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  • Fishbase


Main identification features
  • oval, compressed
  • 1 d
  • c: forked
  • mouth small, at front
  • pelvic behind pectoral base
  • scales smooth


Surfperches are small (up to about 45 cm), ovate, laterally compressed fishes that occur mainly along the Pacific coast of North America. Other features include a small mouth, smooth scales, a forked tail, a single continuous dorsal fin of VI to XI spines and 9-28 soft rays, and anal fin with III spines and 15-35 soft rays.

The most notable characteristic of this family is their rather unusual mode of reproduction. Unlike other perciform fishes they have internal fertilization and bear their young alive. Breeding generally occurs in summer, but the gestation period is lengthy and birth of the young (up to 80 depending on species) does not occur until autumn or the following spring. The young are virtually mature at birth. Surfperches inhabit surge areas off sandy beaches, but are also found in kelp beds, tide pools, and sheltered bays and harbors. Food items include molluscs, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates.

This temperate region family contains about 24 species in 13 genera, all but two (from Japan and Korea) inhabit North Pacific. By far the most species occur along the coast of Southern and Central California; a single freshwater species is also found in California. Some species are ectoparasite "cleaners" of other fishes. The family was reviewed by Tarp (1952). A single representative, which is endemic to the eastern Pacific, occurs in our region in the Gulf of California.

  • Eschmeyer , W. N. , Herald , E. S. and Hamman, H., 1983., A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California. Peterson Field Guide Ser. 28., Houghton Mifflin:336pp.
  • Findley, L.T., Hendrickx, M.E., Brusca, R.C., van der Heiden, A.M., Hastings, P.A., Torre, J., 2003., Diversidad de la Macrofauna Marina del Golfo de California, Mexico., CD-ROM versión 1.0. Projecto de la Macrofauna del Golfo .  Derechos reservados de los autores y Conservación Internacional.
  • Jordan , D.S. and Gilbert, C.H., 1880., Description of a new flounder (Platysomatichthys stomias), from the coast of California., Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus., 3:301-303.
  • Love, M.S., Mecklenburg, C.W., Mecklenburg, T.A., Thorsteinson, L.K., 2005., es of the West Coast and Alaska: a checklist of North Pacific and Artic Ocena species from Baja California to the Alaska-Yukon border., U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, 288pp.
  • Nelson, J.S., 1984., Fishes of the World (Third edition)., John Wiley and Sons:523pp.
  • Pondella II, D.J., Gintert, B.E., Cobb, J.R., Allen, L.G., 2005., Biogeography of the nearshore rocky-reef fishes at the southern and Baja California islands., Journal of Biogeography, 32:187-201.
  • Tarp, F.H., 1952., A revision of the family Embiotocidae (the surfperches)., Fish Bull. Calif. Depart. Fish and Game, 88:1-99.


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