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Records of the Pacific Bearded Brotula, Brotula clarkae, from Southern California.

The genus Brotula (Family: Ophidiidae) is characterized as having a circumtropical and subtropical marine distribution (Hubbs 1944; Nielsen et al. 1999). Two species are known from the Eastern Pacific: Fore-spotted Brotula (Brotula ordwayi Hildebrand & Barton, 1949) and Pacific Bearded Brotula (Brotula clarkae Hubbs, 1944). Of the two species, Brotula clarkae is more common and is known from higher, more subtropical latitudes in both hemispheres. Recently, Brotula flaviviridis was described by Greenfield (2005) from the Fiji Islands; however, this species appears to be a Fiji archipelago endemic or perhaps a species of limited distribution in the Central Pacific. Love et al. (2005) noted that the Pacific Bearded Brotula is found in the Eastern Tropical Pacific from Cabo San Lazaro, Baja California Sur to Paita, Peru, including Gulf of California, at depths of 1-645 m.

On 24 July 2001, fishes from the southern California Spot Prawn (Pandalus platyceros) trap fishery were collected by the California Department of Fish and Game for ongoing studies concerning related by-catch. A sample, consisting of various rockfishes (Sebastes spp.) and a large Spotted Cusk-eel (Chilara taylori), was collected from the fishing vessel Stephanie D. The traps for this sample were set about eight nautical miles (14.8 km) west of Point Loma, San Diego County, lat 33[degrees]09.3' N, long 117[degrees]26.7' W, in ca. 122 fathoms (223 m). The entire sample was sent to the senior author (RNL) for confirmation and documentation. Upon examination of these fishes, it was apparent that the "Spotted Cusk-eel" was not this species but was in fact a member of the genus Brotula and was identified specifically as B. clarkae. This specimen (Fig. 1) is deposited in the Department of Ichthyology at California Academy of Sciences (CAS uncatalogued) and tissue resides in the Marine Vertebrate Collection, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO 02-95).

On 6 March 2003 a second specimen of Brotula was collected by the third author (WP), of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, off the Palos Verdes Shelf, Los Angeles County, lat 33[degrees]41.8' N, long 118[degrees]20.0' W, at Station T5, from 65 m. During recovery and routine maintenance of a thermister array by the research vessel Ocean Sentinel, the specimen was found in the steel base of the array. The fish did not appear to be any of the expected locally caught species and was later identified as Brotula clarkae. This specimen is catalogued in the Marine Vertebrate Collection as SIO 07-67 (Fig. 2).

Morphometric and meristic information on these two Californian specimens are included in Table 1. Both fish are typical Brotula clarkae and are easily differentiated from B. ordwayi by pattern of coloration, counts, and morphometry (Hildebrand and Barton 1949; Allen and Robertson 1994). In a review of the Central Eastern Pacific (of Eastern Tropical Pacific) Ophidiidae (Lea 1995), the genus Brotula was considered to belong in the family Brotulidae and as a result, the two Eastern Pacific species were not included in this summary. Nielsen et al. (1999), in their treatment of ophidiiform fishes of the world, included the genus Brotula within the family Ophidiidae as one of 4 subfamilies (Brotulinae, Brotulotaeniinae, Ophidiinae, and Neobythitinae). Most current workers follow this system of classification (e.g. Nelson 2006). Nonetheless, the interrelationships of ophidiiform fishes, in a number of cases, are problematic.


The Pacific Bearded Brotula differs from other species of ophidiiform fishes known from California in having barbels present on the snout and chin (6 on snout and 6 on chin; characteristic of genus Brotula). Barbels are absent on other California ophidiiform fishes. The pelvic fins of Brotula, as 2 elongate rays, are inserted anteriorly on the body at about the level of the preopercle, well behind the eye. The pelvic fins, as a pair of filamentous rays, in Chilara taylori and Ophidion scrippsae (Basketweave Cusk-eel) (the two ophidiids with which it would most likely be confused), are inserted on the isthmus vertically under the eye. A list of fishes of the Order Ophidiiformes known from California waters is given in Table 2.

The oceanic climate of the eastern North Pacific was cold during the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) cold regime of the 1960s and 1970s to 1981, very warm during the 1982-84 El Nino, warm during the PDO warm regime from 1985 to the cool La Nina of 1988-89, warm during the warm regime period of 1990-98 (the warmest of the century during the 1997-98 El Nino), and cool from 1999 at least through 2005 (Chavez et al. 2003; Goericke et al. 2005). As the Pacific Bearded Brotula has planktonic larvae (Ambrose 1996) and adults were taken in southern California in 2001 and 2003, its dispersal from Baja California Sur or mainland Mexico to southern California may have occurred through larval drift and transport during the 1997-98 El Nino or perhaps during the warm regime of the early 90s preceding this event. A number of Eastern Tropical Pacific species were reported for the first time from California following the 1997-98 El Nino (Lea and Rosenblatt 2000; Allen and Groce 2001a,b; Groce et al. 2001a,b). With the two records listed above, the geographic range of Brotula clarkae now extends from off Palos Verdes, California, to Paita, Peru.



We thank Paul Reilly of the California Department of Fish and Game for making the San Diego prawn trap fishes available. Atshuhiro Kubo illustrated the fish from the Palos Verdes Shelf. H. J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Richard Feeney, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, provided radiographs of the Palos Verdes specimen; known to them as the x-rays from hell!

Literature Cited

Allen, G.R. and D.R. Robertson. 1994. Fishes if the Tropical Eastern Pacific. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 332 p.

Allen, M.J. and A.K. Groce. 2001a. First occurrence of blackspot wrasse, Decodon melasma Gomon 1974 (Pisces: Labridae) in California. Bull. So. Cal. Acad. Sci., 100(3):131-136.

-- and --. 2001b. First occurrence of speckletail flounder, Engyophrys sanctilaurentii Jordan & Bollman 1890 (Pisces: Bothidae), in California. Bull. So. Cal. Acad. Sci., 100(3):137-143.

Ambrose, D.A. 1996. Ophidiidae: Cusk-eels. Pp. 515-531 in (Moser, H.G. ed.). The early stages of fishes in the California Current. Calif. Coop. Oceanic Fish. Invest. Atlas No. 33.

Chavez, F.P., J. Ryan, S.E. Lluch-Cota, and M. Niquen C. 2003. From anchovies to sardines and back: Multidecadal change in the Pacific Ocean. Science, 299:217- 221.

Goericke, R., E. Venrick, A. Mantyla, S.J. Bograd, F.B. Schwing, A. Huyer, R.L. Smith, P.A. Wheeler, R. Hooff, W.T. Peterson, F. Chavez, C. Collins, B. Marinovic, N. Lo, G. Gaxiola-Castro, R. Durazo, K.D. Hyrenbach, and W.J. Sydeman. 2005. The state of the California Current, 2004-2005: still cool? Calif. Coop. Oceanic Fish. Invest., 46:32-71.

Groce, A.K., S.L. Lagos, and E.C. Nestler. 2001a. Addition of calico lizardfish, Synodus lacertinus Gilbert 1890 (Pisces: Synodontidae) to the ichthyofauna of the Southern California Bight. Bull. So. Cal. Acad. Sci., 100(3):153-155.

--, R.H. Rosenblatt, and M.J. Allen. 2001b. Addition of the blacklip dragonet, Synchiropus atrilabiatus (Garman 1899) (Pisces: Callionymidae) to the California ichthyofauna. Bull. So. Cal. Acad. Sci., 100(3):149-152.

Greenfield, D.W. 2005. Brotukt flaviviridis, a new species of Brotula from Fiji (Teleostei: Ophidiidae: Brotulinae). Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci., 56(8):80-85.

Hildebrand, S.F. and O. Barton. 1949. A collection of fishes from Talara, Peru. [Fishes of Peru]. Smithsonian Misc. Coll.. Vol. 3, no. 10:1-30.

Hubbs, C.L. 1944. Species of the circumtropical fish genus Brotula. Copeia, 1944(3):162-178.

Lea, R.N. 1995. Ophidiidae, Pp. 1342-1348 In (F. Krupp, W. Schneider, C. Sommer, K.E. Carpenter, and V.H. Niem, eds.). Guia FAO para la identificacion de especies para los fines de la pesca. Pacifico centro-oriental. Vol. 3. Vertebrados--Parte 2. FAO, Rome. (Vol. 3: 1201-1813).

-- and R.H. Rosenblatt. 2000. Observations on fishes associated with the 1997 1998 El Nino of California. Calif. Coop. Oceanic Fish. Invest. Rep., 41:117-129.

Love, M.S., C.W. Mecklenburg, T.A. Mecklenburg, and L.K. Thorsteinson. 2005. Resource inventory of marine and estuarine fishes of the West Coast and Alaska: A checklist of North Pacific and Arctic Ocean species from Baja California to the Alaska-Yukon border. U. S. Department of Interior, U. S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Seattle, WA 98104. OCS Study MMS 2005-030 and USGS/NBII 2005-001. 276 p.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Fourth Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 601 p.

Nielsen, J.G., D.M. Cohen, D.F. Markle, and C.R. Robins. 1999. FAO Species Catalogue, Volume 18, Ophidiiform fishes of the world (Order Ophidiiformes). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. 178 p.

Robert N. Lea, (1) M. James Allen, (2) and William Power (3)

(1) California Academy of Sciences (Research Associate), Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118,

(2) Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, 3535 Harbor Blvd., Suite 110, Costa Mesa, CA 92626,

(3) Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, 24501 S. Figueroa, Carson, CA 90745, bpower@lacsdorg
Table 1. Morphometric and meristic data for the two
California Brotulu clarkae.

Character State      uncatalogued (1)      SIO 07-67

Dorsal fin                  --               ca.106
Anal Fin                    --                 87
Vertebrae                   --            15 + 40 = 55
Pectoral fin (2)          ca. 27               --
Gill Rakers         3 developed rakers   5 + 3,15 = 23 (3)
                      on lower limb

                    mm      Percent SL  mm     Percent SL

Standard Length     465                 396
Total Length        481     --          422      --
Weight (g.)         937.8   --           --      --
Head Length         113.6   24.4         98.6    24.9
Orbit Length         18.0    3.9         15.4     3.9
Snout Length         23.6    5.l         21.5     5.4
  Length             --     --           60.2    15.2
  Width (fleshy)     18.5    4.0         16.3     4.1
Maxilla Length       52.7   11.3         46.0    11.6
Pectoral Fin
  Length             49.4   10.6         43.0    10.9
Pelvic Fin
  Length             39.0    8.4         25.9     6.5
Body Depth
  (@ D origin)       --     --           80.0    20.2
Body D.
  (@ A origin)       86.9   18.7         72.3    18.3
Body D. (@ Nape)     --     --           64.4    16.3
  Length             --     --          108.2    27.3
Pre-anal Length     233.3   50.2        210      53.0
  Length             --     --           69.9    17.7
  Length             --     --          103.1    26.0
Gill Raker L.
  (@ angle)         12.1     2.6          7.2     1.8
Lateral Line
  Length            --      --          370      93.4

(1) The CAS specimen was placed in temporary storage during
the recent renovation of the Academy and the move of the
ichthyological collection to the Howard Street location.
The Academy has now returned to Golden Gate Park but
the specimen has not as yet been located.

(2) The pectoral fin is extremely fleshy in Brotulu and a
count without radiograph or staining is approximate.

(3) Formulae indicates 5 rudimentary rakers on upper limb
plus 3 developed rakers followed by 15 rudimentary rakers
on lower limb.

Table 2. A list of fishes of the Order Ophidiiformes
known from California waters.

Family Ophidiidae
  Brotula clarkae Hubbs, 1944              Pacific Bearded Brotula
  Chilara taylori (Girard, 1858)           Spotted Cusk-eel
  Dicrolene filamentosa Garman, 1899       Threadfin Cusk-eel
  Lamprogrammus niger Alcock, 1891         Paperbone Cusk-eel
  Ophidion scrippsae (Hubbs, 1916)         Basketweave Cusk-eel
  Spectrunculus grandis (Gunther, 1877)    Giant Cusk-eel

Family Bythitidae
  Brosphycis marginata (Ayres, 1854)       Red Brotula
  Cataetyx rubrirostris Gilbert, 1890      Rubynose Brotula
  Grammonus diagrammus (Heller &
    Snodgrass, 1903)                       Purple Brotula
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Title Annotation:Research Note
Author:Lea, Robert N.; Allen, M. James; Power, William
Publication:Bulletin (Southern California Academy of Sciences)
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2009
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