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[[ Family Cirrhitidae ]]

The perciform fish family Cirrhitidae is characterized by having 14 pectoral rays, the lower 5 to 7 unbranched and enlarged with the membranes deeply incised; a single dorsal fin of X spines and 11 to 17 soft rays, the fin notched between the spinous and soft portions; membrane at dorsal spine tips with one to several cirri; anal rays III,5-7; 15 principal caudal rays; pelvic rays I,5; opercular spines 2; a fringe of cirri on posterior edge of anterior nostril; margin of preopercle serrate, though often only on upper half (number of serrae increase with age); scales cycloid; gill membranes broadly joined, with a free fold across throat; no swimbladder; 6 branchiostegal rays; and 26 vertebrae. Except for the presence or absence of palatine teeth and except for the reduced size of the canines in the monotypic genus Oxycirrhites ZBK , the dentition is essentially the same for all species: an outer row of small incurved canines, the largest in upper jaw at the front, and the largest in the lower jaw as 2 to 4 recurved canines nearly half way back in jaw; a broad dense inner band of villiform teeth at front of jaws, continuing progressively narrower posteriorly in upper jaw; a narrow V-shaped band of small teeth on the vomer.

The Cirrhitidae is primarily an Indo-Pacific family, with only three of the 33 species occurring in the Atlantic, and only three in the eastern Pacific (two of which are also wideranging in the Indo-Pacific). Most are found in shallow water on coral reefs or rocky substrata, often in areas exposed to surge. When in a surgy area, they use their thickened lower pectoral rays to wedge themselves in place. Cyprinocirrhites polyactis and Oxycirrhites typus ZBK are exceptions in their usual occurrence in 20-100 m. Cirrhitids feed mainly on benthic crustaceans, occasionally on small fishes. C. polyactis feeds well above the substratum on zooplankton, and O. typus ZBK makes short forays into the water column for the larger animals of the zooplankton. At least some of the species (and likely all) are protogynous hermaphrodites (Sadovy & Donaldson 1995).

The generic classification of the Cirrhitidae has a long and confused history which is summarized here:

Günther (1860) recognized eight genera in the family, only three of which remain in the Cirrhitidae today: Cirrhitus Lacepede (which Günther and most early authors misspelled Cirrhites ), Cirrhitichthys Bleeker ZBK , and Oxycirrhites Bleeker ZBK . The other five genera are now classified in the families Cheilodactylidae and Chironemidae.

Gill (1862) proposed the genera Cirrhitopsis ZBK for Cirrhites aureus Temminck and Schlegel from Japan and Amblycirrhitus ZBK for Cirrhites fasciatus Cuvier (1829) for which the type locality was given as Pondichéry , India.

Castelnau (1873) described Neocirrhites armatus ZBK as a new genus and species from northeastern Australia.

Bleeker (1875) treated five genera in the family for the East Indian region, adding Amblycirrhitus Gill ZBK and Paracirrhites Bleeker .

Steindachner & Döderlein (1884) described Paracirrhites japonicus ZBK as a new genus and species from Japan. Noting that their Paracirrhites ZBK was preoccupied by Paracirrhites Bleeker , Jordan in Jordan & Herre (1907) proposed the replacement name Isobuna ZBK .

Jenkins (1903) described Cirrhitoidea bimacula ZBK as a new genus and species from the Hawaiian Islands, unaware that Amblycirrhitus ZBK was available for bimacula ZBK .

Tanaka (1917) created the genus Cyprinocirrhites ZBK for Cirrhitichthys polyactis Bleeker ZBK , surprisingly not named earlier.

Mowbray in Breder (1927) described Pseudocirrhites pinos as a new genus and species from the Isle of Pines, Cuba.

Fowler (1938) proposed the new genus Acanthocirrhitus ZBK for Cirrhitus oxycephalus Bleeker . Realizing that Cirrhitus fasciatus Cuvier is preoccupied by C. fasciatus Bennett (1828) , he provided a replacement name, Amblycirrhitus indicus ZBK . Randall (2001) has shown that Cuvier’s C. fasciatus is a specimen of the Atlantic Amblycirrhitus pinos (Mowbray) , and the type locality of India for fasciatus is a locality error for the Atlantic.

Schultz (1943) mistakenly relegated Cyprinocirrhites ZBK and Neocirrhites ZBK to the synonymy of Cirrhitichthys ZBK . He described Hughichthys ZBK as a new genus for Cirrhites melanotus Guenther , later shown to be a synonym of Neocirrhites armatus Castelnau ZBK . He then placed Cirrhitoidea ZBK in the synonymy of Paracirrhites and classified bimacula ZBK as a species of Paracirrhites . He described hubbardi ZBK as a new species in the genus Amblycirrhitus ZBK .

Watanabe (1949) described Serranocirrhitus latus ZBK as a new genus and species of cirrhitid fish from Okinawa.

In a review of western Indian Ocean Cirrhitidae , Smith (1951) created the genus Cirrhitops ZBK for Cirrhites fasciatus Bennett . He mistakenly listed Amblycirrhitus hubbardi Schultz ZBK as a synonym of fasciatus . He also described Gymnocirrhites ZBK as a new genus, with Cirrhites arcatus Cuvier as the type species, adding that it is allied to Paracirrhites but distinct on the basis of lacking scales on the gill membrane and on the snout before the nostrils.

Schultz in Schultz & collaborators (1960) recognized 13 genera in the Cirrhitidae , including Isobuna ZBK , Serranocirrhitus ZBK , Cirrhitoidea ZBK , Hughichthys ZBK (though indicating that Neocirrhites ZBK “appears to be related”), and Gymnocirrhites ZBK . He obviously had some doubt of the validity of Gymnocirrhites ZBK , stating that Smith (1951) “attaches too much value to the scaly gill membranes.” He noted that a specimen of G. arcatus 48 mm in SL lacks scales on the gill membranes, but a specimen of 100 mm SL has them. He left bimacula ZBK in the genus Cirrhitoidea ZBK and described a new species, sexfasciata ZBK , in this genus.

Randall (1963) reviewed the family, recognizing 10 genera and 34 species. He discussed Serranocirrhitus ZBK in a footnote, noting the following noncirrhitid characters: all the pectoral rays unbranched and none thickened, no teeth on the vomer, ctenoid scales, and the configuration of a pomacentrid. He included Isobuna ZBK but stated that it differs from other cirrhitids in having 3 spines on the opercle instead of 2, ctenoid scales, and only 2 rows of scales above the lateral line. He recognized Neocirrhites ZBK as a valid genus with Hughichthys ZBK a synonym, placed Gymnocirrhites ZBK in the synonymy of Paracirrhites , described Isocirrhitus ZBK as a new genus for Schultz’ sexfasciata , put hubbardi in Cirrhitops ZBK , referred Cirrhitopsis ZBK to the synonymy of Cirrhitichthys ZBK , and Pseudocirrhites to Amblycirrhitus ZBK .

Randall & Heemstra (1978) reclassified the genera Serranocirrhitus ZBK and Isobuna ZBK in the subfamily Anthiinae of the Serranidae. That these two genera should have been placed in the Cirrhitidae is not as serious an error as it might seem. Jordan & Evermann (1898) wrote with respect to the cirrhitoid fishes, “This family should apparently be placed among the Percoidea near the Serranidae....This group agrees with the Percoidea in most respects, the chief external difference lying in the form of the pectorals,...” They quoted Günther ’s description of the skeleton of Paracirrhites forsteri , adding, “Dr. Boulenger finds that the skeleton has much in common (with the Serranidae)”.

In 1969 the author collected 32 specimens of an undescribed species of cirrhitid from Easter Island that appeared to represent a new genus. The following year he collected two more specimens from Pitcairn Island. Unaware of this material, Lavenberg & Yañez (1972) described the species as Cirrhitus wilhelmi from one specimen from Easter Island.

Kunio Amaoka requested specimens of the various genera of cirrhitid fishes from the Bishop Museum for a graduate student who planned a phylogenetic study of the family. Specimens were sent, including ones from Easter Island. The student did not complete the study, and the specimens were recently returned by Dr. Amaoka.

The present study has confirmed that the Easter Island - Pitcairn specimens of wilhelmi represent a new genus. The investigation of other cirrhitids currently placed in Cirrhitus has revealed two more species that clearly require placement in new monotypic genera. The three new genera are described below after the revised generic key of the family.


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