Mobile
Action Join Donate
MarineBio Conservation Society Ocean Conservation Marine Life Species Database Education+Careers Projects Sponsors Contributors Photos Videos News Connect
pinterest

Atlantic Spadefishes, Chaetodipterus faber

Loading species photos...
Loading species photos...

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.

Life History

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.

Resilience to fishing pressure: Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years
Extinction vulnerability to fishing: Moderate vulnerability (37 of 100)

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

Search for Atlantic Spadefishes » ARKive ~ Ask.com ~ Bing ~ dmoz ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ OceanFootage ~ Picsearch ~ Wikipedia ~ Yahoo! Images ~ YouTube

Feedback & Citation

Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!


~^~ surface

Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life

Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences.

Join us today or show your support with a monthly donation.

With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.