Bonefish are found in warm tropical waters from the southern coast of Florida, through the Bahamas and along the eastern coast of South America. Bonefish can also be found in the Pacific ocean from coastal California to Peru in South America. This range is roughly from 35 degrees north to 15 degrees south of the equator. Although bonefish are typically found in warmer climates, there have been reports of sightings into northern portions of the Atlantic coast in the United States. (Colton and Alevizon, 1983; Crabtree, et al., 1996; Kramer and Chapman, 1999)
Bonefish are found in varying water depths. They can be found in waters as deep as 100 m but, while feeding, can be found in extremely shallow waters. During feeding times, bonefish can be found in waters as shallow as 10 cm. When not feeding, bonefish retreat to deeper waters. (Colton and Alevizon, 1983; Crabtree, et al., 1996; Kramer and Chapman, 1999)
- Aquatic Biomes
- Range depth
- 0.01 to 100 m
- 0.03 to 328.08 ft
Bonefish have slender bodies with silver scales. They have numerous black stripes that run the length of the body. Adults vary in length, growing as large as 90 to 100 cm in size. There is sexual dimorphism, with females being larger than males. Males are from 40 to 50 cm, females are typically 2 to 5 cm larger than males. Larger fish can weigh as much as 7 to 9 kg, with most bonefish falling between 2 and 4 kg. (Bruger, 1974; Crabtree, et al., 1996)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- female larger
- Range mass
- 9 (high) kg
- 19.82 (high) lb
- Average mass
- 2-4 kg
- Range length
- 100 (high) cm
- 39.37 (high) in
- Average length
- 40-50 cm
Fertilized eggs hatch into larvae, which goes through three developmental stages, in the first stage the larvae do not grow, followed by two stages in which the larvae grow larger. During the development stages, larvae are clear in color and very thin. After development is complete, juveniles gradually grow larger until they reach adult size. (Vasquez-Yeomans, et al., 2009; Morey, 2010; Vasquez-Yeomans, et al., 2009)
- Development - Life Cycle
Reproduction occurs seasonally in bonefish, spawning mainly occurs from November to late May or early June. Bonefish are polygynandrous. They randomly mate, with eggs and sperm released into open water among other males and females. (Bruger, 1974; Crabtree, et al., 1997)
- Mating System
- polygynandrous (promiscuous)
In bonefish spawning occurs throughout the year. During spawning, females release their eggs, which are then fertilized externally by males in the immediate area as the eggs are released. Spawning occurs in deep water containing a current to move the fertilized eggs. Spawning typically is accomplished in schools, resulting in random or group fertilization. Males and females do not have a distinct partner during spawning. (Bruger, 1974; Crabtree, et al., 1997; Morey, 2010)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- year-round breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- broadcast (group) spawning
- Breeding interval
- Breeding occurs once yearly.
- Breeding season
- Breeding occurs from November to June.
- Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
- 4 to 7 years
- Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
- 3 to 5 years
During spawning season, females release eggs into the water column and males release sperm. After spawning, there is no parental care. Eggs develop in the water column. (Bruger, 1974; Crabtree, et al., 1997)
- Parental Investment
- no parental involvement
- Range lifespan
- 5 to 10 years
- Range lifespan
- Average lifespan
- 20 years
- Average lifespan
Bonefish are a social species, often found in shallow water in small schools of just a few fish, but have been found in much larger schools of over 75 individuals. (Colton and Alevizon, 1983)
Bonefish do not have a defined home range.
Communication and Perception
Bonefish are a schooling species, they maintain large groups of individuals. Bonefish have good eye sight and a very good sense of smell, this is how they interact in the environment. (Morey, 2010)
- Communication Channels
Bonefish are predators and consume a variety of prey. They feed on many small mollusks and crustaceans in shallow water. The majority of their diet consists of small crabs, fish, and shrimp, including xanthid and portunid crabs, toadfish, and snapping and penaeid shrimp (Crabtree et al., 1998). Bonefish normally school, but break into smaller groups to feed. (Bruger, 1974; Crabtree, et al., 1998)
- Animal Foods
- aquatic crustaceans
As large fish, bonefish have few predators as adults. As larvae and young, however, bonefish are probably preyed on by a wide variety of other fish and aquatic predators. Predators of adult bonefish are mainly barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) and various sharks (nurse sharks, Ginglymostoma cirratum, blacktip sharks, Carcharhinus limbatus, tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, bonnethead sharks, Sphyrna tiburo and lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris). Humans (Homo sapiens) are another source of predation. In Florida waters, bonefish are protected and only one fish per day is allowed per angler. (Cooke and Philipp, 2004)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
Bonefish play an important role the food chain in their ecosystem. As predators, they play a role in keeping smaller fish and crustacean populations in check. As prey, Spinitectus beaveri, a nematoda parasite. (Bruger, 1974; Snodgrass, et al., 2008)provides a food source for their predators, including sharks and barracudas. Bonefish are also used as hosts by
- nematode parasites (Spinitectus beaveri)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Bonefish are a widely prized sport fish among anglers. Bonefish cannot be commercially sold, so there is no impact from direct sales of the fish. However, purchases by anglers have economic impacts in Florida and the Bahamas. (Morey, 2010)
- Positive Impacts
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Humans can be afflicted with ciguatera poisoning through eating bonefish if the fish themselves are affected. ("Fisheries and Fishery Development of the Gilbert Islands Colony Including Fanning and Christmas Islands", 1979; Morey, 2010)
- Negative Impacts
- injures humans
Bonefish are not a listed species. Although they are not protected, fishing for bonefish is regulated.
Stephen Reeves (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
- Atlantic Ocean
the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.
- Pacific Ocean
body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
- active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
- external fertilization
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
union of egg and spermatozoan
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
specialized for swimming
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
- oceanic islands
islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
an animal that mainly eats fish
an animal which has a substance capable of killing, injuring, or impairing other animals through its chemical action (for example, the skin of poison dart frogs).
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
- saltwater or marine
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.
uses touch to communicate
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
- year-round breeding
breeding takes place throughout the year
Southwest Fisheries Center. Fisheries and Fishery Development of the Gilbert Islands Colony Including Fanning and Christmas Islands. H-79-2. Honolulu HI: National Marine Fisheries Service. 1979.
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Pfeiler, E. 1996. Allozyme Differences in Caribbean and Gulf of California Populations of Bonefishes (Albula). Copeia, 1: 181-183.
Pfeiler, E., D. Padron, R. Crabtree. 2000. Growth rate, age and size of bonefish from the Gulf of California. Journal of Fish Biology, 56(2): 448-453.
Snodgrass, D., R. Crabtree, J. Serafy. 2008. Abundance, Growth, and Diet of Young-of-the-Year Bonefish (Albula spp.) off the Florida Keys, U.S.A.. Bulletin of Marine Science, 82(2): 185-193.
Vasquez-Yeomans, L., E. Sosa-Cordero, M. Lara, A. Adams, J. Cohuo. 2009. Patterns of distribution and abundance of bonefish larvae Albula spp. (Albulidae) in the western Caribbean and adjacent areas. Ichthyol Res, 56: 266-275.