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/The Coldwater Marine Aquarist

The Live-Bearing Surfperches, Family Embiotocidae

Bob Fenner

Embiotoca lateralis

Coastal marine (occasionally venturing into freshwater) northern Pacific fishes. One of few livebearing (viviparous) marine fish families (males utilize the thickened portion of their anal fins for genetic transmission).

Range, Number, Size:

    Thirteen genera, twenty four species. Twenty one species in the temperate eastern Pacific, three off of Korea and Japan. Maximum size to eighteen inches.

Amphistichus argenteus Agassiz 1854, the Barred Surfperch. Mid Baja California to Bodega Bay, Mid-Alta Calfornia. To seventeen inches in length. This one at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Amphistichus koelzi (Hubbs 1933), the Calico Surfperch. Eastern Pacific; Washington to Baja, Mexico. To a foot in length. Lower edge of eye below the upper lip, bars on the side usually broken, discontinuous. Birch Aquarium photo.

Cymatogaster aggregata Gibbons 1854, the Shiner Surfperch. Baja to Alaska. To seven inches in length. This one at the SIO/Birch Aquarium.

Embiotoca lateralis Agassiz 1854, the Striped or Barred Surfperch. Baja to Alaska. To fifteen inches in length.

Hyperprosopon ellipticum (Gibbons 1854), the Silver Surfperch. Baja to British Columbia. To ten and a half inches in length.


Hyperprosopon argenteum Gibbons 1854, the Walleye Surfperch. Baja to British Columbia. To ten inches in length. Note dark tips of pelvic fins on this landed specimen.

Phanerodon atripes Jordan and Gilbert 1880, the Sharpnose Seaperch. Eastern Pacific coast; Bodega Bay, CA to mid Baja. This one off of San Diego's coast. To 29 cm.

Rhacochilus toxotes Agassiz 1854, the Rubberlip Surfperch. Found along the two Californias. To eighteen inches in length. This couple off of San Diego's coast.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Miller, Daniel J and Robert N. Lea. 1972. Guide to the Coastal Marine Fishes of California. Fish Bulletin 157, Publications Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.

Wrobel, David J. and Gilbert Van Dykhuizen. 1991. Surfperches, livebearers of the Pacific. FAMA 4/91.

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