New marine catfish from Caribbean


A new species of marine catfish has been described from the Colombian Caribbean.

The catfish, which is a member of the family Ariidae, has been named Cathorops mapale by Ricardo Betancur and Arturo Acero in a paper in the systematics journal Zootaxa.

The catfish is found off the south western and central part of the Colombian Caribbean coast and is commonly known to fishermen in the area as the Mapale sea catfish.

The largest known specimens measure around 25-30cm/10-12" and the species seems to be endemic to the Colombia area.

C. mapale occurs in both marine, brackish and freshwater, with those fish found in freshwater being golden in colour, versus silvery with a dark dorsum when found in saltier conditions.

Along with the Plotosidae, the Ariidae family is one of two catfish families to have successfully undergone radiations in marine and brackish waters.

This has allowed the families to be among the most widespread of all catfishes.


According to Betancur and Acero, C. mapale can be told apart from other Cathorops in this part of the world by a number of morphological and meristic characteristics, including:

"Anterior gill rakers on first gill arch 6-8+14-16 (20-24, mode 23), anterior gill rakers on second gill arch 5-6+13-15 (18-21, mode 20); maxillary barbels 27.8-39.3% (mean 32.3%) SL; medial head groove

long and deep, extending posteriorly almost to supraoccipital keel.

"The species is also distinguished from the C. fuerthii species group, its sister clade from the eastern Pacific, by having higher anterior gill raker counts on first (14-15 in the C. fuerthii group) and second (15-16 in the C. fuerthii group) gill arches and by having a smaller mouth (8.3-10.6% SL in C. mapale and 11.0-11.6% SL in the C. fuerthii group)."

For more details see the paper: Betancur. R. and A. Acero (2005) - Description of Cathorops mapale, a new species of sea catfish

(Siluriformes: Ariidae) from the Colombian Caribbean, based on

morphological and mitochondrial evidence. Zootaxa 1045: 45-60.