Mexican False Moray

Mexican False Moray, Chlopsis kazuko

The Mexican False Moray, Chlopsis kazuko, whose common Spanish name is morena falsa mexicana, is a member of the False Moray or Chlopsidae Family, known collectively as morenas falsas in Mexico. This fish is also known as Kazuko’s False Moray. Globally, there are 24 members of the Chlopsidae Family, placed in nine genera. There are nine species in the genus Chlopsis, of which four are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Mexican False Morays have elongated and slightly compressed bodies that taper to a pointed tip. They are uniformly brown dorsally and abruptly transition to white ventrally. Their head has large eyes and a bluntly pointed snout. Their front nostril is tubular and points downward; their rear nostril is under the eyes and opens in the top lip. Their mouth is moderately large and extends behind the eyes; it is equipped with small teeth set in three rows on both jaws and two series of teeth on the roof of the mouth. Their gill openings are small ovals. Their anal and dorsal fins are well-developed and continuous with the caudal fin. They lack pectoral fins. A key to identification is that their dorsal fin originates over or in front of the gill openings.

The Mexican False Morays are virtually unknown with only a handful of documented collection over a wide range that extends from the tip of the Baja to Columbia. They are believed to inhabit sand and coralline-rubble substrates in which they burrow and are found at depths between 175 and 330 feet. They reach a maximum length of 11.3 cm (4.4 inches). They are believed to be nocturnal ambush predators with poor eyesight that utilize their keen sense of smell to seek out prey, consuming small fish and invertebrates, including crabs, octopus, and shrimp. Reproduction is believed to be viviparous with eggs and sperm broadcasted into the water and generating pelagic eggs and larvae that drift in oceanic currents. They are an exceedingly rare and poorly studied species and very limited information is available about their distribution, population status, habitat, and threats.

In Mexican waters the Mexican False Morays are found around the tip of the Baja and from Jalisco south to Guatemala along the west coast of the mainland.

The Mexican False Moray is mostly likely confused with the Stripesnout False Moray, Chlopsis apterus (maximum length 4.7 inches; dorsal fin origin behind gill cover).

The Mexican False Morays are seldom seen by humans and normally only encountered via sand dredges, thus of limited interest to most. From a conservation they have not been evaluated and are currently listed as Data Deficient.

Mexican False Moray, Chlopsis kazuko. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, February 2012.  Length: 10.5 cm (4.1 inches).