Atlantic cutlassfish is a member of the Cutlassfish or Trichiuridae Family, which is also known as the Large head Hairtail and the Ribbonfish and in Mexico as sable del Atlantico. Although most members of the Trichiuridae Family are found in tropical regions, Atlantic cutlassfish are found in temperate waters from Virginia to the western part of Greenland.
These fish tend to stay close to coral reefs and rocky shorelines and feed on small crustaceans, gastropods, bivalves, and other small bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Atlantic cutlassfish reach a maximum size of just over three feet and can live up to 10 years.
How to identify Atlantic cutlassfish?
Atlantic cutlassfish can be identified by a slender body that is uniformly brown, sometimes with a pinkish hue. Their dorsal fin has a sharp edge and the anal fin is slightly curved with 14 to 17 rays. Atlantic cutlassfish have an extremely long dorsal fin ray which measures up to 90 percent of the standard length of the fish and has an asymmetrical caudal fin (tail) with 4 lobes.
In young fish, there are sometimes two rows of dark spots on their dorsal fin. Sizes range from 12 to 18 inches with an average length of about 15 inches and a maximum length of 3 feet. The average weight is between 1.3 and 5 pounds with a maximum weight reported as 26 pounds (12.1kg).
Behavioral Physical Characteristics
The dorsal fin is extremely long and can reach up to 90 percent of the total body length. Their dorsal fin ray is asymmetrical and has an unusually long first ray. The caudal fin also has a more pronounced curve than normal, with 4 lobes.
Atlantic cutlassfish are found in temperate waters from Virginia to the western part of Greenland. These fish tend to stay close to coral reefs and rocky shorelines and feed on small crustaceans, gastropods, bivalves, and other small bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
Atlantic cutlassfish are oviparous and female fish can lay from 5,000 to 15,000 oval-shaped eggs which have a transparent outer shell and a pink-tinted internal layer. These eggs adhere to the substrate in clumps of around 10 and are guarded by the male until they hatch.
The parents guard these egg clusters until they hatch after about 3 to 5 weeks. The newly hatched fish are translucent yellow-orange with a roughly rectangular shape and two or three pairs of pectoral fins on either side of their body.
Atlantic cutlassfish are omnivorous and feed on small crustaceans, gastropods, bivalves, and other small bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
They feed mainly on small shrimp, crabs, and other invertebrates with smaller cutlassfish eating the bottom-dwelling invertebrates while larger fish (up to three feet in length) feed on larger creatures such as sea cucumbers and starfish.
There are no reported uses for Atlantic cutlassfish but there has been an increase in the demand for these fish in Asia meaning this species is often now considered a delicacy and can be found in some restaurants.
Special 5 Notes
- Atlantic Cutlassfish is also known as large head hairtail, ribbonfish, large head grouper, and triangular grouper.
- Atlantic cutlassfish are sometimes eaten by humans but should not be consumed in large quantities because they contain high levels of mercury.
- They are carnivores that feed on invertebrates such as small crustaceans, gastropods, bivalves, and other small bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
- Atlantic cutlassfish have large scales that help them camouflage themselves from predators.
- Atlantic cutlassfish can reach a length of up to 3 feet and a weight of up to 19 pounds.
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