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Key: Key to near shore fish families of Hawaii
Guide for identification of the families of bony, ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) in the near shore waters of the main Hawaiian islands. The key is modified from Gosline & Brock (1960), with updated taxonomy, and limited to near-shore bony fish families included in Randall (2010).
Prepared by Keith Korsmeyer (kkorsmeyer"at"hpu.edu), Hawaii Pacific University.
References
Carpenter, K.E.; Niem, V.H. (eds.) 1999. FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO. Rome. pp. 1397-2068.
Gosline, W.A. and Brock, V.E. 1960. Handbook of Hawaiian Fishes. University Press of Hawaii. Honolulu.
Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World (Fourth Edition). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey.
Randall, J.E. 2007. Reef and Shore Fishes of the Hawaiian Islands. Sea Grant College Program, University of Hawaii. Honolulu.
Randall, J.E. 2010. Shore Fishes of Hawaii (Revised Edition). University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu.


Last modified 11/07/2012 04:57 by Keith KorsmeyerNo of couplets: 65

Return to List of Keys
Key
1a
One eye on each side of the head.
4
b
Both eyes on the same side of the head.
2
 
2a
Pectoral fins present.
3
b
Pectoral fins absent. 
Soleidae
 
 
3a
Eyes on the right side of the fish's head. 
Samaridae
 
b
Eyes on the left side of the fish's head. 
Bothidae
 
 
4a
Either the gill openings are in front of the pectoral bases or the pectoral fins are absent.
5
b
Gill openings behind the level of the pectoral bases. Two short, blunt, stout dorsal spines on the head. 
Antennariidae
 
 
5a
Pelvic fins present, though sometimes rudimentary or highly modified.
6
b
Pelvic fins totally absent.
19
 
6a
The 2 pelvic fins separate from one another.
7
b
The innermost rays of the 2 pelvic fins attached to one another for their full length by membrane. 
Gobiidae (in part)
 
 
7a
Pelvic fins with 5 or fewer soft rays.
8
b
Pelvic fins with more than 5 soft rays.
9
 
8a
Dorsal fin composed of 2 or more completely separate parts.
29
b
A single dorsal fin, which may be more or less subdivided, but if so the sections are connected by at least a basal membrane.
41
 
9a
Anal fin with 4 spines. Dorsal fin with 10 or more spines, the base of the spinous portion longer than the base of the soft portion. 
Holocentridae
 
b
No stiff, sharp spines at the front of the anal fin.
10
 
10a
Adipose fin present. Mouth extending well beyond the posterior border of the eye. 
Synodontidae
 
b
No adipose fin.
11
 
11a
Snout elongate, tubular, with a small mouth at the tip.
12
b
Snout not in the form of an elongate tube with a small mouth at its tip.
13
 
12a
Soft dorsal preceded by a series of small, free spines; chin with a barbel; caudal without a median filament. Body compressed. 
Aulostomidae
 
b
No free spines along back; no barbel on chin; caudal with a median filament. Body depressed. 
Fistulariidae
 
 
13a
Lateral line running very low along sides, commencing below the base of the pectoral fin.
14
b
Lateral line, if present, running along the middle of the sides or above.
15
 
14a
Both upper and lower jaw elongate, forming long pointed beak. 
Belonidae
 
b
Only the lower jaw elongate and pointed. Upper jaw short and triangular. 
Hemiramphidae
 
 
15a
Lateral line well developed.
16
b
No lateral line.
18
 
16a
Mouth small, not extending behind the eye.
17
b
Mouth large, extending behind the eye. 
Elopidae
 
 
17a
Mouth inferior to the overhanging snout. 
Albulidae
 
b
Mouth terminal. 
Chanidae
 
 
18a
Mouth inferior to the overhanging snout. 
Engraulidae
 
b
Mouth terminal. 
Clupeidae
 
 
19a
No separate caudal fin at the end of a constricted caudal peduncle.
20
b
A separate caudal fin at the end of a constricted caudal peduncle as is usual in fishes.
23
 
20a
Body enclosed in bony plates. 
Syngnathidae (in part)
 
b
Body not enclosed in bony plates.
21
 
21a
Dorsal and anal fins continuous around tip of tail.
22
b
Body terminating posteriorly in sharp, hard, finless point. Numerous branchiostegal rays overlap ventrally. 
Ophichthidae
 
 
22a
Pectoral fin well developed. Lower jaw on either side with a reverted lip that has a free edge below. No fang like teeth in mouth. 
Congridae
 
b
Pectoral fin absent. Lower jaw on either side without a reverted lip with a free edge below. 
Muraenidae
 
 
23a
Body contained in a series of bony rings. Snout tubular with a small mouth at tip; size small, to about 20 cm. 
Syngnathidae (in part)
 
b
Body not contained in a series of bony rings.
24
 
24a
Gill covers broadly united to the isthmus, restricting the gill openings to short slits.
25
b
Gill covers completely free from the isthmus. Small, slender-bodied. Long dorsal fin with 40-69 soft rays. 
Ammodytidae
 
 
25a
A single dorsal fin composed entirely of soft rays.
27
b
Two, well separated dorsal fins, the first composed of one or more strong, rough spines.
26
 
26a
Sides somewhat prickly or furry to the touch, the individual scales not visible; anterior dorsal spine inserted over eye. 
Monacanthidae
 
b
Sides covered by hard, plate-like scales; anterior dorsal spine inserted slightly behind eye. 
Balistidae
 
 
27a
Head and body enclosed in a bony box; abdomen not inflatable. 
Ostraciidae
 
b
Body not enclosed in a bony box; abdomen inflatable.
28
 
28a
Body covered with prominent sharp spines. Teeth fused to beak-like dental plates without a median suture. 
Diodontidae
 
b
Body not covered with prominent sharp spines. Teeth fused to beak-like dental plates with a median suture. 
Tetraodontidae
 
 
29a
First dorsal consisting of a single long ray originating on the top of head. Pectorals expanded, winglike. 
Dactylopteridae
 
b
First dorsal not composed of a single long ray originating on the top of the head.
30
 
30a
Pectoral fin with a separate section below made up of 6 free rays. 
Polynemidae
 
b
Pectoral fin without a separate section below made up of free rays.
31
 
31a
Three dorsal fins, the first 2 joined at the base. Pelvics with fewer than 5 rays. Size small, less than 5 cm. 
Tripterygiidae
 
b
Two dorsal fins.
32
 
32a
Separate first dorsal fin composed of 2 rays on the top of the head. Lateral line with a sharp downward jog under the soft dorsal.
Labridae (in part)
 
b
Separate first dorsal fin composed of more than 2 rays.
33
 
33a
Body scaled.
34
b
Body completely naked. Enlarged preopercular spine. 
Callionymidae
 
 
34a
A pair of large barbels under chin. 
Mullidae
 
b
No pair of barbels on chin.
35
 
35a
Distance between the dorsal fins less than the length of the first dorsal fin base.
38
b
Distance between the dorsal fins greater than the length of the first dorsal base. Pelvic fins inserted behind level of the pectoral bases.
36
 
36a
Lateral line present; teeth large; scales small. 
Sphyraenidae
 
b
Lateral line absent; teeth small; scales moderate or large.
37
 
37a
Anal fin with about 17 soft rays; sides with a silvery lateral stripe in life. 
Atherinidae
 
b
Anal fin with 10 or fewer soft rays; sides without silvery lateral stripe. 
Mugilidae
 
 
38a
Soft dorsal and anal relatively long, each of 15 or more rays. Preopercle without spines. Posterior portion of lateral line often covered in scutes. Anal fin usually preceded by a pair of short, sharp, spines that are free from the soft portion of the fin. 
Carangidae
 
b
Soft dorsal and anal relatively short, each of 12 or fewer soft rays.
39
 
39a
Maxillary exposed and prominent; lateral line usually present, at least forward. Anal fin with 2 spines and 8 soft rays. 
Apogonidae
 
b
Maxillary concealed; lateral line absent.
40
 
40a
Lower jaw heavy and protruding; mouth almost vertical. Long anal fin with 9 or more soft rays. Soft dorsal with 9 -39 soft rays.
Ptereleotridae
 
b
Lower jaw not heavy, protruding; mouth not almost vertical. Anal fin with 1 spine and 8-9 soft rays. Dorsal with 7 to 11 soft rays. 
Gobiidae (in part)
 
 
41a
Pelvic fins minute, the longest ray less than an eye diameter. Body covered with papillae giving it a furry appearance. 
Caracanthidae
 
b
Pelvic fins normal to filamentous, but the longest ray always more than an eye diameter in length. Body without papillae.
42
 
42a
Body enclosed in bony plates; snout with a bony, knoblike projection. Size small, to about 12 cm. 
Pegasidae
 
b
Body not enclosed in bony plates; snout without a bony, knoblike projection.
43
 
43a
Body completely scaleless. 
Blenniidae
 
b
Body scaled, at least along the lateral line.
44
 
44a
Pelvic fins reduced to 1 or 2 filaments on each side. Dorsal and anal fins more or less confluent with the caudal fin. 
Ophidiidae
 
b
Pelvic fins not reduced to 1 or 2 filaments on each side.
45
 
45a
Gill openings not reaching throat, restricted to the sides of the head.
46
b
Gill openings reaching throat.
47
 
46a
One or a pair of spines or knobs on the sides of the caudal peduncle; first few dorsal rays not greatly prolonged. 
Acanthuridae
 
b
No spines or knobs on the sides of the caudal peduncle; first few dorsal spines greatly prolonged. 
Zanclidae
 
 
47a
A spiny or at least roughened ridge running across cheek below eye and joining preopercle at nearly a right angle; backwardly projecting spines on top of head behind eyes. 
Scorpaenidae
 
b
No spiny ridge running horizontally across cheek below eye; no backward projecting spines on top of head behind eyes.
48
 
48a
A sucking disk on top of head. 
Echeneidae
 
b
No sucking disk on top of head.
49
 
49a
Head encased in exposed, rough, striated bone. A dense cluster of small barbels on chin. Body with broad black and white vertical bars. 
Pentacerotidae
 
b
Head not encased in exposed, rough, striated bone. No barbels on chin.
50
 
50a
Anterior nostril with a small, fringed tentacle. Lower pectoral rays unbranched and somewhat swollen, their tips projecting well beyond the interradial membranes.
51
b
Anterior nostril without a small, fringed tentacle. Lower pectoral rays not thickened and unbranched.
52
 
51a
Soft dorsal long, of 29-33 rays; color pattern of alternating oblique black and white bands. 
Latridae
 
b
Soft dorsal short, of 17 or fewer rays; color pattern not of alternating oblique black and white bands. Tips of dorsal spines have one or more projecting cirri. 
Cirrhitidae
 
 
52a
Lateral line absent. Lower jaw heavy and protruding; mouth almost vertical. Elongate with continuous dorsal of 28-66 soft rays. 
Microdesmidae
 
b
Lateral line present, at least forward.
53
 
53a
A single, sharp, more or less conical spine on the opercle. Anal without spines and with 18 or more soft rays.
54
b
No single, sharp, more or less conical spine on the opercule.
55
 
54a
Caudal fin with a pair of prominent longitudinal black bars; anal fin with 46-55 rays. 
Malacanthidae
 
b
Caudal fin without prominent longitudinal bars; anal with 14-22 rays. Eyes oriented as much dorsally as laterally. 
Pinguipedidae
 
 
55a
Branched caudal rays about 15; gill covers attached to the isthmus far forward or entirely free from it. Two or more sharp anal spines.
57
b
Branched caudal rays 11 or 12; gill covers broadly attached to the isthmus or to one another by a membrane across the isthmus. Scales cycloid; caudal often lunate, but never forked.
56
 
56a
Jaw teeth either fused into a beaklike structure or with 2 to several series of overlapping incisors in front. 
Scaridae
 
b
Jaws with a single series of separate teeth in front, often canines. 
Labridae (in part)
 
 
57a
Teeth fused into a beaklike structure. 
Oplegnathidae
 
b
Teeth not fused into a beaklike structure.
58
 
58a
Anal fin with 2 spines. Lateral line ending under the soft dorsal fin; a single nostril on each side of the head. 
Pomacentridae
 
b
Anal fin with 3 or more spines.
59
 
59a
Sides plain silvery, darker above. 
Kuhliidae
 
b
Sides never plain silvery.
60
 
60a
Mouth small, not reaching the level of the anterior nostril; teeth more or less flexible, like the teeth of a comb. Body deep and strongly compressed.
61
b
Mouth moderate or large, the maxillary reaching to behind the level of the anterior nostril; teeth firm.
63
 
61a
Pelvic fins originating behind pectoral base. Dorsal with 11 spines and 16-18 soft rays. Body with 6 black, nearly horizontal stripes. 
Microcanthidae
 
b
Pelvic fins originating below pectoral base. Dorsal not with 11 spines and 16-18 soft rays.
62
 
62a
Prominent spine at the corner of the preopercle. No enlarged scale at base of pelvics. 
Pomacanthidae
 
b
No prominent spine at corner of preopercle. Enlarged scale at base of pelvics. 
Chaetodontidae
 
 
63a
Anal soft rays 12 or more. Pelvic fins attached to abdomen by broad membrane. Large eyes; color primarily red, sometimes silvery. Scales small and rough. 
Priacanthidae
 
b
Anal soft rays 11 or fewer.
64
 
64a
Posterior maxillary completely exposed when the mouth is closed. Three flat opercular spines.  
Serranidae
 
b
Posterior maxillary slips under cheek when mouth is closed. Single spine on opercle, if present.
65
 
65a
Dorsal with 11 to 15 soft rays (rarely 10). No spine on opercle. 
Lutjanidae
 
b
Dorsal with 9-10 soft rays. Single flat spine on opercle. 
Lethrinidae
 
 
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