Peacock Razorfish

Peacock Razorfish, Iniistius pavo

The Peacock Razorfish, Iniistius pavo, whose common Spanish name is cuchillo cavo real, is a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family, known collectively as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. Globally, there are fifteen species in the genus Iniistius, one of which is found in Mexican waters, this one from of the Pacific.

The Peacock Razorfish have strongly compressed heads and bodies with a depth that is 36 to 40% of standard length. Females and males of the Initial Phase (IP) have a white to yellowish-white coloration with four indistinct broad dark vertical bars on their body. Terminal Phase (TP) males are similar in appearance with blue margins on the lower edge of the first bar and the lower two-thirds of the second bar. Their anal fin has a blue submarginal stripe; their caudal fin has a blue submarginal bar; and their dorsal fin has thin oblique blue bars and a blue submarginal stripe. Juveniles are similar in appearance to females except that they have brown lines radiating from their eyes and their pelvic fins are brown. They have a very steep nearly vertical head profile with a fleshy longitudinal keel at the front. Their small eyes are set very high on the head and they have a pair of long curved canine teeth anteriorly on each jaw. They have a small black spot high on their body over the middle of their pectoral fin. Their dorsal fin has two prolonged spines, which diminish in length with maturity, seven normal spines, and twelve rays. Their caudal and pectoral fins are dusky brown; their anal and dorsal fins are lighter brown; and their pelvic fins are transparent.

The Peacock Razorfish are found on open sand near reefs and will quickly bury themselves in sand as a defense mechanism. They reach a maximum length of 41 cm (16 inches) and the juveniles are found at depths between 7 feet and the adults up to 320 feet. They are diurnal and opportunistic feeders, benefiting from disturbances caused by the feeding of other fish.  They are relatively rare and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Peacock Razorfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja and in the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez. They are widely distributed throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans.

The Peacock Razorfish is an easy fish to identify due to its unique elongated first two dorsal spines that are separated from the rest of the fin and its flat rectangular body, thus it cannot be confused with any other species.

The Peacock Razorfish are too rare and too small to be of interest to most.

Peacock Razorfish, Iniistius pavo, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish caught from coastal waters Cabo del Sol, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 22 cm (8.7 inches).

Peacock Razorfish, Iniistius pavo, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish caught in coastal waters off Las Barilles, Baja California Sur, May 2015. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Luc LaJoy, Evergreen, CO.