Family ALBULIDAE


Common name: Bonefishes

Silhouette

Summary:

Long slender silvery schooling fishes found in coastal waters worldwide. Bonefishes are small to medium-sized with a long, fusiform, slightly compressed body and a deeply forked tail fin. The head is cone-shaped with a pointed snout overhanging the small mouth; mouth not reaching beyond eye.

Dorsal and anal fins short-based, without fin spines; dorsal fin at mid body, anal fin positioned well behind dorsal fin; pectoral fins low on body, pelvic fins abdominal, under posterior part of dorsal fin. Scales smooth, moderate in size; lateral line straight.

Like tarpons, ladyfishes and true eels, the primitive bonefishes have a leptocephalus larval stage, although unlike true eels, bonefish larvae have forked tails. Bonefish can breathe air using a modified swim bladder.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Bonefishes, ALBULIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Apr 2019, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/family/36

More Info


Family Taxonomy

The Bonefish family Albulidae comprises two genera with up to 10 species. A single genus Albula, and two species are known from Australian waters. Albula vulpes, once thought to be very widespread, is considered by Colburn et al (2001) to be a species complex, with A. vulpes found only in the Atlantic Ocean. The species are often difficult to distinguish.

Family Distribution

Widespread in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. Bonefishes usually inhabit coastal marine and estuarine environments, including intertidal flats, mangroves, bays, channels, river mouths and deeper adjacent waters.

Family Description

Meristic features: Dorsal fin 16-21; anal fin 79.

Bonefish have a long, slender, cylindrical body, with a somewhat convex upper profile and a conical snout protruding well beyond the upper jaw.

The single short-based dorsal fin lacks fin spines and the anterior rays are relatively high, giving the fin a triangular appearance. The caudal fin is deeply forked, with the upper lobe slightly larger than the lower.

The upper jaw and tongue have specialised granular tooth plates; pharyngeal teeth are present in the throat.

Scales smooth, moderate in size; lateral line straight.

Family Size

To 1.1 m.

Family Colour

Bonefish are counter-shaded, being blue-greenish above, and silvery below. Some species have prominent dark longitudinal streaks between the scales rows along the upper body. Juveniles have a series of dark crossbands on their backs. These bands extend nearly to the lateral line, with the third band crossing at the origin of the dorsal fin.

Family Feeding

Carnivores. Bonefishes swim in schools and fan out over intertidal sandflats, mudflats and seagrass beds at high tide to search for prey. They use their conical snouts to search for crustaceans, molluscs, polychaete worms and fishes in the sediment. They have powerful pharyngeal teeth in the throat to crush and grind up hard-shelled prey items.

Family Reproduction

Bonefishes spawn at sea and have a pelagic leptocephalus larval stage, an early life-history strategy shared with the related tarpons and true eels. The leptocephali have ribbon-like bodies, a small head and a well-forked caudal fin, and are thought to remain in the plankton between two and six months. The leptocephali of some species have been described.

Family Commercial

Although bonefish are highly prized sports fish, they are incredibly bony (as their name inplies) and are considered very poor eating in Australia.

Family Conservation

IUCN: Not evaluated.

Family Remarks

The bonefish fossil record dates back to the middle Mocene.

Author

Dianne J. Bray

Family Resources

Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Faunal Directory

CAAB Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota

Catalog of Fishes  

OZCAM – Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums

References


Alexander, E. C. 1961. A contribution to the life history, biology and geographical distribution of the bonefish, Albula vulpes (Linnaeus). Dana-Rept. 53: 1-51.

Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The marine fishes of north-western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Western Australian Museum, Perth. I-vi + 1-201, 1-70.

Colborn, J., R.E. Crabtree, J.B. Shaklee, E. Pfeiler & B.W. Bowen. 2001. The evolutionary enigma of bonefishes (Albula spp.): cryptic species and ancient separations in a globally distributed shorefish. Evolution 55(4): 807-820.

Fitch, J. E. 1950. Life history notes and the early development of the bonefishes, Albula vulpes (Linnaeus). Calif. Fish Game 36: 3–6.

Frizzell, D.L. 1965. Otolith-based genera and lineages of fossil bonefishes (Clupeiformes, Albulidae). Senckenb. Lethaea. 46a: 85-110.

Hidaka, K., I. Iwatsuki & J.E. Randall. 2008. A review of the Indo-Pacific bonefishes of the Albula argentea complex, with a description of a new species. Ichthyological Research 55(1): 53-64.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 63: 9-50.

Kim, B-J., S. Kim, H-S. Seo & J. Oh. 2008. Identification of Albula sp. (Albulidae: Albuliformes) leptocephalus collected from the southern coastal waters of Korea using cytochrome b DNA sequences. Ocean Science Journal 43(2): 101-106

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.J. Bray & D.F. Hoese. 2006. Family Albulidae, pp. 226-227. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS and CSIRO Publishing, Part 1.

Pfeiler, E., M.A. Mendoza & F.A. Manrique. 1988. Premetamorphic bonefish (Albula sp.) leptocephali from the Gulf of California with comments on life history. Environ. Biol. Fish. 21: 241-249.

Pfeiler, E., D. Padro´n & R.E. Crabtree. 2000. Growth rate, age and size of bonefish from the Gulf of California. J. Fish Biol. 56: 448-453.

Randall, J.E. & M.-L. Bauchot. 1999. Clarification of the two Indo-Pacific species of bonefishes, Albula glossodonta and A. forsteri. Cybium 23(1): 79-83.

Richards, W.J. 1984. Elopiformes: development. p. 60-62. In: Ontogeny and systematics of fishes. Moser, H.G., W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, jr. & S.L. Richardson, (eds.) Spec. Publ. 1. American Society of Ichthyologist and Herpetologists, Lawrence, KS.

Rivas, L.R. & S.M. Warlen. 1967. Systematics and biology of the bonefish Albula nemoptera (Fowler). Fish Bull. 66: 251-258.

Shaklee, J.B. & C.S. Tamaru. 1981. Biochemical and morphological evolution of Hawaiian bonefishes (Albula). Syst. Zool. 30: 125-146.

Smith, D.G. 1979. Guide to the leptocephali (Elopiformes, Anguilliformes, and Notacanthiformes). NOAA Technical Report NMFS Circular, 424. 39 p.

Smith, D.G. & J.E. Randall. 1999. Albulidae, p. 1624. In Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem. Species identification guide for fisheries purposes. The living marine resources of the western central Pacific. Batoid fishes, chimeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. v. 3: iii-vi + 1398-2068, I-IV.

Warmke, G.L. & D.S. Erdman. 1963. Records of marine molluscs eaten by bonefish in Puerto Rican waters. Nautilus 76: 115-120.

Whitehead, P.J.P. 1986. The synonymy of Albula vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758) (Teleostei, Albulidae). Cybium 10(3): 211-230.