Surgeonfish Family Photos and Information – Acanthuridae

The Surgeonfish Family – Acanthuridae

Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Prionurus punctatus, a representative member of the Surgeonfish Family.

The fish of the Surgeonfish or Acanthuridae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as cirujanos. They are medium-sized fish with the largest being 1.0 meter (3 feet 3 inches) in length, but most are much smaller. Globally there are eighty-six species of Surgeonfish that have been placed in six genera. They are found circumglobally in all tropical and subtropical waters.

Surgeonfish have deep compressed bodies. They have a steep profile with eyes set high on their head and a small mouth found low on their head with a single row of close-set teeth. Their anal fin has 2 or 3 spines preceding the soft rays; their caudal fin is lunate; their dorsal fin is continuous with 6 to 9 spines and 19 to 31 rays; and their pelvic fins have one spine and 3 to 5 soft rays. A key to identification is their tail base, which has a lancet-like collapsible spine or a series of cutting plates or bony knobs that make these fish very difficult to handle. They have complete lateral lines and their body is covered with small rough scales.  They are generally brown or gray, however, some species can also be very colorful.

Surgeonfish live in shallow coastal waters in and around coral and rocky areas. They feed diurnally and primarily on benthic algae but some feed on zooplankton.

Surgeonfish have a very limited commercial significance. They are consumed by some cultures of the Indo-Pacific.

Ten Surgeonfish reside in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific.  Six are currently included in this website, two from the Atlantic and four from the Pacific:

Convict Surgeonfish, Acanthurus triostegus
Doctorfish, Acanthurus chirurgus
Ocean Surgeonfish, Acanthurus tractus
Razor Surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius

Yellowfin Surgeonfish, Acanthurus xanthopterus
Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Prionurus punctatus