Catalog Number: USNM 499
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): L. Trowbridge
Locality: San Luis Obispo, Cal., California, United States, Pacific
- Type: Girard, C. F. 1854. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 7: 150.
Depth range (m): 0.5 - 1.22
Depth range (m): 0.5 - 1.22
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Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cebidichthys violaceus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cebidichthys violaceus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The monkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus), also commonly known as the monkeyface eel, is a species of prickleback native to the Pacific coast of North America. Despite being commonly called an eel due to its body shape, it does not fall into the fish order Anguilliformes with true eels, but the Perciformes along with most bony fishes.
Ranging from southern Oregon down to the northern reaches of the Mexican state of Baja California, monkeyface pricklebacks are coastal fish that live in rocky, tidal areas close to shore. First described by Girard in 1854, the fish spawn on the sea floor and show some nest guarding behavior. While young monkeyface pricklebacks feed on zooplankton and crustaceans, adults are primarily herbivorous, feeding on red and green algae. Adults have few predators other than humans, but young fish are vulnerable to birds and other fish, such as grass rockfish. The species reaches a maximum size of 76 cm (30 in) and may live up to 18 years. The heaviest monkeyface prickleback recorded to date was just over 6 lb (2.7 kg).
Monkeyface pricklebacks have long been sought after for their edible white flesh, with remains found in the middens of Native American peoples along the California coast. In the modern era, the fish's appeal is and has always been mostly among amateur anglers. The most common method of acquiring it is "poke poling": a technique involving a long bamboo rod and a baited hook stuck into the crevices where monkeyface prickleback are known to hide.
In 2012, a fad for monkeyface eel in restaurants of the San Francisco Bay Area has spawned a tiny commercial fishery, mostly spurred by local foragers interested in catch that is unusual and less heavily fished.
- "Cebidichthys violaceus, Monkeyface prickleback", FishBase
- California Dept. of Fish & Game (2001), California's Living Marine Resources: A Status Report, University of California, Agricultural & Natural Resources, pp. 181–182, ISBN 978-1-879906-57-0, retrieved 7 May 2012
- "Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus)", Encyclopedia of Life
- "Net Gains", The New York Times Magazine, May 6, 2012
- "Monkeyface eel becoming a star on dinner platters", San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 2012
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