Larvae of the black durgon (Melichthys niger) (Teleostei: Balistidae) from the northern Gulf of Mexico

Denice Drass and Glenn A. Zapfe

Larval descriptions for the majority of fish species in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) are lacking due to incomplete size range collections or poor diagnostic characteristics. Without these descriptions, a gap in knowledge of the population structure and larval ecology exists for many fishes in the GOM, which can hinder both fisheries stock assessment and ecosystem-based fisheries management. Juveniles of all 6 triggerfish species occurring in the GOM are described, but only 4 have a published larval description. This paper describes 4 larvae of the circumtropical triggerfish Melichthys niger, commonly known as the black durgon, collected in the northern GOM. These larvae can be separated from the other triggerfish in the GOM by fin ray counts DIII, 34 and A31. The presence of a caudal bar of pigment separates larval M. niger from both species of Canthidermis that occur in the GOM. Additional pigmentation differences can assist with distinguishing this species from sargassum triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens) and gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus).

Year published
Published online 9 July 2024