Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula
The Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula, whose common Spanish name is macabí del Pacifico oriental, and known locally as chili, is a species in the Bonefish or Albulidae Family, known collectively as macabi in Mexico. Globally, there are only six species in the genus Albula, four of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.
The Eastern Pacific Bonefish are relatively small fish with long slender silvery and slightly compressed bodies. Their anal and pectoral fins are orange. They have a conical head with a small short and inferior mouth that does not reach the eyes and a pointed overhanging snout. Their anal fin is set under the rear of their dorsal fin. They have deeply forked caudal fins, one short dorsal fin located mid-body, pectoral fins that are low on the body, short pelvic fins that are also low on the body and well behind the pectoral fins, and a straight lateral line that runs the entire length of the body. Their fins do not have spines and their anal and dorsal fins do not have an extended filamentous ray (a key to identification). They are covered with modest-sized and smooth scales.
The Eastern Pacific Bonefish are bottom dwelling schooling fish found in and around sandy substrata; they will sometimes come into very shallow water on sand flats at depths of less than 50 feet. They reach a maximum length of 70 cm (28 inches). They are believed to be a pelagic species that travels and feeds in schools.
In Mexican waters the Eastern Pacific Bonefish have a limited distribution being found from Mazatlan south to Guatemala along the coast of the mainland.
For centuries the Eastern Pacific Bonefish has been confused with the Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti, however, based on DNA analysis and related studies conducted in 2011, the Cortez Bonefish was deemed to be a different and new-to-science species. They have been poorly studied and as such very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Eastern Pacific Bonefish is similar to the Bonefish, Albula vulpes (resides exclusively in the Atlantic Ocean), the Machete, Elops saurus (pelvic fins in front of dorsal fins), the Milkfish, Chanos chanos (large eyes; short terminal mouth; strong lateral line; short pointed dorsal fin), and the Pacific Shafted Bonefish, Albula pacifica (prolonged filamentous terminal anal and dorsal fin rays). The Eastern Pacific Bonefish is also identical in visual appearance to the Cortez Bonefish, Albula gilberti, and thus requiring a DNA analysis to separate these two species. The Cortez Bonefish is also smaller and believed to be a more coastal species, as it is absent from waters south of Mazatlán.
The Eastern Pacific Bonefish is a rare species and not deemed to be a valuable food fish due to its small size and the numerous fine bones omnipresent in its flesh.
Eastern Pacific Bonefish, Albula esuncula. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2013. Length: 24 cm (9.5 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.