Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitichtys oxycephalus
The Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus, whose common Spanish name is halcón de coral, is a species in the family Cirrhitidae, the Hawkfishes, known as halcónes in Mexico. Globally, there are only eight species in the genus Cirrhitichtys, of which one is found in Mexican waters, this one in the Pacific.
The Coral Hawkfish have moderately compressed oval bodies. They are white or pink in color with squarish red to brown blotches covering their sides and smaller red to brown spots and blotches on their head. There is a row of squarish blotches along their dorsal fin base. Their anal fin is dark, their caudal and dorsal fins are heavily spotted, their pectoral fins are pinkish red, and their pelvic fins are clear. Their head has a pointed snout with a straight profile and a fringe of cirri on the rear edge of their front nostril and a large mouth equipped with a row of small canine teeth. Their gill cover has two flat spines. Their anal fin has three spines and six rays, their caudal fin has a straight edge, their dorsal fin has ten spines with a number of cirri at each tip and 12 rays, their pectoral fins are large with seven or eight rays, the lower six of which are stout, and their pelvic fins have one spine and five rays and originated behind the pectoral fin base. Their body is covered with smooth scales.
The Coral Hawkfish inhabit coral and rocky reefs very close to shore and are found at depths up to 130 feet, however, most are seen perched on coral heads at depths of less than 50 feet. They reach a maximum length of 9.9 cm (3.9 inches). They have a wide distribution being found in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, however, their presence in Mexican waters is limited to the extreme southwest coast of the Baja (established by the fish photographed below), the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
The Coral Hawkfish is a very easy fish to identify due to its unique markings, although it can be confused with the Longnose Hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus(long extended snout).
Due to their size, they have no value as a food fish, however, they are sold commercially in the aquarium trade.