Prowspine Cusk-eel

Prowspine Cusk-eel, Lepophidium prorates

The Prowspine Cusk-eel, Lepophidium prorates, whose common Spanish name is congriperla cornuda, is a species in the Cusk Eel or Ophidiidae Family, known collectively as brotula and congriperlass in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-three species in the genus Leopophidium, fourteen of which are found in Mexican waters, nine in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Prowspine Cusk-eels have elongated compressed bodies that taper to a pointed tail. They have a pale gray coloration that transitions to white ventrally. Their lateral line has black streaks between the whitish pores (a key to identification) and their anal and dorsal fins have black margins. Their head is low and compressed with a well-developed snout and a large broad mouth with a curved spine at the front.  Their anal has 106 to 113 rays and the dorsal fin has  124 to 133 rays with long bases that are continuous with their rounded caudal fin. Their pectoral fins are mid-sized, each with two small threads, and their pelvic fins are inserted under the eyes. They have 11 to 14 gill rakers. Their head and body are covered with small round scales.

The Prowspine Cusk-eels inhabit sandy and muddy bottoms and are found demersal at depths up to 1,200 feet. They reach a maximum length of 32 cm (13 inches). They are rarely seen by humans because they hide in caves during the daytime and only emerge at night to feed on crustaceans, polychaete worms, small clams, and other invertebrates.

In Mexican waters the Prowspine Cusk Eel are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Prowspine Cusk-eel is very similar to the Finescale Cusk-eel, Lepophidium microlepis (golden brown coloration; yellow gill cover; uniform pale lateral line) and the Mexican Cusk-eel, Lepophidium stigmatistium (large black blotch at front of dorsal fin).

The Prowspine Cusk-eels are a by-catch of shrimp trawlers, but are too rare and too small to be of commercial interest. They are of limited interest to most.

Prowspine Cusk-eel, Lepophidium prorates. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Bahía Kino, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Photo courtesy of Maria Johnson, Prescott College, Kino Bay Center, Kino Bay, Sonora.