Callionymus bairdi

Common Name

Lancer Dragonet

Year Described

Jordan, 1888


Dorsal Fin: IV, 9
Anal Fin: 8
Pectoral Fin: 19-20
Pelvic: I, 5
Caudal Fin: 7 branched (+4 above and below simple)

Body elongate but less elongate than Foetorepus. Head triangular when viewed above and flattened dorso-ventrally. Body tapering to tail. Eye quite large, close together, and dorsally placed. Mouth protrusible, small (just short of anterior orbit) and inferior. Teeth only in jaws and not palatine or vomer. Head length a quarter of standard length. Gill opening small, oval, and high on shoulder. Preopercular spine with three to eight strong spines on the edge and one backward at the base (smaller fish with fewer near tip of main spine). Two dorsal fins: one spiny and one soft. First dorsal fin high and sail-like in males with short filaments on rays 1-2 (about twice height of D2) and about height of D2 in females. D2 quite high with a straight to concave edge. D2 consists of unbranched rays except for last branched to base. Anal fin about as long as D2 with strong notches in the membrane margin. Anal fin consists of simple rays except for the final one which is branched to base. Pectoral fin large and fanlike. Pelvic fin expanded and broad with only a small membrane connecting it to pectoral fin base. Caudal fin emarginate in both sexes. Lateral line single. Scaleless.


Body a cryptic pattern of white, gray, brown, and yellowish with numerous blue ringed spots and bars. Lower side and lower head with brown bands. Irregular brown saddles on dorsum. Dorsal fin yellowish with fine lines. Other fins with a camouflaged pattern like the body. Breeding male with dramatically enlarged dorsal fin that is bluish and yellow with long brown bands/stripes and blue speckles. Head of breeding male with orange cheeks and blue spotting that extends onto eye and pelvic fins.


Maximum size to 114cm SL.


Benthic on coral reefs (1-15m, max 90m). Cryptic among rocky and coral rubble and in seagrass beds.


North Carolina to Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea and eastern Gulf of Mexico. Also Bermuda.


Davis, W.P. 1966. A review of the dragonets (Pisces: Callionymidae) of the western Atlantic. Bulletin of Marine Science, 16(4), 834-862.

Jordan, D.S. 1888. Description of a new species of Callionymus (Callionymus bairdi) from the Gulf of Mexico. Proceedings of the United States National Museum v. 10 (no. 652): 501-502.

Joyeux, J.C. 2009. New records of fishes for Trindade-Martin Vaz oceanic insular complex, Brazil. Zootaxa, 2298, 45-54.

Other Notes

Also known under the genus Paradiplogrammus. The strongly serrated preopercular spine is unique in W. Atlantic dragonets.