The African Diving Experience

 The Hawkfish


Hawkfishes (or cirrhitids) are familiar to divers and often feature in underwater photographs of fishes, as most species are sedentary and not too shy, hence easy to photograph.  A distinctive characteristic that cirrhitids share with the related fingerfins (Family Cheilodactylidae) are the enlarged, unbranched, lower pectoral-fin rays, which are used to wedge the fish in place when they are sitting on the bottom, especially in areas of surge or wave-washed tidepools.  Hawkfishes have a single dorsal fin with 10 spines and 1117 rays; if you can get close, you can also see one or more short filaments (cirri) at the tip of each dorsal-fin spine.  Most hawkfish are solitary, sedentary and commonly seen sitting on coral or on sandy bottom near the reef.  They are carnivores, feeding on a variety of small crustaceans and fishes.

The family comprises some 35 species, most of which occur in the Indo-Pacific region; with 8 species known from southern Africa.

  1. Swallowtail hawkfish, Cyprinocirrhites polyactis
  2. Horseshoe hawkfish, Paracirrhites arcatus
  3. Marbled hawkfish, Cirrhitus pinnulatus
  4. Longnose hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus
  5. Spotted hawkfish, Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus
  6. Freckled hawkfish, Paracirrhites fosteri

Text by Phil HeemstraPhotographs by Dennis King

Triggerfish ! Hawkfish

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Updated on: 23/03/2001

Webmasters for The African Diving Experience: Willem du Preez and Tjaart de Beer

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