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New records of seven Cusk-eels (Ophidiidae) and brotulas (Bythitidae) in coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada.

ABSTRACT--Cusk-eels and brotulas of British Columbia have been poorly studied, and until now, there were published records of only Spectrunculus granais and Brosmophycis marginata from our waters. However, a single specimen of S. crassus has been identified from among the few S. granais from British Columbia held at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Furthermore, increased sampling effort from deep-water surveys, shrimp surveys, and the commercial fishery revealed 5 additional cusk-eel species and 1 brotula offshore of British Columbia. Two specimens of Chilara taylori were collected from the southern Strait of Georgia at depths of 78 to 109 m. A single specimen of Acanthonus armatus was taken from near Triangle Island at 1778 m and is the 1st record for the eastern North Pacific Ocean. One specimen of Cherublemma emmelas was found at 1097 m in Kyuquot Canyon, west of Vancouver Island; 4 specimens of Bassozetus zenkevitchi were collected from depths of 1909 to 2125 m west of Vancouver and Graham islands; and a specimen of Cataetyx rubrirostris from 2000 m and a Porogadus prometas from 1967 m were taken in Queen Charlotte Sound, east of the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts. Because of increased sampling effort from 1999 to 2007, we now understand the number of cusk-eels and brotulas in British Columbia to be 9 species.

Key words: Acanthonus, Bassozetus, British Columbia, Bythitidae, Cataetyx, Cherublemma, Chilara, Ophidiidae, Porogadus, Spectrunculus


As of 2013, only 2 cusk-eel species were known from British Columbia in the scientific literature, and both species are represented by few museum specimens. The most commonly encountered, Brosmophycis marginata, occurs from Alaska south to the Baja Peninsula in water depths ranging from 3 to 256 m (Clemens and Wilby 1949, 1961; Hart 1973; Gotshall 2001; Mecklenburg and others 2002; Love and others 2005; Lamb and Edgell 2010). The 2nd species, Spectrunculus grandis, was 1st recorded by Peden and Hughes (1986) and is almost circumglobal but does not occur in the Indian Ocean (Uiblein and others 2008). In the eastern North Pacific Ocean, S. grandis extends from Alaska south to California at depths of 800 to 6273 m (Love and others 2005).

New cusk-eel specimens were obtained between 1999 and 2007 by Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) staff while aboard the CCGS W.E. Ricker, during shrimp surveys by DFO staff aboard the CCGS Neocaligus, and from the commercial fishery in the southern Strait of Georgia and along the west side of Vancouver Island. Trawl samples were sorted, and retained specimens were preserved and added to the ichthyology collection of the RBCM. This paper provides the 1st records of Chilara taylori, Acanthonus armatus, Cherublemma emmelas, Bassozetus zenkevitchi, Spectrunculus crassus, Cataetyx rubrirostris, and Porogadus promelas in British Columbia.


Between 1999 and 2006, Department of Fisheries and Oceans performed deep water sampling with a Campelen 1800 trawl from the stern trawler CCGS WE Ricker to determine the viability of a Tanner Crab (Chionoecetes tanneri) fishery. The survey plans, locations, and methods are detailed by Gillespie and others (2004) and Workman and others (2000).

The 1st specimen of Chilara taylori in British Columbia was caught in a prawn trap brought aboard M/V Helm's Deep, separated from the marketable catch, and frozen for transport to DFO for identification. The 2nd specimen of C. taylori was caught during an annual systematic areaswept trawl survey to index shrimp abundance (see Boutillier and others 1999). Samples from the CCGS Neocaligus were performed using an 18-m shrimp trawl with a fish-excluder device and 25mm cod-end liner. The single specimen of Cherublemma emmelas was recovered from the commercial fishery by Archipelago Marine Research Ltd. and their fishery observer program.

Animals were bagged, labelled, frozen and taken to shore for identification. Specimens later were thawed and fixed in 10% formalin, preserved in 70% ethanol, and catalogued in the RBCM collection (Table 1).


Order Ophidiiformes

Suborder Ophidioidei

Family Ophidiidae; Subfamily Ophidiinae

Chilara taylori (Girard, 1858)--Spotted Cusk-eel

Material examined: RBCM 014-00031-001, RBCM 014-0032-001

Chilara taylori was known from Washington south to Ecuador (Snyder 1913; Lea and Bearez 1999; Gotshall 2001; Aceves-Medina and others 2003; Lamb and Edgell 2010), but it is uncommon north of Mendocino, California. It ranges from the intertidal to 731 m, usually burrowing in sandy bottoms (Nielsen and others 1999; Lamb and Edgell 2010). Larvae are planktonic (Ambrose 1996; Aceves-Medina and others 2003).

Until now, the northern-most record for C. taylori was Willapa Bay, Washington (Ambrose 1996; Love and others 2005); however, 2 specimens collected in the Strait of Georgia are reported here, extending the species' range into British Columbia (Table 1, Fig. 1). The 1st was collected in a prawn trap at about 109 m depth northeast of Gabriola Island. The 2nd (Fig. 2) was caught along the west side of Bowen Island, Howe Sound, in a shrimptrawl, at about 78 m depth.

Cherublemma emmelas (Gilbert 1890)--Black Brotula

Material examined: RBCM 014-00310-001

Cherublemma emmelas is common and was thought to range from Baja California to northern Chile in the eastern tropical Pacific (Nielsen and others 1999; Aceves-Medina and others 2003; Love and others 2005; Avendano-Ibarra and others 2014). Adults range from 70 to 1010 m depth; larvae are found in shallower water (Aguirre-Villasenor and Castillo-Velazquez 2011).

The single specimen (Fig. 3) taken from the commercial fishery from Kyuquot Canyon, west of Vancouver Island, extends the species' range roughly 2890 km into British Columbia (Table 1, Fig. 1). This 1st specimen was collected 2 July 2006, in a trawl which ranged down to 1097 m. Aguirre-Villasenor and Castillo-Velazquez (2011) found C. emmelas in trawls down to 1010 m in the Gulf of California.

Subfamily Neobythitinae

Acanthonus armatus Giinther 1878--Bony-eared Assfish

Material examined: RBCM 012-00130-001

Acanthonus is monotypic, and A. armatus is unmistakable, with its short pair of rostral spines and well-developed opercular and preopercular spines (Fig. 4; Giinther 1887, plate XXIV, fig. a).

Acanthonus armatus is known from temperate and tropical seas world-wide from 1171 to 4415 m (Nielsen 1965; Golovan and Pahkorukov 1979; Nielsen 1990; Fricke 1999; Nielsen and others 1999; Yeh and others 2005; Biscoito and others 2006; Castellanos-Galindo and others 2006), with the nearest records to British Columbia from the Pacific off of Colombia (Castellanos-alindo and others 2006) and Japan (Masuda and others 1984). Our record is the 1st for British Columbia and the eastern North Pacific Ocean, collected at 50[degrees]42'N, 129[degrees]23'W, southwest of Triangle Island (Table 1, Fig. 1), in a trawl at 1778 m depth.

Bassozetus zenkevitchi Rass 1955

Material examined: RBCM 010-00318-005, RBCM 010-00343-002, RBCM 010-0199-006, RBCM 01000208-007

Bassozetus zenkevitchi (Fig. 5) inhabits mesopelagic to bathypelagic zones at depths of 200 to 6930 m (Nielsen and Merrett 2000; Love and others 2005). The species is known from the Pacific Ocean off Flonshu, Japan (Machida and Tachibana 1986), southeastern Kamchatka (Love and others 2005), southeastern Bering Sea (Love and others 2005; Orr and others 2005), and northwest of Hawaii (Nielsen and Merrett 2000).

Collection details for the 4 new British Columbia specimens are detailed in Table 1, and Figure 1. All specimens were taken between depths of 1909 and 2125 m, and the species appears to range along the entire British Columbia coast.

Porogadus prometas Gilbert 1891

Material examined: RBCM 010-00342-001

Records of Porogadus are sparse, but the genus is known to be circumglobal, with at least 13 species. Carter and Sulak (1984) suggested that 15 species exist, but P. breviceps and P. prometas may be junior synonyms of P. catena (Nielsen and others 1999). A generic revision is in progress (PM, unpubl. data).

Several other Porogadus species are known from the Pacific. Porogadus guentheri ranges from east of the southern tip of Taiwan to Japan (Nielsen and others 1999; Yeh and others 2005; Shao and others 2008). Porogadus miles ranges from India (Shcherbachev 1980; Machida and Amaoka 1990) to the southern tip of Taiwan (Yeh and others 2005; Shao and others 2008), north along the southern Ryukyu Islands to the east coast of Japan (Machida and Amaoka 1990). Porogadus gracilis is known from 12[degrees]8'S, 145[degrees]10'E, about 136 km southeast of Raine Island in the Coral Sea (Gunther 1878,1887; Nielsen and others 1999). In the eastern Pacific, P. atripectus and P. catena are known from the Gulf of Panama to the Gulf of California (Garman 1899; Castro-Aguirre and Balart 1996; Nielsen and others 1999), and P. longiceps is known from several locations in the Gulf of Panama (Garman 1899; Nielsen and others 1999).

The first 5 specimens of P. promelas were caught in the Gulf of California, roughly 44 km east of Isla Tortuga (27[degrees]23'45"N, 111[degrees]25'00"W) at 1838 m depth (Gilbert 1891). The range of the species relative to P. catena must be re-evaluated following a generic revision (PM, unpubl. data). The nearest locality for P. catena (under the synonym P. breviceps) also is in the Gulf of California (Garman 1899; Castro-Aguirre and Balart 1996; Nielsen and others 1999). This single P. promelas from British Columbia (Fig. 6), collected 21 October 2006 from 51[degrees]26'11"N, 130[degrees]41'32"W, roughly 22 km east of the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts in Queen Charlotte Sound (Table 1, Fig. 1), extends the species' range into the eastern North Pacific, and also represents the northern-most record of the genus in the Pacific Ocean. Prior to this, the northern-most record for Porogadus in the Pacific was from a trawl sample taken between 39[degrees]40'N and 39[degrees]45.6'N (Machida and Amaoka 1990).

Spectrunculus crassus (Vaillant 1888)--Pudgy Cusk-eel

Material examined: RBCM 976-01087-001

Uiblein and others (2008) resurrected Spectrunculus crassus and gave a list of features distinguishing S. granais from S. crassus. The RBCM collection contained 5 specimens identified as S. granais, all collected between 1971 and 1980. All larger RBCM specimens were reexamined and verified as S. granais based on fin-ray counts. The smallest RBCM Spectrunculus (RBCM 976-01087-001; Fig. 7) had been identified as S. granais by Peden and Hughes (1986), but has a dorsal-fin ray count of 123 and an anal-fin ray count of 96. Here we identify it as S. crassus, following Uiblein and others (2008).

The range of S. crassus is almost circumglobal (Uiblein and others 2008, fig. 1). According to Uiblein and others (2008), the northern-most record for S. crassus along the eastern North Pacific coast is 45[degrees]31'42"N, 127[degrees]28'24"'W, west of Tillamook Bay, Oregon. The newly identified S. crassus in the RBCM collection is from 48[degrees]16'9"N, 127[degrees]00'54"W, about 170 km west of the Juan de Fuca Strait entrance (Table 1, Fig. 1), and extends the species' range about 308 km north into Canadian territory.

Suborder Bythitoidei

Family Bythitidae; Subfamily Bythitinae

Cataetyx rubrirostris Gilbert 1890--Rubynose Brotula

Material examined: RBCM 010-00209-005

The single specimen from British Columbia (Fig. 8) was collected 15 October 2006 from 51[degrees]25'46"N, 130[degrees]46'48"W, roughly 18 km east of the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts in Queen Charlotte Sound (Table 1, Fig. 1). Since the specimen of RBCM 010-00209-005 has been identified as C. rubrirostris, the list of features defining the genus Cataetyx requires revision. According to Muller and others (2004, table 1), species of Cataetyx lack a fleshy flap above the operculum. However, the specimen of RBCM 010-00209-005 has a fleshy opercular flap with a prominent pore, and Gosline (1954, fig. 2c) clearly shows a similar flap in C. hawaiiensis.

The genus Cataetyx is widespread in the Pacific, with C. rubrirostris known from Chile north to Oregon (Gilbert 1890; Cross 1987; Nielsen and others 1999; Love and others 2005) and C. hawaiiensis from Hawaii (Gosline 1954; Nielsen and others 1999). Cataetyx simus is known from Peru north to the Gulf of Panama (Garman 1899; Fowler 1938, 1944; Grey 1956; Nielsen and others 1999; Castellanos-Galindo and others 2006), with an unpublished record (SIO 86-25) from San Nicolas Basin (33[degrees]0.8'N, 119[degrees]1.6'W), California. A few other unidentified Cataetyx specimens are known from 3 seamounts off southern California (Lundsten and others 2009). Our specimen represents the 1st record of Cataetyx rubrirostris in British Columbia and a 750 km northward extension from the previous known occurrence off northern Oregon, west of Nehalem Bank (45[degrees]57'N; 124[degrees]48'W; Grinols and Greenfield 1966; Gibbs 1991; Love and others 2005).


Trawl samples along the British Columbia coast from 1999 to 2007 revealed many new records of deep-water species. This increase in knowledge emphasizes the importance of survey sampling. New additions and range extensions in the eastern North Pacific Ocean would be hard to verify without publications summarizing earlier surveys and museum collections (for example, Mecklenburg and others 2002; Love and others 2005; Kamikawa and Stevenson 2010; Hanke and Roias 2012; Maslenikov and others 2013; Hanke and others 2014).

A lack of new specimens for any taxon does not imply absence, only a lack of specimens retained by fisheries observers and regional biologists. Unfortunately, the RBCM has not received any new Spectrunculus granais since the original report by Peden and Hughes (1986), and one of the few specimens originally identified as S. granais has been re-identified as S. crassus following Uiblein and others (2008, table 1). The presence of this single S. crassus off the Strait of Juan de Fuca extends the range of this species about 308 km north in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. There also have been no new specimens of Brosmophycis marginata added to the RBCM collection since 1980, yet the species ranges along the entire BC coast and is seen by divers (Gotshall 2001; Lamb and Edgell 2010).

The remaining cusk-eels and brotulas in this report were found because of increased survey effort. Chitara taylori is now known in the southern Strait of Georgia thanks to shrimp surveys and the commercial fishery. Bassozetus zenkevitchi, Acanthonus armatus, Cherublemma emmelas, Cataetyx rubrirostris, and the recently collected specimen of Porogaaus prometas also represent new discoveries in British Columbia. These 5 deep-water fishes have a widespread range (Gilbert 1891; Fowler 1938, 1944; Grey 1956; Nielsen 1965, 1990; Golovan and Pahkorukov 1979; Masuda and others 1984; Machida and Tachibana 1986; Fricke 1999; Nielsen and others 1999; Nielsen and Merrett 2000; Love and others 2005; Orr and others 2005; Yeh and others 2005, Biscoito and others 2006) and their presence in British Columbia is not surprising given the lack of barriers to deep ocean dispersal.


Thanks to Heidi Gartner (RBCM) for cataloguing specimens on short notice. Thanks also to Katherine P Maslenikov, James W Orr, and Ted W Pietsch (all of University of Washington) for confirming identifications of Chitara taylori; to Milton Love (University of California, Santa Barbara), for information on the Californian Cataetyx simus; to Ian Bryce for saving the 1st C. taylori and delivering it to DFO; to Wemer Schwarzhans (Hamburg, Germany) for identifying the single specimen of Porogaaus prometas; and to Lynne Yamanaka (DFO) for providing better locality data than on an original field label. Thanks also to Milton Love and Katherine P Maslenikov for their review and improvement of the original manuscript.



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Submitted 8 July 2014, accepted 24 September 2014. Corresponding Editor: James W Orr.


Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 9W2 Canada;


Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N7 Canada


Zoological Museum, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark


Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2 Canada


Archipelago Marine Research, Victoria, BC 179A 5S1 Canada

TABLE 1. Locality data for new cusk-eels (Ophidiidae) and brotulas
(Brotulidae) collected in British Columbia; * = tail damaged.

                         RBCM catalog                        length
Species                     number             Date           (mm)

Acanthonus armatus       012-00130-001   11 October 2006        335
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00318-005   2 September 2002       292
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00343-002   4 August 2003          279
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00199-006   9 October 2006         309
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00208-007   14 October 2006        246
Cataetyx rubrirostris    010-00209-005   15 October 2006        265
Cherublemma enmielas     014-00310-001   2 July 2006            209
Chitara taylori          014-00031-001   May 2004               268 *
Chilara taylori          014-00032-001   28 June 2007           249
Porogadus promelas       010-00342-001   21 October 2006        319
Spectrunculus crassus    976-01087-001   2 September 1971       395

                         RBCM catalog
Species                     number          Latitude

Acanthonus armatus       012-00130-001   50[degrees]42'N
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00318-005   54[degrees]04'N
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00343-002   49[degrees]00'N
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00199-006   50[degrees]35'N
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00208-007   52[degrees]40'N
Cataetyx rubrirostris    010-00209-005   51[degrees]25'N
Cherublemma enmielas     014-00310-001   49[degrees]40'N
Chitara taylori          014-00031-001   49[degrees]16'N
Chilara taylori          014-00032-001   49[degrees]23'N
Porogadus promelas       010-00342-001   51[degrees]26'N
Spectrunculus crassus    976-01087-001   48[degrees]16'N

                         RBCM catalog                        Maximum
Species                     number          Longitude       depth (m)

Acanthonus armatus       012-00130-001   129[degrees]23'W     1778
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00318-005   134[degrees]09'W     2083
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00343-002   127[degrees]18'W     2036
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00199-006   129[degrees]47'W     2125
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00208-007   132[degrees]29'W     1909
Cataetyx rubrirostris    010-00209-005   130[degrees]46'W     2000
Cherublemma enmielas     014-00310-001   127[degrees]46'W     1097
Chitara taylori          014-00031-001   123[degrees]42'W      109
Chilara taylori          014-00032-001   123[degrees]24'W       78
Porogadus promelas       010-00342-001   130[degrees]41'W     1967
Spectrunculus crassus    976-01087-001   127[degrees]00'W     2520

                         RBCM catalog
Species                     number            Location description

Acanthonus armatus       012-00130-001   ~26 km WSW of Triangle Island
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00318-005   W of Graham Island
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00343-002   SW of Hesquiat Peninsula,
                                           Vancouver Island
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00199-006   W of the north end of
                                           Vancouver Island
Bassozetus zenkevitchi   010-00208-007   W of Moresby Island
Cataetyx rubrirostris    010-00209-005   Queen Charlotte Sound
Cherublemma enmielas     014-00310-001   Kuyquot Canyon, W of
                                           Vancouver island
Chitara taylori          014-00031-001   NE of Gabriola Island
Chilara taylori          014-00032-001   NE side of Bowen Island
Porogadus promelas       010-00342-001   Queen Charlotte Sound
Spectrunculus crassus    976-01087-001   170 km W of Juan de Fuca
                                           Strait entrance
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Author:Hanke, G.; Gillespie, G.; Fong, K.; Boutillier, J.; Nielsen, J.; Moller, P.; Bedard, J.; Riley, J.
Publication:Northwestern Naturalist: A Journal of Vertebrate Biology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2015
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