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DESCRIPTION. Dorsal rays X,11; anal rays III,6; pectoral rays 14, the uppermost and lower 7 unbranched; lateral-line scales 40-43; 4 rows of large scales above lateral line in middle of body; 9 large scales below lateral line to origin of anal fin; small scales on cheek in more than 15 oblique rows, with additional rows of embedded scales in narrow zone adjacent to preopercular margin; no scales in interorbital space or on snout; exposed scales ventrally on chest progressively smaller anteriorly, the smallest about half height of largest scales on side of body; anterior scales of chest with auxiliary scales; gill rakers 6-7 + 11- 12; supraorbital ridge high and sharp, continuing more than half eye diameter posterior to eye; lower opercular spine acute, forming an angle of 45° or less; upper half of preopercular margin very finely serrate, the lower half membranous; mouth large, the maxilla reaching or extending slightly beyond a vertical through middle of eye, and slightly oblique; dentition typical of the family; numerous cirri on posterior flap of anterior nostril; body depth 3.1-3.35 in SL; head length 2.6-2.8 in SL; snout length 3.2-3.4 in head; orbit diameter4.45-5.2 in head; bony interorbital width 6.25-7.3 in head; fourth to sixth dorsal spines longest and subequal, 2.9-3.0 in head; a tuft of cirri from membrane near tip of each dorsal spine; second anal spine 2.1-2.25 in head; caudal fin truncate, the lower rays progressively longer than upper; pectoral fins 1.25-1.4 in head, the longest rays reaching slightly beyond a vertical at tips of pelvic fins; pelvic fins nearly or just reaching anus; body with five faint dark bars on about dorsal half with scattered black dots, mostly within or at edges of dark bars and beneath pectoral fins, the largest and most strongly pigment dots along base of dorsal fin; head with scattered black dots, mostly on postorbital region and opercle; dots forming two curved lines posterior to eye.
TYPE LOCALITY. Madagascar.
ETYMOLOGY. Crista from the Latin for crest, in combination with Cirrhitus , in reference to the strong supraorbital ridge of the type species.
REMARKS. Cristacirrhitus ZBK differs principally from Cirrhitus in the very pronounced suprorbital ridge that continues well posterior to the orbit (resulting in a deeply concave, nearly V-shaped, interorbital space, and an indented dorsal profile of the nape), the acute lower opercular spine, the presence of scales in the posterior interorbital space, the more elongate body, and longer pectoral fins.
Randall (1963) designated MNHN 2772, 136 mm SL, collected at Madagascar by Quoy & Gaimard, as the lectotype of Cirrhitus punctatus . The specimen is preserved in alcohol and in good condition.
Schultz in Schultz & collaborators (1960: 259) placed Cirrhitus mossambicus Smith , described from two juvenile specimens from Mozambique, in the synonymy of C. nigropunctatus , and he was followed by Randall (1963). However, the collection of a juvenile of Cirrhitus pinnulatus in the Hawaiian Islands with the identical color pattern of Smith’s illustration of C. mossambicus provided for a correction. C. mossambicus is a synonym of C. pinnulatus .
Smith (1951: 628) recorded one 225-mm specimen of Cirrhitus nigropunctatus [= Cristacirrhitus punctatus ] from Durban as the first record for the African coast. He wrote, “Appears to be differentiated from pinnulatus ...”, but his additional remarks indicated he was unsure of his identification. Cristacirrhitus punctatus is otherwise known only from Madagascar and Mauritius (and doubtless Réunion ). In order to determine if C. punctatus positively occurs in South Africa, Joan Wright of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology in Grahamstown was asked to check for specimens of this species. She reported finding two adults in the collection from the Natal coast, RUSI 38079 from Kosi Bay and RUSI 43502 from Sodwana Bay.
MATERIAL EXAMINED. MADAGASCAR : MNHN 2772 , 136 mm ( lectotype of Cirrhitus punctatus Cuvier ). MAURITIUS : MCZ 5761 , 137 mm; MCZ 37223 , 149 mm (paratype of C. nigropunctatus ); USNM 13218 , 138 mm (holotype of C. nigropunctatus ).