Reef Cornetfish

Reef Cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii

The Reef Cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii, whose common Spanish name is corneta pintada, is a species in the Cornetfish or Fistulariidae Family, known collectively as cornetas in Mexico. Globally, there are thirteen species in the genus Fistularia, four of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Reef Cornetfish have extremely elongated, depressed bodies with a very long tubular snout and a short oblique terminal mouth equipped with minute teeth. They have multiple colorations, with both barred and striped phases but normally have two blue stripes along the top of the back and two rows of blue spots immediately adjacent to the dorsal fin. When caught some fish can be totally transparent but quickly change to a dark brown even before being returned to the ocean. When stationary, they assume a barred pattern to blend into the surroundings; when swimming, the bars fade and are replaced with thin blue stripes. They have robust jaws and snouts and the distance between the eyes is narrow. Their anal and dorsal fins are sickle-shaped and found at the rear of the body directly opposite each other. The anal fin has 14 to 16 rays and the dorsal fin has 15 to 17 rays. Their caudal fin is forked with a long white central filament. Their pelvic fins are well behind their pectoral fins. Their lateral line is arched over the first half of the body and continues into the tail filament.

The Reef Cornetfish are found free-swimming over reefs and seaweed beds at depths up to 435 feet. They reach a maximum length of 1.60 meters (5 feet 3 inches). They are stalking predators that actively hunt such ecologically diverse species as small blennioids, halfbeaks, herrings, and snake eels. It has been reported that they do not take cover after dark. They are a poorly studied species and as such very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.

The Reef Cornetfish are a circumglobal species and are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from north of Magdalena Bay along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Reef Cornetfish can be confused with the Deepwater Cornetfish, Fistularia corneta (smaller snout, uniform orange-brown coloration).

This species is a visual phenomenon and a true exotic, however is of limited interest to most and considered a “catch and release.”

Reef Cornetfish (1)

Reef Cornetfish (2)Reef Cornetfish (3)

Reef Cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 1.22 meters (4 feet 0 inches).

Deepwater Cornetfish, Fistularia corneta, Caudal Fin Element (above) versus Reef Cornetfish, Fistularia commersonii, Caudal Fin Element (below).  Amazingly similar!