conical snouts. Pectoral and pelvic axillary scales are present, as is a single long scale on each side of the membrane between each ray of their dorsal and anal fins. Bonefish have a unique adaptation for tolerating oxygen-poor water; they inhale air into a lung-like airbladder to supplement oxygen from the water. They are sometimes mistaken for ladyfishes, which look similar. Linnaeus first described the bonefish in 1758. Its scientific name can be translated as "white fox."
World Range & Habitat
Bonefishes, Albula vulpes, prefer reefs, shallows, estuaries, bays, grass flats, and other brackish areas at depths from 0 to 84 m. They are found worldwide in subtropical warm seas. In the Eastern Pacific, their range includes waters off California to Peru; the Western Atlantic range stretches from North Carolina to Florida, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, the Antilles and the rest of the Caribbean to Brazil.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
A pelagic fish, bonefishes nonetheless feed on benthic creatures such as worms, crustaceans, and mollusks, rooting them out from the sandy bottom. Granular teeth, forming specialized dental plates, cover the bonefish's tongue and upper jaw, and similar grinders are also present in the throat, helping the fish to grind up its prey. Small to medium-size individuals often feed in schools. Sharks and barracuda often prey on bonefish.
Bonefish spawning occurs year round in deep water where currents can easily disperse the developing eggs and larvae to other locations. These fish are generally less reproductively active during the hotter summer months. Sexual maturity is reached at two years and near ripe females may be as small as 23 cm. The eggs hatch into ribbon-like larvae that transform into a more fish-like form once they reach about 5 cm, at which point they move closer to shore. Their minimum population doubling time is estimated to be between 1.4 and 4.4 years.
Conservation Status & Comments
In 1990, scientists reported that bonefish have caused a few episodes of ciguatera poisoning.
References & Further Research
Research Albula vulpes » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
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