Taxon profile

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Cephalopholis Bloch & Schneider, 1801

kingdom Animalia - animals »  phylum Chordata - chordates »  class Actinopterygii - ray-finned fishes »  order Perciformes - perch-likes »  family Serranidae - sea basses and groupers


Body oblong, robust, not strongly compressed, the depth contained 2.0 to 3.2 times in standard length, the body width contained 1.9 to 2.6 times in the depth. Head length contained 2.2 to 3.1 times in standard length. Interorbital area flat to slightly convex; snout distinctly longer than eye diameter; preorbital depth contained 8 to 13 times in head length; preopercle rounded, finely serrate, but without enlarged serrae at the “corner” and no antrorse spines on lower edge; ventral edge of interopercle may be finely serrate posteriorly, but there is no broad indentation; upper edge of operculum distinctly convex; anterior and posterior nostrils subequal; jaws with small canines at the front; teeth present on palatines; maxilla of adults with a distinct bony knob on the ventroposterior corner; supramaxilla well developed.Dorsal fin with IX spines and 13 to 17 rays, the fin origin over rear part of opercle and the fin membranes distinctly incised between the spines; no dorsal-fin spines or rays elongated; anal fin with III spines and 7 to 10 rays; soft dorsal. and anal fins rounded; pectoral fins symmetrically rounded, the middle rays longest; caudal fin rounded or convex posteriorly (truncate in C. polleni), with 8 branched rays and 6 to 9 procurrent rays in upper part and 7 branched rays and 6 to 9 procurrent rays in lower part. Midlateral-body scales ctenoid. Supraneural bones 2, the posterior one straight or curved posteriorly, much smaller than the first one and situated just anterior to or above tip of second neural spine; dorsal fin with the last 4 to 7 pterygiophores trisegmental; anal fin with 3 to 5 trisegmental pterygiophores; rear edge of first dorsal-fin pterygiophore slightly to deeply excavated for tip of third neural spine; epipleural ribs on vertebrae 1 to 9 (except C. sonnerati and C. igarashiensis with epipleurals on vertebrae 1 to 10); cranium distinctly narrowed at interorbital region, the least interorbital width subequal to the vomer width and half or less than half of the width at lateral ethmoids; frontals separated anteriorly by the supraethmoid; no median crest on frontals; medial and lateral processes of epiotics subequal; parasphenoid straight or nearly so.


Most species of Cephalopholis are secretive groupers seen hiding in or near coral reefs. Although some species (C. boenak, C. cyanostigma, C. formosa, C. microprion and C. oligosticta) are often seen in silty areas, most species of Cephalopholis prefer clear-water environments, from tidepools out to depths of 200 m.


The genus is represented in all three major oceans, including both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, C. taeniops has been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea a number of times. (Schembri and Tonna, 2011)


Some species of Cephalopholis are abundant in certain areas and undoubtedly represent a significant source of protein for local people; but most species are of little commercial importance, because of their small size.


Jordan and Evermann (1905) resurrected the genus Cephalopholis from the synonymy of Epinephelus (=“Serranus”) where it had lain dormant since its original description by Schneider in 1801. Cephalopholis was widely used as a valid genus until C.L. Smith (1971) demoted it to subgeneric status, but in subsequent publications (Smith, 1978, 1981) he again recognized Cephalopholis as a valid genus. Recognition of Cephalopholis as either a genus or subgenus is a moot point, and (as pointed out by Smith-Vaniz et al., 1988) the monophyly of this genus has yet to be demonstrated. Nevertheless, Cephalopholis is a convenient taxon that is readily separable from other genera of groupers. Species of Cephalopholis have only IX dorsal-fin spines, whereas species of Alphestes, Dermatolepis, Mycteroperca, Triso, and Epinephelus have XI dorsal-fin spines (except for 3 species of Epinephelus which have X dorsal-fin spines and E. acanthistius of the eastern Pacific which has only IX dorsal-fin spines). Another useful generic character separating Cephalopholis and Epinephelus may be the presence of 3 to 6 trisegmental ptetygiophores in the dorsal fin of Cephalopholis species (radiographs of 21 species examined, including C. igarashiensis and C. polleni). All of the Epinephelus that Heemstra and Randall (1993) have x-rayed (48 spp.) have only bisegmental pterygiophores (the middle piece being fused with the proximal element) supporting the dorsal- and anal-fin rays. Although only a few larvae of each genus are known, Leis (1986) has found that preflexion larvae of at least 6 species of Cephalopholis have a ventral series of 15 to 23 small melanophores on the tail. In postflexion larvae, the ventral melanophores are reduced to 1 to 4 and shift to a midlateral position on the peduncle. By contrast, Epinephelus preflexion larvae of at least 7 species have a single large ventral melanophore on the tail, and this shifts to the midlateral position on the peduncle in postflexion larvae. Differences between Cephalopholis and the other genera with species having IX dorsal-fin spines are discussed under those genera. According to C.L. Smith (1966) the genus Menephorus Poey, 1871 (type species, Serranus dubius Poey, 1860) was based on a specimen that appears to be a hybrid of Paranthias furcifer and Cephalopholis fulva. The genera Uriphaeton Swainson, 1839 and Phaetonichthys Bleeker, 1874 were based on the spurious species, Uriphaeton microleptes Swainson, 1839 and Serranus phaeton Valenciennes, 1828 respectively; and these two species are objective synonyms based on the hoax specimen (MNHN 7173) concocted from the body of a Cephalopholis and the tail of a cornetfish (Fistularia).


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1993, Heemstra, P.C.; Randall, J.E., FAO species catalogue. Vol. 16. Groupers of the world (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Epinephelinae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the grouper, rock cod, hind, coral grouper and lyretail species known to date.
Author: Petr Čech

Included taxa

Number of records: 24

species Cephalopholis aitha Randall & Heemstra, 1991 - Rusty Hind
species Cephalopholis argus Bloch & Schneider, 1801 - Peacock Hind

Cephalopholis argus

species Cephalopholis aurantia (Valenciennes, 1828) - Golden Hind
species Cephalopholis boenak (Bloch, 1790) - Bluelined Coralcod
species Cephalopholis cruentata (Lacépède, 1802) - Coney

Cephalopholis cruentata

species Cephalopholis cyanostigma (Valenciennes, 1828) - Blue-spotted Hind
species Cephalopholis formosa (Shaw, 1812) - Blue-lined Rock Cod
species Cephalopholis fulva (Linnaeus, 1758) - Black Guativere

Cephalopholis fulva

species Cephalopholis hemistiktos (Rüppell, 1830) - Duskyfin Grouper

Cephalopholis hemistiktos

species Cephalopholis igarashiensis Katayama, 1957 - Garish Hind
species Cephalopholis leopardus (Lacépède, 1801) - Leopard Cod
species Cephalopholis microprion (Bleeker, 1852) - Blue-finned Rock Cod

Cephalopholis microprion

species Cephalopholis miniata (Forsskål, 1775) - Coral Hind

Cephalopholis miniata

species Cephalopholis nigri (Günther, 1859) - Niger Hind
species Cephalopholis nigripinnis (Valenciennes, 1828)
species Cephalopholis oligosticta Randall & Ben-Tuvia, 1983 - Roughcheek Hind
species Cephalopholis panamensis (Steindachner, 1877) - Pacific Graysby
species Cephalopholis polleni (Bleeker, 1868) - Blue-lined Grouper

Cephalopholis polleni

species Cephalopholis polyspila Randall & Satapoomin, 2000
species Cephalopholis sexmaculata (Rüppell, 1830) - Cave Grouper
species Cephalopholis sonnerati (Valenciennes, 1828) - Red Coral Rod
species Cephalopholis spiloparaea (Valenciennes, 1828) - Orange Rock Cod
species Cephalopholis taeniops (Valenciennes, 1828) - African Hind

Cephalopholis taeniops

species Cephalopholis urodeta (Forster, 1801) - Banded-tail Coral-cod

Links and literature

CZ AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [genus/832]

Plíštil J. (Ed.) (2009): AQUATAB. World Wide Web electronic publication [] [as Cephalopholis Bloch & Schneider, 1801]
Data retrieved on: 17 January 2010
EN The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera [1224186]

Rees, T. (compiler): The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera [] [as Cephalopholis Bloch & Schneider, 1801]
Data retrieved on: 30 November 2019

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