Spotted Cusk-Eel, Chilara taylori: The Spotted Cusk-Eel is an elongated fish with a rounded head and overhanging snout that tapers toward the rear which has been described as resembling a letter opener.
The Spotted Cusk-Eel is a creamy brown color with the head and body covered with large dark spots that form three or four horizontal rows on the body. It has pelvic fins present as two free rays inserted under the eye.
The black edged anal and dorsal fins are low with long bases and are confluent with the caudal fin.
The Spotted Cusk-Eel has smooth scales that are absent on the head. It reaches a maximum length of 14 inches and is found up to 2,100 feet deep in the water column, being benthic over sandy bottoms living in burrows that it enters tail first. It feeds at night on amphipods, crabs, and shrimp. In turn it is preyed upon by porpoises, gulls, and seals.
Along the Pacific coast of North America, the Spotted Cusk-Eel ranges from Washington State to Cabo San Lazaro, Baja California Sur at 24.80 degrees north. Fossil remains found in Southern California indicate that it has been present since the Pliocene epoch, 1.8 to 5.3 million years ago.
The Spotted Cusk-Eel is a member of the Ophidiidae or Cusk-Eel Family which in Mexican fishing areas are known as brótulas and congriperlas. These are elongated fishes with eel-like bodies that have anal and dorsal fins with long bases that are continuous with the caudal fin. They have either no pelvic fins or very small pelvic fins found under the eye. As a group they are seldom seen since they are reef dwellers that hide in caves and crevices during the day and periodically emerge at night to feed on crustaceans and fishes. They are a very large family consisting of 48 genera and 217 global species of which 18 are found in Mexican waters.