Goatfishes (Mullidae) are a family of fish belonging to the order of Perciformes. They are mostly marine, and rarely enter brackish water on a temporary basis. They are distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, where they inhabit the coastal seabed. There are some exceptions that live in waters further from the coast and at depths of up to 500m.
With a wide and elongated body, Goatfishes are characterized by the presence of two long barbels on the lower edge of the mouth. These chinstraps are equipped with chemoreceptors which, together with their vigorous movement, can locate and unearthing their prey from the sandy and/or muddy bottom. They can bury up to a third of their body at the bottom, when they are searching for their food. The eyes of Goatfishes are usually located high on the head. The colouring of their bodies is usually bright colours. Some species can change their body colour very suddenly, adopting paler colours when they are resting on the bottom, in order to go unnoticed. The maximum length of a mule species is 60 cm in the case of Parupeneus barberinus, although most species do not usually exceed 30 cm in length.
Goatfishes have two dorsal fins, widely separated from each other. The first is formed by 6-8 spines. The second has a spine and 8-9 radii and is generally smaller than the anal fin. The anal fin has 1-2 small spines, followed by 5-8 spokes. The caudal fin is usually forked.
Goatfishes usually feed on Annelids, Crustaceans, Molluscs and other small invertebrates. Generally, they feed at dawn and dusk, remaining on the seabed the rest of the day. It is common, when Goatfishes dig in the bottom in search of their prey, to find other species that approach them, they are attentive to any carelessness of the Goatfishes, so they can catch prey that has been overlooked. This family of fish is very important as a source of human food, due to the taste of its meat. At present there are 85 species of Goatfishes grouped into 6 different genera.