Longfin Salema

Longfin Salema, Xenichthys xanti

The Longfin Salema, Xenichthys xanti, whose common Spanish name is chula is a species in the Grunt or Haemulidae Family, known collectively as burros in Mexico. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Xenichthys, and only this species is found Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Longfin Salemas have an overall silvery appearance with six horizontal orange-brown stripes on the upper two-thirds of their bodies. They have a wide body profile with a depth that is 33 to 35% of standard length, large eyes, and an oblique mouth with a projecting lower jaw. The spine base of their dorsal fin is shorter than the base of the rayous part, a key to identification. Some individuals have a black spot at the base of their caudal fin (as pictured below), however, this spot vanishes with maturity. They have a lateral line that crosses the stripes, short pectoral fins, and a slightly concave caudal fin.

The Longfin Salemas are an inshore bottom dwelling schooling species found over shallow sandy substrate at depths between 30 and 350 feet. They can also be found in estuaries and mangroves on a limited basis. They reach a maximum length of 25 cm (10 inches) and less than 1 kg (2.2 pounds) in weight. The Longfin Salema are a relatively unknown species that are poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns

In Mexican waters the Longfin Salema are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Longfin Salema can be easily confused with the Salema, Haemulon, californiensis (spinous part of dorsal fin longer than base of rayous part; no black spot at tail base), the Wavyline Grunt, Microlepidotus inornatus (narrow orange stripes covering body), and the Yelloweye Croaker, Odontoscion xanthops (rounded tail).

The Longfin Salemas are too small to be of interest to most but are consumed by subsistence fishermen on a limited basis.

Longfin Salema, Xenichthys xanti. Fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, January 2007. Length: 15.0 cm (5.9 inches). Fish identification courtesy of Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

Longfin Salema, Xenichthys xanti. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2017. Length: 16 cm (6.3 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Kenneth Tse, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.