Stripesnout False Moray, Chlopsis apterus
The Stripesnout False Moray, Chlopsis apterus, whose common Spanish name is morena falsa hocico rayado, is a member of the False Moray or Chlopsidae Family, known collectively as morenas falsas in Mexico. There are twenty-four global members of the Chlopsidae family, placed in nine genera. There are nine global members of the genus Chlopsis, four of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.
The Stripesnout False Morays have elongated slightly compressed bodies that taper gradually to a rounded tail. They are brown dorsally and abruptly change to white ventrally. They have a prominent white stripe along their snout before the eyes and a narrow brown band along their lower jaw. Their head has a bluntly pointed snout, large eyes, front tubular nostrils pointing downwards, and rear nostrils under the eyes that open on the top lip. They have a moderately large mouth that extends behind the eyes, three rows of small pointed teeth on each jaw, and two series of teeth on the roof of their mouth. Their gill opening is a small oval. Their anal and dorsal fins are well-developed and continuous with the caudal fin. Their dorsal fin originates behind the gill cover and they have no pectoral fins. Their tail is approximately 55% of body length and their lateral line is incomplete.
The Stripesnouth False Morays inhabitant sandy bottoms, in which they burrow, and are found in deep crevices in rocky reefs at depths between 260 and 425 feet. They reach a maximum length of 25.0 cm (9.8 inches). They are nocturnal ambush predators with poor eyesight that utilize a keen sense of smell to seek out prey, consuming small fish and invertebrates including crabs, octopus, and shrimp. Reproduction is viviparous with eggs and sperm broadcasted into the water and generating pelagic eggs and larvae that drift in oceanic currents. They are a rare poorly studied species and very limited information is available about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Stripesnout False Moray have a limited distribution being found only from Santa Rosalia southward along the central and southeast coasts of Baja and from Mazatlán south to Guatemala along the west coast of the mainland. I have a fish that was caught 40 miles north of Cabo San Lucas in the Pacific, that documents the presence of the fish along the southwest coast of Baja.
The Stripesnout False Moray can be confused with the Mexican False Moray, Chlopsis kazuko (maximum length 4.7 inches; dorsal fin originating before gill cover).
The Stripesnout False Morays are exceeding rare and seldom seen by humans, thus of limited interest to most.
Stripesnout False Moray, Chlopsis apterus. Fish caught in coastal waters off off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, January 2016. Length: 12.1 cm (4.80 inches). Tail: 68%.