Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris
The Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris, whose common Spanish name is cofre moteado, is a species in the Boxfish or Ostraciidae Family, known collectively as peces cofre. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Ostracion, one of which is found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.
The Spotted Boxfish have oblong thick bodies that are enclosed in a bony box formed by thickened, joined, enlarged, and hexagonal scale plates. Juveniles and females are dark brown to black with small white spots. Males are dark brown with small yellow-white spots dorsally, dark-edged orange-yellow spots on their sides, and blue spots on the rest of their body. Their backs are slightly rounded. They have a pair of longitudinal ridges on their lower flanks, a flat bottom, and no spines. Their box has openings for the mouth, eyes, gill slits, fins, and tail base. Their small mouth opens at the front with fleshy lips and has 15 mid-sized teeth on each jaw. Their gill openings are short and form oblique slits in front of their pectoral base. Their anal and dorsal fins are at the rear; their caudal fin is rounded; and their dorsal fin has no spines. They are devoid of pelvic fins.
The Spotted Boxfish are slow swimmers found around coral and rocky reefs at depths up to 235 feet. They reach a maximum length of 25 cm (9.8 inches). They reside in harems of three or four females and one male. They are protected by a toxic slime that can kill other fish, thus making them unsuitable for use in aquariums. They feed on algae, soft corals, crustaceans, sponges, truncates, and worms.
The Spotted Boxfish has a broad global distribution, however, in Mexican waters they have a limited distribution being found only between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas on the east coast of Baja, and from Mazatlán south along the coast of the mainland to Guatemala.
The Spotted Boxfish is unique in appearance and cannot be easily confused with other species, however, it is somewhat similar to the Spiny Boxfish, Lactoria diaphana (larger tapered body without small white spots).
The Spotted Boxfish are of limited interest to most but make nice table decor when allowed to dry.
Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris, female. Fish collected off the beach at Km 21, Cabo Real, January 2007. Length: 2.5 cm (1.0 inches). Fish identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr. Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.