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Trumpetfish Fistularia tabacaria Linnaeus 1758


[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 757.]

Trumpetfish (Fistularia tabacaria)

Figure 174.—Trumpetfish (Fistularia tabacaria), From near Woods Hole. After Storer.


The slender body and very long tubular snout of this fish are mentioned above. The body (to base of caudal fin) is about 30 to 35 times as long as it is deep and only about two-thirds as deep as it is thick. The head occupies almost one-third and the snout about one-fourth of the body length. The bones of the snout are so loosely united that the snout is very distensible.

The mouth is small, situated somewhat obliquely at the tip of the snout, and the lower jaw projects a little beyond the upper. The caudal fin is deeply forked and its middle rays are prolonged in a filament about as long as the snout, but which is likely to be broken off. Both the dorsal and the anal fins are triangular, higher than long, the former standing exactly above the latter, about three-fourths of the distance back from eye toward base of caudal fin. The ventrals are very small, and are considerably nearer to the eye than to the rear end of the body (about one-third of the way from eye toward the base of caudal fin). The skin is without scales but with a row of embedded bony plates or shields along either side, conspicuous rearward.


Greenish brown above, the back and sides marked with many large, oblong, pale blue spots and with about 10 dark cross bars; the lower surface is pale and silvery; the caudal filament deep blue.


Said to reach a length of 6 feet, but the few specimens that stray northward are much smaller.

General range—

Tropical, southward to middle Brazil, and common among the West Indies; rarely [page 317] wandering northward as far as the Massachusetts Bay region, and straying to Nova Scotia.[89]

Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

There are only two records of the trumpetfish from the Gulf of Maine: a specimen taken at Rockport, Mass. (north side of Cape Ann) in September 1865, preserved in the collection of the Essex Institute, where it was examined and identified by Goode and Bean[90] and a second taken on the northern edge of Georges Bank by the trawler Flying Cloud on October 6, 1947, in a haul at 70 fathoms.[91] Like other tropical fishes, however, it is not so rare west of Cape Cod, and a few small ones are taken at Woods Hole almost every year.

[89] Dr. A. H. Leim reports the capture of a specimen at Port Mouton, Nova Scotia, on September 10, 1931; the specimen was recorded later by Vladykov (Proc. Nova Scotian Inst. Sci., vol. 19, 1935, p. 5) as Fistularia serrata.

[90] Bull. Essex Inst., vol. XI, 1879, p. 4.

[91] This specimen is in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.