Opistognathus signatus

Common Name

Marked Jawfish

Year Described

Smith-Vaniz, 1997


Dorsal Fin: X-XI, 16-17
Anal Fin: II-III, 16-17
Pelvic Fin: I, 5
Pectoral Fin: 19-21
Gill Rakers: 28-34 (total)
Vertebrae: 10 precaudal, 19-20 caudal; 29-30 total

Maxilla of males with thin, flexible posterior extension. Jaws large; reaching well past rear margin of orbit. Premaxillary and dentary with teeth. Vomer with 1-2 teeth. Lateral line extends posteriorly to between 1st and 3rd segmented dorsal ray. Nape, head, pectoral base, and anterior area above lateral line scaleless. Rest of body fully scaled, including posterior area above lateral line. Lateral scale rows: 57-70. Dorsal fin spines slender with sharp, flexible tips. Anterior nostril with a short cirrus.


Body pale to medium brown with variably sized white spots and mottling (becoming uniformly white below). Random widely spaced body scales with black spots on them. Head brown with small whitish speckling. Lips banded with brown. Males with one band on the inside of the maxilla (female with stripe diffuse or absent). Dorsal and anal fins dark brown with numerous white spots. Ocellus on dorsal fin between spines 3 and 7. Caudal fin dark with two basal white spots and two bands consisting of white spots.


Individuals range from 39-90mm SL.


Found in moderately deep water, from 27-68m. Lives in burrows.


Known from the southern Caribbean: off Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia.


Smith-Vaniz, W. F. 1997. Five new species of jawfishes (Opistognathus: Opistognathidae) from the western Atlantic Ocean. Bulletin of Marine Science v. 60 (3): 1074-1128.