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Research published in 2010 revealed that what had previously been treated as a single species, H. aculeatus, was actually a complex of several similar species. Ho et al. (2010) reviewed the morphology and complex taxonomic history of the genus Halieutichthys, including the description of two new species, distinct from H. aculeatus and belonging to what they now refer to as the H. aculeatus complex. Members of the H. aculeatus complex occur mainly along the Atlantic coast of the southern United States and in the Gulf of Mexico (whereas members of the H. caribbaeus complex occur mainly in the Caribbean and West Indies). They have a reticulate pattern on the dorsal surface of the body, many tubercles on the tail, and usually two black bands extending fully across the pectoral fin. (Ho et al. 2010).