Razor Surgeonfish

Razor Surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius

The Razor Surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius, whose common Spanish name is conchinito barbero, and whose local name is indio, is a species in the Surgeonfish or Acanthuridae Family, known collectively as cirujanos in Mexico. Globally, there are only seven species in the genus Prionurus, two of which are found in Mexican waters, both in the Pacific.

The Razor Surgeonfish have oval compressed bodies. They are light gray with a few small black spots on their caudal fin base, a dark bar that runs through their eyes and another through their shoulder, and a bright yellow tail.  Juveniles are either yellow or have a similar color as adults. They have a steep profile with eyes set high on their head and a small protrusible mouth located low on their head with large flattened close-set teeth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 23 soft rays; their caudal fin is slightly concave; their dorsal fin is continuous with 7 or 8 spines and 27 or 28 rays; and their pelvic fins have one spine and 5 soft rays. A key to identification is the tail base, which has three bony knobs along each side of the middle of the caudal fin base. They have complete lateral lines and their body is covered with small rough scales.

The Razor Surgeonfish are a coastal schooling species found in shallow waters in and around coral and rocky areas at depths up to 100 feet. They reach a maximum length of 60 cm (24 inches). They feed diurnally and primarily on benthic algae. The Razor Surgeonfish is poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Razor Surgeonfish have a limited distribution being found from Magdalena Bay southward along the south west coast of Baja, in the southern half of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Razor Surgeonfish can be confused with the the Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Prionurus punctatus (entire body covered with dense small black spots).

Razor Surgeonfish are not abundant in the oceanic waters adjacent to Los Cabos. In addition they are a very difficult catch by hook and line as they are finicky nibblers. Caution: The spines found at their tail base provide these fish with a unique defense mechanism rendering them “dangerous” to handle as these spines can inflict major slashing wounds.

Razor Surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2007. Length: 33 cm (13 inches). Note: this fish is a very difficult species to photograph as its coloration fades very quickly from a dark gray to a pale tan.