Hawkfishes

The Hawkfishes family (Cirrhitidae) owes its common name to the behaviour of these fish. They usually perch on corals at the top of the reef, where they have a view of all their surroundings, and from where they observe possible prey to be caught, to some extent reminding the hawks. Exclusively marine, we will find Hawkfishes in tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is in these last two oceans that most species of Hawkfishes exist. They are generally small fishes (between 7 and 15 cm in length), the largest size being that reached by Cirrhitus rivulatus which can reach up to 60 cm in length and 4 kg in weight. Their bodies are usually very colourful and somewhat elongated and thick.

The dorsal fin of Hawkfishes is continuous and has 10 spines and 11-17 soft spokes. The spines end in filaments, and this is the characteristic from which the name Cirrhitidae derives, as the Latin word cirrus means fringe. On the other hand, the pectoral fins are long and have 14 spokes, of which the first 5-7 are unbranched. The anal fin has 5-7 spokes. The caudal fin is usually rounded or truncated.

As a diurnal species, Hawkfishes inhabit surface waters less than 30 meters deep, where they feed on small fish, Crustaceans and generally invertebrates. Although most are solitary fish which can form pairs, certain species form small harems of a male and up to 7 females. A characteristic of Hawkfishes is that they are hermaphrodites. When the dominant male of the group is lost, one of the females will change sex and become a male. There is no sexual dimorphism, so identifying the male and/or female is a complicated task. There are 33 species of Hawkfishes described in 12 genera.


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