Mottled Soapfish, Rypticus bicolor
The Mottled Soapfish, Rypticus bicolor, whose common Spanish name is jaboncillo arrecifal, is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are only nine species in the genus Rypticus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, five in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Mottled Soapfish have overall brown, elongated, and very compressed bodies that are covered with numerous small cream or tan spots. They have an oblique forehead and a prominently projecting lower jaw that has a small black fleshy knob at the tip. Their dorsal fin has three spines and provides a key to identification. Their anal fin is spineless and their caudal and pectoral fins are rounded.
The Mottled Soapfish reside within rocky reefs sheltering in caves and crevices or out in the open at depths up to 230 feet. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches) and less than 450 grams (1 pound) in weight. They are a small and rare species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Mottled Soapfish are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, in the lower three-fourths of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Mottled Soapfish can be confused with the Twice-spotted Soapfish, Rypticus nigripinnis (two dorsal spines; lack of fleshy knob on snout tip).
The Mottled Soapfish is too small and too rare to be of interest to most.
Mottled Soapfish, Rypticus bicolor. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, April 2015. Length: 20.2 cm (8.0 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Michael Verdirame, Markham, Ontario, Canada.