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Subfamily Epinephelinae
Subfamily Serraninae
Subfamily Liopropominae
Subfamily Grammistinae
Subfamily Pseudogrammatinae
The serranids, or groupers and seabasses, are ubiquitous predators on Caribbean coral reefs and come in all shapes and sizes. Groupers are, or more accurately, were the basis of large and important fisheries throughout the region, but have become rare on fished reefs and some species are even endangered. This large and diverse family is composed of several clearly-defined subfamilies. Those subfamilies with Caribbean reef-associated representatives include the conspicuous groupers (Epinephelinae), the numerous small seabasses and hamlets (Serraninae), the deep-water basslets (Liopropominae), the soapfishes (Grammistinae), and the small reef-bass Pseudogramma gregoryi (also can be considered either a Grammistinine or a Pseudogrammatinine). There are many serranids in the region found only in deep water and not associated with coral reefs, nevertheless they are included in this section for completeness.
 
Larval serranids can be recognized by their relatively wide body, particularly large terminal mouth, large round eye, continuous spinous and soft dorsal fins with stout, sometimes serrated, dorsal-fin spines, and three stout spines in a short anal fin (note these characters are not all shared by the Grammistinae). Unfortunately, these characters are shared with many other percoid fishes and some serranid fin-ray counts can overlap with the abundant snappers (Lutjanidae) and grunts (Haemulidae). Within each of these families there is variation in the larval body form and meristics and often marked ontogenetic changes as well, leading to some similarity in appearance and the distinction sometimes can be difficult.
 
In the earlier stages, the larvae of the three families are quite similar and separation is a problem. The serranids and lutjanids even share their basic marking patterns, with melanophores on the spinous dorsal-fin membranes and on the anal fin base and caudal peduncle. A useful distinction is that serranids typically have a melanophore at the angle of the jaw and melanophores on the pectoral-fin rays, which, if present, immediately separate them from the other families. Lutjanids have a post-cleithral spine, not present in the other families, but it is not easy to see. In general, the three families have a different look as later larvae: serranids generally have large jaws with a sharp jawline (essentially a much wider gape than the others) and a particularly wide maxilla, snappers have less prominent jaw lines and an enlarging non-serrated preopercular spine, while grunts typically have smaller larvae with shorter dorsal-fin spines, and, importantly, the third anal-fin spine develops as a segmented ray in larvae and small juveniles.
 
Although serranid larvae share the basic features listed above, the size at settlement varies widely within the family: hamlets and basslets settle very small, from 5-10 mm SL, while some epinephelines settle particularly large, sometimes reaching up to two inches in length while still pelagic.
 
Subfamily Epinephelinae
 
Epinephelus
Mycteroperca
Paranthias
This subfamily comprises the large commercially-important groupers of the region. There are several epinepheline genera with a single species in the region (one with two) and then two large genera, the Epinephelus and the Mycteroperca. The phylogenetics of the Serranidae have been recently examined by Craig and Hastings (2007), and they find that the regional Mycteroperca do form a distinct clade, but the regional Epinephelus split into three clades: the true Epinephelus including the common shallow-water species, the deep-water set of species (or Hyporthodus), and the deep-water E. drummondhayi (or Triso). Interestingly, Paranthias furcifer falls within the Cephalopholis clade, despite its derived form and non-benthic habits. This conclusion is reinforced by the report of hybrids between the two genera from both Noronha and Bermuda.
The basic body form and appearance of many groupers are the same and they are difficult to distinguish in the field. The two large genera are most easily separated by the anal-fin ray count: only eight soft rays (occasionally nine) in the Epinephelus and usually 11 or more (rarely 10) in the Mycteroperca (all have 11 dorsal-fin spines and 3 anal-fin spines, except E. nigritus with ten). Two small reef groupers, the Graysby and the Coney, belong to Cephalopholis, easily separated by having only nine dorsal-fin spines. The remaining regional epinephelines comprise Paranthias furcifer (with D-IX,18-19 A-III,9), Dermatolepis inermis (with D-XI,18-20 A-III,9), Alphestes afer (with D-XI,18-19 A-III,9), and the deep-water Gonioplectrus hispanus (with D-VIII,13 A-III,7).
Fin-ray counts can identify most Caribbean epinepheline larvae to genus relatively easily. However, within genera there is a broad overlap of fin-ray counts and little variation in body form, making DNA-sequence analyses critical to differentiating the larval groupers.
 
Mycteroperca
Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of
A
Description:
Epinephelus
Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of
A
Description:
 
Subfamily Serraninae
 
D-X,.. A-III,7
Hypoplectrus
Serranus
Diplectrum
Distinguishing this large group of small serranid fishes from other serranid subfamilies can be subtle and dorsal-fin spine and anal-fin soft-ray counts are often necessary. All of the regional serranines have ten dorsal-fin spines while, serendipitously, the other regional serranids have nine or fewer or eleven or more (except E. nigritus). In addition, the serranines (except for the deep-water anthiines) have seven anal-fin soft rays and non-serrated fin spines, while the remaining subfamilies of Serranidae have eight or more anal-fin soft rays and sometimes serrated fin spines. Some larval snappers (Lutjanidae) have a similar general appearance but have eight or more anal-fin soft rays (and a prominent preopercular spine). The larval grunts (Haemulidae) have twelve or more dorsal-fin spines, are generally narrower-bodied, and their third anal-fin spine is a segmented ray in the larval and early juvenile stages. There is certainly some overlap in body shape between the narrower-bodied serranines (such as Diplectrum) and the haemulids, in which case fin-ray characters are useful.
The deep-water anthiine serranines are sometimes raised to their own subfamily (Anthiinae) and they are the only serranines to have some species with a mode of eight anal-fin soft rays.
 
Dorsal-fin soft-ray counts separate the genera: There are several reef-associated Caribbean serranine genera, generally separating into two groups by dorsal-fin soft-ray counts: the numerous hamlets of Hypoplectrus with D-X,15 and the large genus of basslets of Serranus, typically with D-X,12. The deep-water serranines have 10 or 11 or 13-16.
 
Shallow-water Serranus species separate out slightly by modal pectoral fin-ray counts (but the ranges overlap extensively): a group with 14 comprising S. baldwini (13-15), S. tigrinus (14), and S. tortugarum (13-15); then S. tabacarius with 15 (sometimes 14); S. subligarius with 16 (14-17, a northern species), and S. flaviventris with 16 (or 17, a southern species). There are a number of deeper-water species as well that broadly overlap these counts: S. annularis with 13 (or 14), S. chionaraia with 14 (or 13), S. luciopercanus with 14, S. maytagi with 15-16, S. notospilus and S. phoebe with 15-16 (14-17) and S. atrobranchus with 16 (15-17).
 
The remaining shallow-water serranine genera have sometimes overlapping fin-ray counts with the Serranus- three Diplectrum species: D. bivittatum (X,12 Pect-15-16, occ. 14), D. formosum (X,12 Pect-16-17, up to 18), and D. radiale (X,12 Pect-16-18, mode 17, from the S. Caribbean); Paralabrax dewegeri (X,13-14 Pect-17); Serraniculus pumilio (X,10-11, Pect-14-15); and Schultzea beta (X,11-12 Pect-16).
 
Two deep-water serranines have fewer dorsal-fin soft rays than the others: Parasphyraenops atrimanus (X,10 III,6 Pect-17) and P. incisus (X,10 III,7 Pect-17). The Centropristis species, from more temperate US waters only, also can have fewer, with 11 (one with 12) dorsal-fin soft rays and A-III,7 and comprise C. fuscula (with D-X,12), C. ocyurus (Pect-17), C. philadelphica (Pect-18), and C. striata (Pect 16-19).
 
The remaining deep-water taxa tend to have 13 or more dorsal-fin soft rays and include Bullsichthys caribbaeus (X,13-14 III,7 Pect-14-15) and the anthiines. Anthiines comprise four Anthias species, all with D-X,14-15 Pect-18-21: i.e. Anthias tenuis (III,8), A. nicholsi (III,7), A. woodsi (X,14, III,7), and A. asperilinguis (X,15, III,7); Hemanthias vivanus (X,14, III,8 Pect-18-19), H. aureorubens (X,13-16,usually 15, III,8 Pect-16-17), and H. leptus (X,14 III,8); Pronotogrammus martinicensis (X,15 (13-16) III,7-8, Pect-16-18), and, finally, Plectranthias garrupellus with the unusual fin-ray count of X,16 III,7 and Pect-13. Note that some of these latter species with eight anal-fin rays have identical fin-ray counts to some lutjanid snappers.
  Hypoplectrus
 

Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,15 A-III,7 Pect-14 indicate the hamlets of Hypoplectrus. There is a "species flock" of numerous color variations of these fishes in the Caribbean, many of which can hybridize and the small juveniles are presumably indistinguishable. Variant larvae with slightly different melanophore patterns may either represent these different "morphospecies" or individual variation (likely the latter). DNA analysis may not be diagnostic, since it has been difficult to find consistent sequence divergence between color morphs (Puebla et al. 2007). The Caribbean morphospecies comprise H. aberrans, H. chlorurus, H. gemma, H. gummigutta, H. indigo, H. guttavarius, H. nigricans, H. providencia, H. puella, and H. unicolor. The median-fin ray count can be shared with some deep-water Caribbean serranids (Anthias nicholsi and A. asperilinguis, some Hemanthias aureorubens, and Pronotogrammus martinicensis), but the latter species have more pectoral-fin rays (16 or more). (DNA)

Analogues:
Description: Body thin and moderately wide with a large round eye and very large terminal mouth. Pectoral and pelvic fins medium length, reaching much of the way to the vent, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base short, caudal peduncle moderately wide and short. The typical complement of melanophores on the head consists of one at the angle of the jaw and a sparse scattering on the top of the head. On the body there is one at the dorsal midline just forward of the first dorsal spine and then two large melanophores on the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle; one just behind the last anal-fin ray and one just before the first procurrent caudal-fin ray (the latter are often persistent through transition in serranines). Melanophores on the fins are prominent: the full complement consists of a patch on the membranes of the third to fifth dorsal-fin spines, several near the base of the first three anal-fin soft rays, extensively lining the membranes of the pectoral and pelvic fins and finally one at the base of the lower central caudal-fin rays. Internal melanophores are present around the sacculus and along the dorsal surface of the swim bladdder and the peritoneum extending to the gut near the vent. Varying patterns are common: earlier-stage larvae can be missing the melanophores on top of the head and/or the entire anal-fin, caudal peduncle, and caudal fin set of melanophores. Larvae approaching transition progressively lose the markings on their pectoral and pelvic fin rays and some larvae also develop a melanophore on the dorsal midline of the caudal peduncle (the saddle characteristic of juvenile hamlets). One or both of the ventral caudal peduncle spots occasionally are missing and sometimes the anal fin has additional melanophores (sometimes a full row) just distal to the base of the rays. A variety of additional melanophores occur in some individuals: just forward of the nasal bones, along the ventral aspect of the lower jaw, an additional melanophore on the caudal peduncle after the last anal-fin ray or a second spot on the base of the caudal-fin rays (usually on the upper central caudal-fin rays), or a few scattered on the caudal-fin rays. Pre-transitional larvae have a somewhat-narrowed vertical oval eye becoming fully round as transition approaches. Transitional larvae develop a fine scattering of discrete small surface melanophores, dense towards the anterior and fading towards the tail and the larval melanophores progressively disappear (usually starting with those on the pectoral-fin rays).
Hypoplectrus sp. larva
7.2 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1008
 
 
Hypoplectrus sp. larva
6.6 mm SL
slightly vertically narrowed eye
San Blas, Panama, SB87-222
Hypoplectrus sp. early transitional larva
7.3 mm SL
losing pectoral fin melanophores
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1004
 
Hypoplectrus sp. larva
6.2 mm SL
variant pattern, row of melanophores
on all anal-fin ray membranes and a
caudal peduncle spot above midline
San Blas, Panama, SB83-179
 
Hypoplectrus sp. larva
7.0 mm SL
variant pattern, with caudal peduncle
spot on dorsal aspect
San Blas, Panama, SB86-425
Hypoplectrus sp. early transitional larva
7.0 mm SL
variant pattern, with two caudal fin spots
San Blas, Panama, SB86-623
Hypoplectrus sp. transitional larva
7.1 mm SL
variant pattern, with three spots along
ventral aspect of caudal peduncle
San Blas, Panama, SB83-156
 
Hypoplectrus sp. transitional larva
6.7 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB83-156
 
Serranus
There are numerous species in this genus and DNA-sequence analyses indicate that it is likely that the genus is polyphyletic (M. Craig). Nevertheless, many of these small basslets are very similar in general appearance and overlap in meristics, making it a difficult group for species identifications. Most of the regional species share the median-fin ray formula of D-X,12 A-III,7. DNA sequencing is likely necessary to separate larvae of some of the species, however identifications can be narrowed down by pectoral-fin ray counts and subtle differences in markings.
 
Unlike many other reef fishes, the Serranus species lose their larval melanophore pattern rapidly at transition and develop transitional melanophores, often in a completely different pattern. The distinction in melanophore size is not as obvious as in many other fishes, and the transitional melanophores can often look the same as the larval melanophores they are replacing. This is especially true on the head and on the fin-ray membranes. Patches of fin-membrane melanophores disappear and new patches can arise on different parts of the fin. In general, the transitional melanophores on the body are smalller and more finely scattered than the large, often single, larval melanophores. Like the Hypoplectrus, larvae of Serranus often show less than their full complement of larval melanophores, and occasional individuals have extra spots. In addition, transitional larvae lose their larval melanophores in no consistent order, leading to a spectrum of spot patterns. This variation makes identification more complicated since variants are to be expected.
 
Species of Serranus are listed in order of increasing pectoral-fin ray counts
 
Serranus tigrinus
 

Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,12 A-III,7 with 14 pectoral-fin rays indicate a subset of Serranus species. Shallow-water species with this modal fin-ray count comprise S. tigrinus, S. baldwini, and S. tortugarum (deep-water species comprise S. chionaraia and S. luciopercanus). (ML)

Analogues: Larval S. tigrinus can be separated from larval S. baldwini by having melanophores at the base of one or a few upper and lower caudal-fin segmented rays. The eye of larval S. tigrinus can be smaller than in its congeners, with more than one eye-width into the snout vs. less in the other species (note this difference disappears in juveniles). Larval S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius do not have the internal melanophores on the mid-body or under the last dorsal-fin spine and have melanophores on the proximal portions of the middle spinous-fin membranes (not the distal third).
Transitional S. tigrinus can be distinguished by having three head stripes extending rearward from the upper eye vs. two in S. baldwini and none in S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius (the latter two species also do not have the cheek stripe). The transitional melanophores forming on the body at the base of the fourth through sixth dorsal-fin spines consist of a single long patch, while in S. baldwini the melanophores split into two patches (usually under the base of the fourth and sixth, sparing the fifth). On S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius the melanophores concentrate on the proximal fin membranes, not initially forming patches on the adjacent body.

Description: Body thin and moderately wide with a round eye and a large terminal mouth. Pectoral and pelvic fins long, reaching just past the vent, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base short, caudal peduncle relatively wide and short. The third spinous-dorsal-fin membrane is greatly extended, up to 3 times the length of the next membrane. On the head there is a melanophore at the angle of the jaw. On the body, melanophores are mainly along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle, typically two or three: the largest just after the last anal-fin element and one or two just before the procurrent caudal-fin rays (occasionally one or two more in between). Some larvae have a melanophore on the dorsal midline of the caudal peduncle just after the last dorsal-fin element. Two large deep internal melanophores are present, one in the mid-upper body below the mid-soft dorsal fin and one in the body just below the base of the last dorsal-fin spine (not always obvious in thick-bodied preserved larvae). Internal melanophores line the dorsal aspect of the swim bladder and posterior peritoneum. The fin membranes are well-marked, with the standard serranid heavy speckling on the pelvic-fin membranes and on the outer half of the pectoral-fin membranes. There are melanophores along the distal third of the spinous-dorsal-fin membranes and lining the tips of the upper and lower lobes of the caudal fin and at the tips of all of the anal fin-ray membranes. Some individuals may have them at the tips of some of the dorsal soft-fin membranes as well. There are also one or a few melanophores near the base of the third anal-fin spine and/or first soft ray. Notably there are melanophores at the base of one (or a few) of the mid-upper as well as mid-lower segmented caudal-fin rays.

Transitional larvae develop three stripes radiating back from the upper eye and an oblique stripe across the cheek. As the markings increase the upper two eye stripes merge and a reticulated pattern of patches and lines develops on the anterior upper body and near the base of the dorsal fin; notably the patch near the base of the fourth through sixth dorsal-fin spines is not divided into two spots. The larval melanophores rapidly fade away as the transitional surface markings progress rearward, a stripe forms from the eye to the tip of snout, and the iris develops a clock-face-like set of surface black patches.
Serranus tigrinus early transitional larva
9.8 mm SL
Colon, Panama N762a
serranus tigrinus larvae
  serranus tigrinus larvae
Serranus tigrinus transitional larva
10.0 mm SL
Glover's Reef, Belize
serranus tigrinus larvae
  serranid larvae
  serranus larvae
Serranus tigrinus transitional recruit
10.7 mm SL
La Parguera, Puerto Rico, PR784a
serranus tigrinus larvae
Serranus tigrinus transitional recruit
11.0 mm SL
Colon, Panama, N7531a
serranus tigrinus larvae
 
Serranus baldwini
 

Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,12 A-III,7 with 14 pectoral-fin rays indicate a subset of Serranus species. Shallow-water species with this modal fin-ray count comprise S. baldwini, S. tortugarum, and S. tigrinus (deep-water species comprise S. chionaraia and S. luciopercanus).

Analogues: Larval S. baldwini can be separated from larval S. tigrinus by having no melanophores at the base of the caudal-fin segmented rays. Larval S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius do not have the internal melanophores on the mid-body or under the last dorsal-fin spine and have melanophores on the proximal portions of the middle spinous-fin membranes (not the distal third).

Transitional S. baldwini can be distinguished by having two head stripes extending rearward from the upper eye vs. three in S. tigrinus and none in S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius (the latter two species also do not have the cheek stripe). The transitional melanophores forming on the body at the base of the fourth through sixth dorsal-fin spines split into two patches (usually under the base of the fourth and sixth, sparing the fifth), while in S. tigrinus the melanophores consist of a single patch. On S. tortugarum and S. tabacarius the melanophores concentrate on the proximal half of the fin membranes, not initially forming patches on the body below the fin.
Description:
Serranus baldwini ? larva
8.2 mm SL, pect. 14
San Blas, Panama, SB86-927
 
Serannus tortugarum
Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,12 A-III,7 with 14 pectoral-fin rays indicate a subset of Serranus species. Shallow-water species with this modal fin-ray count comprise S. baldwini, S. tortugarum, and S. tigrinus (deep-water species comprise S. chionaraia and S. luciopercanus).
Analogues: Larval S. tortugarum have no melanophores on the caudal fin, while larval S. tabacarius have a melanophore at the base of the upper segmented caudal-fin rays. Larval S. baldwini and S. tigrinus differ by having internal melanophores at the mid-body and under the last dorsal-fin spine and the melanophores along their dorsal-fin membranes are on the distal third (not proximal). Larval Diplectrum bivittatum differ by having a full row of melanophores along the anal-fin base and the row continues along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle.
Transitional S. tortugarum can be distinguished from S. tabacarius by developing two distinct patches of melanophores along the spinous-dorsal-fin membranes vs. one. They have no obvious stripes radiating from the eye as are found on transitional S. tigrinus and S. baldwini. Transitional Diplectrum bivittatum differ by having a prominent mid-lateral body stripe and a distinctly narrower body.
Description: Body thin and moderately wide with a large round eye and a large terminal mouth. Pectoral and pelvic fins medium length, reaching much of the way to the vent, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base short, caudal peduncle moderately wide and short. Dorsal and anal-fin spines stout and non-serrated, three anal-fin spines. Pre-transitional larvae are lightly marked, with melanophores on the head only at the angle of the jaw. On the body there is a large melanophore at the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle just after the last anal-fin ray and a deep one before the start of the procurrent caudal-fin rays. On the dorsal fin there are patches of melanophores on the membranes between the third and sixth spines (mid-length on the third, proximal on the fourth and fifth). Internal melanophores line the dorsal surface of the swim bladder and peritoneum extending to the gut near the vent. Transitional larvae develop melanophores in a large patch on top of the head and in a row along the dorsal midline, starting with four patches: the first just forward of the dorsal-fin origin, the largest on and below the fin membranes at the fourth and fifth dorsal-fin spines, then on and below the last three dorsal-fin spines, then on and below the base of the third through fifth soft dorsal-fin rays. At the same time the larval melanophores are lost from the pectoral and pelvic fin membranes and then from the body, with the last persisting larval melanophore the one just before the lower procurrent caudal-fin rays. A broad irregular stripe of fine melanophores extends rearward from the upper edge of the operculum. Melanophores appear on the iris at about 2, 3, 5, 8, and 11 o'clock.
Serranus tortugarum early transitional larva
8.1 mm SL
13 pectoral-fin rays
San Blas, Panama, SB86-101
 
Serranus tortugarum transitional larva
7.8 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-623
 
Serranus tortugarum late transitional larva
8.0 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1004
 
 
Serranus tortugarum transitional recruit
9.9 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB82-
 
 
Serranus tabacarius
 

Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,12 A-III,7 with 15 pectoral-fin rays indicate several Serranus species and Diplectrum bivittatum. Serranus tabacarius is the only shallow-water species with this modal fin-ray count (deep-water species comprise S. maytagi, S. notospilus, and S. phoebe).

Analogues: Larval S. tabacarius have a melanophore at the base of the upper segmented caudal-fin rays while larval S. tortugarum have no melanophores on the caudal fin. Larval S. baldwini and S. tigrinus differ by having internal melanophores at the mid-body and under the last dorsal-fin spine and the melanophores along their dorsal-fin membranes are on the distal third (not proximal). Larval Diplectrum bivittatum differ by having a full row of melanophores along the anal-fin base and the row continues along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle.
Transitional S. tabacarius can be distinguished from S. tortugarum by developing a single large patch of melanophores along the spinous portion of the dorsal-fin membranes vs. two. They have no obvious stripes radiating from the eye as are found on transitional S. tigrinus and S. baldwini. Transitional Diplectrum bivittatum differ by having a prominent mid-lateral body stripe and a distinctly narrower body.

Description: Body thin and moderately wide with a round eye and a very large terminal mouth. Pectoral and pelvic fins long, reaching just past the vent, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base short, caudal peduncle relatively short and not wide. (The third spinous-dorsal-fin membrane is greatly extended, up to 3 times the length of the next membrane)?. On the head there is a melanophore at the angle of the jaw. Later larvae can have additional spots on the head, just above and behind the upper eye, a spot over each lobe of the brain, and a small midline patch just behind the brain. On the body, there are melanophores only along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle, one just after the last anal-fin element and one or two just before the procurrent caudal-fin rays. Internal melanophores line the dorsal aspect of the swim bladder and posterior peritoneum (no internal melanophores in the mid-body or tail). There is the standard serranid speckling on the pelvic-fin membranes and on the outer half of the pectoral-fin membranes. There are melanophores along the membranes of the posterior spinous dorsal fin (sixth to ninth). On the base of the anal fin there are one or two melanophores, usually on the first soft ray and often the third or fourth. Notably there is a melanophore at the base of one (or a few) of the mid-upper segmented caudal-fin rays.

Serranus tabacarius larva
6.5 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB84-519
serranus tabacarius larvae
  serranus tabacarius larvae
 
Diplectrum bivittatum
Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-X,12 A-III,7 with 15, and often 16, pectoral-fin rays includes a wide group of serranines including Diplectrum in shallow waters and Serranus atrobranchus, S. maytagi, S. notospilus, and S. phoebe along with Schultzea beta, all in deeper waters. Shallow-water Serranus species with the high pectoral-fin ray count include S. flaviventrus with 16-17 and S. subligarius (only from Florida and GOM) with 15-17. Recruits and juveniles with prominent lateral stripes indicate Diplectrum. The Diplectrum species are separated only slightly by modal pectoral fin-ray counts (and scale counts): 15-16 in D. bivittatum (54-75 lateral-line scales) and 16-17 in D. formosum (46-55). D. formosum occurs in US waters and from Colombia to Brazil. The remaining species in the genus, D. radiale, has a mode of 17 pectoral-fin rays and is found in the S. Caribbean only. D. bivittatum is the only species widespread in the region.
Analogues:
Description: Body thick and relatively narrow with a large round eye and large terminal mouth. Pectoral and pelvic fins medium length, reaching more than half-way to the vent, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base short, caudal peduncle relatively narrow and short. Melanophores typically at the angle of the jaw, a cluster on the top of the head, and two stripes of small melanophores, one along the upper body only below the spinous dorsal-fin and one full-length along the lateral midline. There is a row of melanophores along the base of the anal-fin soft rays, one per ray, and several along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle ending before the start of the procurrent caudal-fin rays. On the fins, melanophores concentrate on the distal membranes between the dorsal-fin spines and extensively speckled along the pectoral and pelvic fin ray membranes. There are often a few melanophores between some of the anal-fin rays. On the caudal fin, there are melanophores at the base of several of the central lower segmented fin rays and a larger patch at the base of the first two or three upper segmented caudal-fin rays that presents as a slight upward curve of the main body mid-lateral stripe. Internal melanophores are present along the dorsal surface of the swim bladder and peritoneum extending to the gut near the vent. Transitional larvae intensify the two stripes and the mid lateral stripe extends forward to the tip of the upper jaw and the upper stripe continues irregularly backwards to the dorsal caudal peduncle. A third short stripe develops on top of the head from the braincase towards the origin of the dorsal fin. Smaller melanophores develop between the anterior portions of the main two stripes and just above the anal fin, as well as in a series of fine patches just below the mid-lateral stripe. The larval melanophores on the pectoral and pelvic fin ray membranes disappear rapidly, those between the dorsal-fin spines disappear last. Melanophores appear on the iris at about 3, 7, 9, and 10 o'clock.
Diplectrum bivittatum larva
12.7 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB84-627
 
Diplectrum bivittatum transitional larva
12.8 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1001
 
 
 
Diplectrum bivittatum late transitional larva
12.3 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1002
 
Diplectrum bivittatum late transitional larva
12.9 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB86-1008
 
Subfamily Liopropominae
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Subfamily Grammistinae
Rypticus
Diagnosis: Reduced spinous dorsal fin with only 2-4 dorsal-fin spines and no obvious anal-fin spines indicates the soapfishes of Rypticus. There are six regional species with broadly overlapping fin-ray counts. They can be separated somewhat by the number of dorsal-fin spines: R. saponaceus and R. randalli have 3 dorsal-fin spines, R. subbifrenatus has 3 or 4 dorsal-fin spines, and the remaining species have only two dorsal-fin spines: the widespread R. bistrispinus and R. bornoi (= R. macrostigmus) and R. maculatus from US waters and the GOM only.
Description: Body thick and moderately wide with a medium round eye and large terminal mouth. Pectoral-fin rays very long, reaching well past the vent, pelvic fins short, dorsal-fin base long and anal-fin base medium length, caudal peduncle relatively narrow and short. First dorsal-fin spine prominent and covered in soft tissue, subsequent spines very short. Fins generally covered in soft tissue membranes. Very few melanophores, typically only along the pectoral-fin rays.
Rypticus larva
9.6 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB83-168
Rypticus larva
10.5 mm SL
San Blas, Panama, SB83-169
Rypticus saponaceus
Diagnosis:
Description: Body relatively thick, wide, and short with a large eye and large terminal mouth. pectoral-fin rays very long, pelvic fins short, dorsal-fin base relatively long and anal-fin base medium, caudal peduncle wide and short. Fins generally covered in soft tissue membranes. Very few melanophores, typically only along the pectoral-fin rays.
 
 
Subfamily Pseudogrammatinae
Pseudogramma gregoryi
Diagnosis: Modal fin-ray counts of D-VII,18-19 A-III,15-16 indicate Pseudogramma gregoryi. (U)
Description: Body relatively thin, somewhat long and narrow with a large eye and large terminal mouth. pectoral-fin rays very long, pelvic fins short, dorsal and anal-fin bases relatively long, caudal peduncle wide and short.
FAMILY GRAMMATIDAE
Gramma loreto
Diagnosis:
Description:
Gramma loreto larva
10.1 mm SL
x
Gramma loreto larva
10.1 mm SL
x
Gramma loreto larva
10.1 mm SL
x
Gramma loreto larva
10.2 mm SL
x
Gramma loreto larva
10.8 mm SL
x

 

 

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