Crocodile Fishes, Cymbacephalus beauforti
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Description & Behavior
Crocodile fishes, Cymbacephalus beauforti (Knapp, 1973), aka crocodilefishes, De Beaufort's flatheads, Beaufort's crocodilefishes, etc. are a mottled brownish gray species of flatfish with fluorescent green markings criss-crossing its body. They often camouflage themselves on sheltered or semi-exposed reefs. They may reach 50 centimeters in length and have 9 or 10 dorsal spines, 11 dorsal soft rays, no anal spines, 11 anal soft rays, and large pelvic fins. Juveniles are entirely black, though as they age they gradually take on the blotched pattern of the adult. The rear edge of the maxilla ends well in front of eye, and near the eye there is a prominent pit, a smooth infraorbital ridge, and a smooth suborbital ridge bearing 2 spines. The interopercular flap is usually broader than long, with several subdivisions. The eyes of the crocodilefish have frilly iris lappets (see third photo), which help break up the black pupil of the fish, and thus improve its camouflage.
World Range & Habitat
The crocodile fish, Cymbacephalus beauforti, is non-migratory and is generally associated with marine reefs from 19°N to 23°S, at depths of 1 to 8 m. In the western Pacific, they may be seen off the Philippines, Borneo, the Moluccas, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Palau, and Yap Island to Ishigaki Island. Its range extends as far as the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. Crocodile fishes live on sandy or rubble substrates near mangroves, seagrass or coral reefs, in very shallow water down to at least 30 m. The rough and mottled nature of the substrate mimics the pattern on this fish, allowing for very effective camouflage.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Crocodile fishes, Cymbacephalus beauforti, are bottom-dwelling ambush hunters which feed largely on smaller fish and crustaceans.
Little is known about the breeding habits of crocodile fishes, though the minimum population doubling time is probably between 4.5 and 14 years.
Conservation Status & Comments
Divers who come across a crocodile fish have little to worry about — the fish often remains very still, even if humans approach them.
References & Further Research
Research Cymbacephalus beauforti » 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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