Panamic Stargazer, Dactylagnus parvus
The Panamic Stargazer, Dactylagnus parvus, whose common Spanish name is miraestrellas panámica, is a member of the Sand Stargazers or Dactyloscopidae Family known collectively as miraestrellas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Dwarf Stargazer. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Dactylagnus, two of which are found in Mexican waters, both in the Pacific.
The Panamic Stargazers have elongated cigar-shaped bodies that taper gradually to the tail. They are light brown with brown markings including a large blotch between their eyes, several smaller blotches behind their eyes, and eight or nine bars along their upper back. Their snout is unpigmented. Their caudal fin has two or three faint bars, their dorsal fin is irregularly streaked, and their pectoral fins have three broken bars. They have a large head that is deep and bluntly rounded at the front, tubular nostrils, and an upturned mouth with a protruding lower jaw. Their eyes are on top of the head and not stalked. Their anal fin has two spines and 29 to 34 rays; their dorsal fin is continuous, originates before the anal fin, and has 8 to 11 spines and 28 to 34 rays; and their pectoral fins have a broad base with 12 to 14 rays. Their lateral line is continuous and their body is covered with small scales.
The Panamic Stargazers are a solitary benthic coastal species normally found submerged in substrate such as beaches, sand bottoms, and soft bottom habitats in mangroves and estuaries at depths up to 20 feet. They reach a maximum length of 6.2 cm (2.4 inches), with the fish photographed below establishing this maximum length. They are ambush predators that lie in wait with only their eyes exposed and consume small invertebrates and fish. They are poorly studied and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Panamic Stargazers have a limited distribution in waters of the Pacific and are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja and from Acapulco southward to Guatemala along the coast of the mainland.
The Panamic Stargazer can be confused with the Giant Stargazer, Dactylagnus mundus (no saddles on back; 35 to 41 anal fin rays; dorsal fin origin behind anal fin origin).
The Panamic Stargazers are small and seldom seen by humans. They are of limited interest to most and currently classified as of Least Concern from a conservation perspective. They are prone to habitat loss, including mangroves, from coastal development.
Panamic Stargazer, Dactylagnus parvus. A very rare species caught in the surf zone off the beach with a water bucket, Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2013. Length: 6.2 cm (2.4 inches).