The Jawfish Family – Opistognathidae
The fish of the Jawfish or Opistognathidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as Bocónes. They are small to moderately-sized fish with the largest being 50 cm (20 inches) in length; most are much smaller. There are sixty-one global species of Jawfish that have been placed in five genera. They are a circumglobal, tropical, and subtropical family.
Jawfish have moderately elongated and tapering bodies. They are generally various shades of brown with mottling. The enlarged bulbous heads have a large mouth equipped with moderately-sized canine-like teeth along the sides of the jaws and large eyes found high on the head. Their caudal fin is rounded or lanceolate. Their dorsal fin has a shallow notch between the spinous and soft portions and features 10 or 11 spines and 12 to 21 rays. Their pelvic fins are found anteriorly of their pectoral fins and feature one spine and five segmented rays. The lateral line is high on hat the body and ends under the middle of the dorsal fin. Their bodies are covered with smooth scales.
Jawfish live in shallow coastal waters on sandy or rubble substrate adjacent to coral or rocky reefs at depths up to 70 feet. Some species have been trawled from 100 to 200 meter depths. Jawfish live in elaborate burrows that are self-constructed within the substrate by utilizing their mouths and powerful jaws to excavate sand, small stones, and medium-sized rocks. Their burrows are frequently lined and reinforced with pebbles and shell fragments. Jawfish are generally found in colonies and feed primarily on benthic and planktonic invertebrates. They exhibit the unusual habit of oral egg incubation.
Jawfish have no commercial importance with the exception of the Yellowhead Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons, which is used in the aquarium trade. As a food for human consumption, reports vary – they are either good to eat or of limited value and considered a “catch and release.”
Five members of the Jawfish Opistognathidae Family are currently included in this website, all from the Pacific.
Bullseye Jawfish, Opistognathus scops
Finespotted Jawfish, Opistognathus punctatus
Giant Jawfish, Opistognathus rhomaleus
Longtail Jawfish, Lonchopisthus sinuscalifornicus
Toothy Jawfish, Opistognathus brochus