Three new species of Indo-Pacific jawfishes (Opistognathus: Opistognathidae), with the posterior end of the upper jaw produced as a thin flexible lamina

William F. Smith-Vaniz

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 69-108, Volume 15, Issue 2 – 15 April 2009


Six Indo-Pacific jawfishes of the genus Opistognathus, all with the posterior end of the upper jaw produced as a thin flexible lamina, are described. Three were previously named (O. nigromarginatus Rüppell, 1830; O. castelnaui Bleeker, 1860 and O. muscatensis Boulenger, 1877) and the following are described as new species: O. cyanospilotus, from the Andaman Sea and Bali, has a uniform yellow caudal fin, no bands or dark blotches on sides of body or dorsal fin, and several blue blotches or spots on the opercle, cheeks and upper jaw; O. randalli, from Indonesia and the Philippines, has the dorsal portion of the eye conspicuously golden in life, sides of body usually with 7 to 10 yellow-orange bands, the dorsal, anal and caudal fins with narrow pale (blue in life) margins; O. variabilis, known from the Maldive Islands to Palau, has a highly variable color pattern ranging from yellow to brown or blue, and although a series of 7 or 8 dark blotches are often present mid-laterally on sides of juveniles and females, they can be faint or absent in nuptial males and in both sexes at some localities. The upper jaw length is also variable in this species, ranging from relatively short to very elongate, but jaw growth trajectories are consistent at any given locality so long and short-jawed morphs never occur together. Combinations of meristic values and color pattern differences easily distinguish this jawfish from all other species of Opistognathus. Reasons for treating such variation as circumscribing a single species are discussed and the mosaic pattern of variation is documented.

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