Comprehensive Description

Coralliozetus cardonae: mode D-XVIII,11-12 sA-19-20 P-12-13 (D-XVII-IXX,10-13 sA-18-24) pop counts vary

Emblemariopsis carib: mode D-XX,11 sA-20 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,10-12 sA-19-21) new sp 2010, Haiti to SE Caribbean

Emblemariopsis ruetzleri: mode D-XX,11-12 sA-20 P-14 (D-XX-XXI,10-13 sA-19-21) MAB, Panama, USVI

Emblemariopsis leptocirris: mode D-XX,11-13 sA-20-22 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,10-13 sA-20-22) widespread

Emblemariopsis dianae: mode D-XX,11-12 sA-20 P-13 (D-XVIII-XX,10-12 sA-19-21) Belize mid-shelf, Honduras

Emblemariopsis occidentalis: mode D-XX,11-12 sA-20-21 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,11-13 sA-20-21) Bahamas (species?)

Emblemariopsis arawak: mode D-XX,12-13 sA-21 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,12-13 sA-20-22) new sp 2010, Antilles plus

Emblemariopsis tayrona: mode D-XX-XXI,11-12 sA-20-21 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,11-13 sA-18-22) Colombia, eastward

Emblemariopsis ramirezi: mode D-XX-XXI,11-12 sA-20-21 P-13; Venezuela and S. Antilles only

Emblemariopsis bahamensis: mode D-XX-XXI,12-13 sA-21-22 P-13 (D-XX-XXI,12-13 sA-21-23) Bahamas, Antilles

Emblemariopsis bottomei: mode D-XX-XXI,12-13 sA-21 P-13 (D-XX-XXI,12-13 sA-21) SE Caribbean

Emblemariopsis pricei: mode D-XXI,13 sA-22-23 P-14 (D-XX-XXII,12-14 sA-21-24 P-13-15) Belize & Honduras

Emblemariopsis randalli: mode D-XXI,12-13 sA-21 P-14 (D-XX-XXI,10-13 sA-20-22) Venezuela coastal

Emblemariopsis diaphana: mode D-XX-XXI,13 sA-21-22 P-13 (D-XX-XXI,12-14 sA-21-23) Florida Keys, GOM

Emblemaria vitta: mode D-IXX,13 sA-19 P-13; Navassa (also Bahamas, Antilles, BZ/Hond); pop counts vary

Emblemaria piratula: mode D-IXX,14-15 sA-21 P-13 (D-XVII-XX,13-16 sA-20-21) deep, Gulf of Mexico

Emblemaria pandionis: mode D-XX-XXI,14-15 sA-21-23 P-13 (D-IXX-XXII,13-17 sA-20-23) population counts vary

Emblemaria caycedoi: mode D-XXI,14-15 sA-22 P-13 (D-IXX-XXI,14-15 sA-22-23) SW Caribbean

Emblemaria diphyodontis: mode D-XXI-XXII,14-15 sA-23 P-13 (D-XX-XXII,13-15 sA-22-24) Colombia, VZ, SE Car

Emblemaria biocellata: mode D-XXII,14-15 sA-22-23 P-13; deep-water, Colombia to Suriname

Emblemaria culmenis: mode D-XXII,15 sA-24 P-13; deep-water, Venezuela (culmenis not "E. culmensis")

Emblemaria caldwelli: mode D-XXII,14 sA-22 P-14 (D-XXI-XXIII,13-15 sA-21-23) reef walls, Bahamas, Belize

Emblemaria hyltoni: mode D-XXI-II,14-15 sA-23 P-14 (D-XXI-XXIII,14-16 sA-22-23) Bay Islands of Honduras

Protemblemaria punctata: mode D-XX,15-16 sA-23 P-14 (D-IXX-XXI,13-17 sA-22-23) NE Venezuela

Ekemblemaria nigra: mode D-XXI,17 sA-24 P-14 (D-XX-XXII,15-18 sA-23-25) Panama & Colombia

Hemiemblemaria simulus: mode D-XXII,16-17 sA-22-23 P-14 (D-XX-XXIII,16-17 sA-22-23) wide, not E or S Car

Lucayablennius zingaro: mode D-IXX,20 sA-23 P-13 (D-XVIII-XX,19-21 sA-22-23) widespread, not FL

Acanthemblemaria rivasi: mode D-XXII,12 sA-22 P-13 (D-XXI-XXII,11-13 sA-22-23) CR, Panama, SAm mainl

Acanthemblemaria maria: mode D-XXII-XXIII,13-14 sA-23-25 P-13 (D-XXI-XXIII,12-14 sA-22-25) not FL or SAm

Acanthemblemaria spinosa: mode D-XXI,14-15 sA-23-24 P-13 (D-XX-XXII,13-16 sA-22-25) not FL, Pan, SAm mainl

Acanthemblemaria harpeza: mode D-XXI,14-15 sA-24 P-13 (D-XXI,14-15 sA-23-24) Navassa

Acanthemblemaria sp.: mode D-XX-XXI,15 sA-23 P-13 (D-XX-XXI,15 sA-23) Panama

Acanthemblemaria paula: mode D-IXX,16-17 sA-23-24 P-13 (D-XVIII-XXI,15-19 sA-22-25) Belize

Acanthemblemaria aspera: mode D-XX-XXI,15-16 sA-23-24 P-13 (D-IXX-XXII,14-17 sA-21-25) wide, not SE Car

Acanthemblemaria johnsoni: mode D-XXIV,12-13 sA- P-13; NE Venezuela to Tobago

Acanthemblemaria medusa: mode D-XXI-XXII,16 sA-26 P-13 (D-XXI-XXIII,15-17 sA-25-27) SE Caribbean

Acanthemblemaria betinensis: mode D-XXIII,15 sA-24 P-13 (D-XXII-XXV,14-16 sA-23-25) C. Rica, Pan, Colombia

Acanthemblemaria greenfieldi: mode D-XXII-XXIII,17 sA-27-28 P-13 (D-XXI-XXIV,16-19 sA-26-29) Belize W Car isl

Acanthemblemaria chaplini: mode D-XXII-XXIII,17-18 sA-27-28 P-13 (D-XXI-XXIII,17-21 sA-26-29) Bahamas FL Cuba

Acanthemblemaria cubana: mode D-XXI-XXII,19-20 sA-26-28 P-13; Cuba (22,20,28) and Panama (21,19,26)

Stathmonotus tekla: mode D-XLI-XLII sA-23-24 P-8-9 segcaud 11 (D-XXXIX-XLIV sA-22-25) Bah, N & W Caribbean

Stathmonotus stahli: mode D-XLII-XLIII sA-24 P-8-9 segcaud 12 (D-XLI-XLV sA-23-25) Lesser Antilles, SE Carib

Stathmonotus gymnodermis: mode D-XLII-XLIV sA-23-24 P-8-9 sc 11 (D-XLI-XLVI sA-21-26) counts vary, low North

Stathmonotus hemphilli: mode D-L sA-27 P-4-5 (D-XLV-LIII sA-23-29) counts vary with population

Chaenopsis roseola: mode D-XVII-XVIII,26-28 sA-29-30 P-13; E. Gulf of Mexico, deep

Chaenopsis megalops: mode D-XVII-XVIII,35-36 sA-36 P-13; Colombia, deep

Chaenopsis resh: mode D-XVIII-IXX,35-36 sA-35-36 P-13 (D-XVII-XX,34-36 sA-35-37); NE Venezuela

Chaenopsis limbaughi: mode D-XVIII-XXI,31-36 sA-34-37 P-12-13; widespread

Chaenopsis ocellata: mode D-XVIII-XX,33-36 sA-34-37 P-12-13; widespread

Chaenopsis stephensi: mode D-XVII,28-30 sA-30-31 P-13; Venezuela & 275 m at Arrowsmith Bank off Yucatan

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Most chaenopsid larvae are unremarkable small blennioid larvae with pointed snouts, although Chaenopsis larvae are longer and pike-like. Almost all chaenopsid larvae identified to date have the same limited pattern of melanophores: a ventral midline series including one or two around the isthmus and a long anal row (sometimes extending onto the ventral caudal peduncle), along with the internal retroperitoneal (Stathmonotus hemphilli has additional internal melanophores).

The absence of cranial, nuchal, cheek, otic, dorsal and caudal-fin melanophores rules out most other blennioid larvae. The exception is the labrisomid genus Starksia, some of whose larvae share the limited melanophore pattern, but they are easily distinguished by having many fewer dorsal-fin soft rays (at most 9) and fewer melanophores in the anal row (fewer than 19 total pvm). Chaenopsid larvae have 3 to 6 procurrent caudal-fin rays, fewer than the labrisomids Labrisomus and Malacoctenus and triplefins Enneanectes, but overlapping with the labrisomids Starksia and Paraclinus.

The chaenopsids have, with few exceptions, relatively uniform larvae and thus fin-ray counts are needed for most genus and species identifications by eye. Although adults can have distinctive morphologies, especially in the shape and ornamentation of the head and variously extended fin elements, larvae are adapted to a pelagic life and do not show any of these distinguishing features. They are all slender and have pointed snouts and virtually all share the basic limited melanophore pattern, a ventral midline series, until they begin to develop their species-specific markings during transition.

Although there are many chaenopsid genera and a proliferation of species, the family can be broken down into four basic groups. There are the tiny and mostly transparent glass blennies of the Emblemariopsis group (including Coralliozetus) that have very small-settling larvae and the lowest fin-ray counts in the family (E. bottomei, by Michael Brogan, at left). Their counts overlap somewhat with the highest-count labrisomids and the lowest of the Acanthemblemaria species. The emblemariopsids have only 3 or 4 procurrent caudal-fin rays (larvae can appear to have 2).

The next group, the sailfin-type blennies of Emblemaria, are generally larger and have higher fin-ray counts than the emblemariopsids. Most species of Emblemaria have greatly elongated dorsal fins in both males and females. The third group comprises Acanthemblemaria, typically spiny-headed blennies with blunt snouts and bushy cirri, which are also larger (although still tiny fishes) and have higher fin-ray counts, especially of anal-fin rays, and 4-6 procurrent caudal-fin rays (A. maria, secretary blenny, by Les Wilk, at right). The final group is made up of the remainder- an eclectic collection of several genera, mostly monotypic, with longer eel-like bodies and relatively high fin-ray counts.

Extensive DNA sequencing shows many widespread chaenopsid species to be made up of sets of closely-related species that can be hard to distinguish, even as adults (i.e. cryptic species). The chaenopsids, unlike most other reef fishes, have benthic eggs and short larval lives which promote reproductive isolation and genetic divergence within the region. As a result, there can be a proliferation of cryptic species and lineages and quite complex phylogeography. The larvae and juveniles of many cryptic species would be expected to be almost identical and are sometimes pooled into a type for the species complex in the descriptions below.

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Chaenopsid blennies are tiny fishes and rarely noticed underwater, yet they are one of the most speciose families of marine fishes in the New World. Interestingly, they are also one of the few marine fish families to be limited to the Americas. They have a variety of fanciful common names including sailfin, flagfin, glass, banner, secretary, tube, pike, wrasse, and arrow blennies, among others- few of which are sufficiently specific. Almost all chaenopsid blennies are hole-dwelling, often with precise habitat requirements and sometimes narrow geographic ranges. They live in most habitats around Caribbean reefs, including coral structure, algae, sand, grassbeds, rocks, tidepools, and pilings. There are numerous genera and identifications can be difficult. A number of ill-defined species and species-complexes with many cryptic species and lineages are being discovered as DNA-sequencing of the group progresses. In general, chaenopsid larvae are not common and mostly undescribed. Larval chaenopsids can be recognized by their long thin body, large round eyes, a long and continuous dorsal fin with numerous slender spines and fewer soft rays (in all but 2 genera), a very short and narrow caudal peduncle, pelvic fins thoracic (in front of the pectoral fins) with only 2 or 3 long strand-like rays (not markedly curled-up over the body), no head spines, no silvery peritoneal lining, and light markings. The markings vary little and typically consist of a simple ventral-midline series: around the isthmus and a row along the base of the anal fin. These larval characters are generally shared with the larvae of the closely related scaled blennies of the family Labrisomidae, which well outnumber chaenopsids in most larval collections. Labrisomid larvae are very similar to larval chaenopsids and are distinguished mainly by having fewer dorsal-fin rays (although there is a small overlap): regional labrisomids have 12 or fewer dorsal-fin soft rays (with a rare 13) and fewer than 32 total dorsal-fin elements (with rare exceptions), while most chaenopsids have 13 or more dorsal-fin soft rays and more than 32 total dorsal-fin elements. In addition, labrisomid larvae (other than Starksia) are larger at the same stage of development, have additional melanophores, and more procurrent caudal-fin rays. The Caribbean chaenopsids with low fin-ray counts that can overlap with some labrisomids comprise the Emblemariopsis species, Coralliozetus cardonae, and rarely Emblemaria vitta; these larvae can be distinguished from labrisomids by size, markings, and lower procurrent caudal-fin ray counts. The basic taxonomic features separating the two families, i.e. scales on labrisomids and scales absent on chaenopsids (along with a set of osteological characters), are useless for larval stages. The distinctive genus Stathmonotus is still considered chaenopsid even though their dorsal fin is made up of all spines (and they can have scales). Some labrisomids of Paraclinus also have a dorsal fin made up of all spines; fortunately the larvae of the two genera are easily distinguished by their obvious morphological differences. Chaenopsid larvae broadly resemble those of other blennioid families of reef fishes. They can be distinguished easily from larvae of the true blennies (family Blenniidae), which have fewer dorsal-fin spines than soft rays, blunt snouts at all stages, and are heavily marked, while larval chaenopsid blennies have more dorsal-fin spines than soft rays (except in the snake-like Chaenopsis and Lucayablennius zingaro, which still have many more spines than true blennies), have pointed snouts (except Stathmonotus), and are very lightly marked. Larvae of the blennioid triplefins (family Tripterygiidae) have three separate dorsal fins and distinctive melanophores on the dorsal caudal peduncle. Stargazer larvae (family Dactyloscopidae) have relatively foreshortened anterior bodies, curled-up pelvic fins, and very few procurrent caudal-fin rays. Larval chaenopsids are superficially similar to the larvae of gobies and scarids, which can have a similar anal-fin row of melanophores and are the same size as chaenopsid larvae. However, those larvae notably have many fewer dorsal-fin spines, short and/or fused pelvic fins or just stubs, and narrowed or oddly-shaped eyes, while chaenopsids have long spinous dorsal fins, large round eyes, and, at least in later stages, long thread-like pelvic fins. Larval gerreids (mojarras) are also common and have an anal-fin row, however they have silvery abdominal linings and short dorsal and anal fins. Larval grunts (Haemulidae) often have an anal-fin row of melanophores, but they have spiny heads, short dorsal and anal fins, and characteristic tail spots.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:926
Specimens with Sequences:854
Specimens with Barcodes:851
Species With Barcodes:62
Public Records:477
Public Species:43
Public BINs:75
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)


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Barcode data

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The blennioid family Chaenopsidae includes the pike-blennies, tube-blennies, and flagblennies, all perciform marine fish. The family is strictly tropical, ranging from North to South America. Members are also present in waters off Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Fourteen genera and 90 species are represented, the largest being the sarcastic fringehead, Neoclinus blanchardi, at 30 cm (12 in) in length; most are much smaller, and the group includes perhaps the smallest of all vertebrates, Acanthemblemaria paula, measuring just 1.3 cm (0.51 in) long as an adult.[2]

With highly compressed bodies, some may be so elongated as to appear eel-like; chaenopsids are scaleless and lack lateral lines. Their heads are rough and may be armed with spines. There may be 17 to 28 spines in the dorsal fin, with two in the anal fin.

The habit of taking up home in abandoned worm tubes has earned some species in this family the name "tube-blenny". Many will also inhabit empty clam shells, which also serve as nesting sites; males are known to guard the brood. Some species have dorsal fins which are significantly higher towards the head, explaining the moniker "flagblenny". Crustaceans make up the bulk of the chaenopsid diet.

At least one species found in the Caribbean is known to form a symbiotic relationship with stony coral.


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). "Chaenopsidae" in FishBase. February 2013 version.
  2. ^ Springer, Victor G. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 215–216. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 
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