Night Sergeant

Night Sergeant, Abudefduf taurus

The Night Sergeant, Abudefduf taurus, whose common Spanish name is petaca toro, is a species in the Damselfish or Pomacentridae Family, known collectively as castañetas and jaquetas in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-five species in the genus Abudefduf, four of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Night Sergeants have heavily compressed bodies with a depth that is 46 to 50% of standard length, thus similar in nature to freshwater bluegills. They are yellowish tan in color with five dark bars on their sides that are wider than the interspaces and a sixth bar on top of their caudal fin base. They have a prominent black spot at the upper base of their pectoral fin. Their head has a steep profile and a small mouth. Their anal fin has two spines and 10 rays, their caudal fin is forked with broad lobes, and their dorsal fin is continuous with 13 spines and 11 or 12 rays. The body is heavily covered with scales.

The Night Sergeants are a non-migratory species found in shallow water over and within rocky reefs at depths up to 15 feet. They reach a maximum length of 25.0 cm (9.8 inches) but are most common at a length of 20.0 cm (7.9 inch). They are diurnal feeders consuming primarily algae. Reproduction is oviparous with pairing of individuals; eggs are distributed demersal and adhere to the substrate due to their stickiness. Males guard and aerate the eggs.

The Night Sergeants have a wide range and are found from the Caribbean to coastal South American and along the West Coast of Africa, however, in Mexico, they are found only around the Yucatán Peninsula.

The Night Sergeant, due to its barring pattern, cannot be easily confused with any other species. The Mexican Night Sergeant, due to its coloration and body shape cannot easily be confused with any other species, however, it is virtually identical to the Mexican Night Sergeant, Abudefduf declivifrons  (found only in the Pacific Ocean).

The Night Sergeants are rather small but are considered an excellent food fish and sold fresh commercially. They are classic nibblers, thus difficult to catch by hook and line.

Night Sergeant, Abudefduf taurus. Fish caught out of coastal waters off Sugarloaf, Key, Florida, August 2014. Length: 21 cm (8.3 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

Night Sergeant, Abudefduf taurus. Fish caught from coastal waters off Silver Palm Park, Boca Raton, Florida, March 2015. Length: 15.2 cm (6.0 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

f245-night-sergeant-3Night Sergeant, Abudefduf taurus. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, Florida, December 2014. Length: 9.6 cm (3.8 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.