Atlantic Spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber
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Description & Behavior
Atlantic spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber (Broussonet, 1782), aka angelfishes, atlantic spades, butterfly fishes, jackasses, leather coats, moonfish, ocean cobblers, paouas, pot covers, sea donkeys, spadefishes, threebanded sheepheads, threetailed porgy, tripletails, white angels, and white angelfishes, are silvery gray in color with vertical black bars. They are known and named for their characteristic spade-shaped body, which is compressed with a very short snout. Atlantic spadefishes typically grow to 30-45 cm with maximum lengths up to 91 cm and have 2 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins with high anterior lobes. They also have 9 dorsal spines, 21-24 dorsal soft rays, and 17-18 anal soft rays. Juveniles, which are commonly found in shallow coastal waters, are black in color for greater camouflage. Atlantic spadefishes are frequently curious about divers and their bubbles.
World Range & Habitat
Atlantic spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber, are found around subtropical reefs, commonly off the coast of Florida and the Bahamas to southeastern Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico in depths ranging from 3-35 m. Adults often form schools in open water of up to 500 individuals.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Atlantic spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber, feed primarily on benthic invertebrates and plankton.
Plankton: mostly microscopic organisms that drift with the currents. They can be any number of different algae, larval or immature stages of adult animals, single-celled animals, or tiny crustaceans.
Benthic invertebrates: animals that live in or near the bottom substrate of a marine environment such as annelids, cnidarians, crustaceans, and mollusks.
Atlantic spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber, are known to spawn off South Carolina between May and August, with most fish (97 percent) prepared to spawn in May. Some females were determined to have spawned more than once during this period. Maximum abundance of spadefish larvae occurred in these coastal waters between June and August when water temperatures were greater than or equal to 28°C and where salinities ranged from 26.7 to 31.3 parts per thousand (ppt). Small juveniles may sometimes be misidentified as young sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus.
Conservation Status & Comments
When ingested by humans, the Atlantic spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber, has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, which is caused primarily by ciguatoxins in the flesh of tropical marine fishes. Ciguatoxins, produced by marine dinoflagellates, grow on algae and are ingested by herbivorous (plant-eating) fishes. Larger fish also accumulate the toxin by feeding on smaller herbivorous fishes, and become reservoirs of toxic levels of ciguatoxin. The poisoning can last for several weeks and is diagnosed by signs and symptoms that include gastrointestinal problems, weakness in the arms and legs, and trouble distinguishing between hot and cold.
This species is occasionally found sold fresh in markets and as part of the aquarium trade.
Population doubling time: the number of years required for the population of a given species to double its present size, given the current rate of population growth, used to measure a species' resilience to fishing pressure or other environmental stressors.
References & Further Research
Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas By Paul Humann, Ned DeLoach
Atlantic Spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber by Melvin Bell, SC Department of Natural Resources
Hayes, J.W. 1990. Feeding habits, age, growth, and reproduction of Atlantic spadefish Chaetodipterus faber (Pisces: Ephippidae) in South Carolina. Fish. Bull. 88(1):67-83.
Research Chaetodipterus faber » 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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