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Florida Manatee & Aquatic Center Animal Fact Sheet
Monacanthus ciliatus

The fringed filefish is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland Canada south to Bermuda and the northern Gulf of Mexico, and then on to Argentina including the Caribbean region.

Filefish are uniquely shaped with deeply keeled bodies and prominently projecting snouts, with small pectoral fins and truncated, fan-shaped caudal fins. There is a slender, retractable spine that crowns the head, just above the posterior portion of the eye. The mouth is small and terminal, containing specialized incisors on the upper and lower jaws. In addition, the upper jaw has four teeth in an inner series and six in the outer series while in the lower jaw there are four to six in the outer series. The eyes are positioned high on the head and although filefish have scales, they are so small that they appear to be scaleless. Adult male fringed filefish have two pairs of enlarged recurved spines on each side of the caudal peduncle while the spines of female specimens are only slightly larger than the other scale spines of the caudal peduncle. The greatly elongated pelvic bones create a "dewlap" of skin between the bone's keeled termination and the belly - these bones along with other bones of the pelvic girdle are capable of moving up and down to form a large dewlap effectively used to make the fish appear much deeper in the body than reality.

Fringed filefish vary in color from olive gray or green to yellowish brown along with darker blotches and bands. The dorsal and anal fins of this species are pinkish, usually with three dark spots at the base. The caudal fin is greenish with mottling. The ventral dewlap is edged in scarlet.


Habitat: Commonly found in seagrass, as well as shallow sandy and rock bottoms to depths of 165 feet (50 m). Filefish are not great swimmers due to their small fins. They often drift head down among the stands of seaweed to camouflage, fooling both prey and predators alike.
Diet: Omnivore: Fringed filefish feed on plants and algae as well as small invertebrates including amphipods, isopods, ostracods, polychaetes, bivalves, shrimp, and spongestes.
Status: Not Evaluated
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Length: 4-8 inches
Lifespan: NA
Reproduction & Offspring:

Filefish breed in groups consisting of one male and two to five females. The females lay eggs in safe areas such as a depression in the sand, then the male comes along and fertilizes them. The male or female will guard these fertilized eggs from predators and will attack any intruders that approach too closely.


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