Dermatolepis dermatolepisLeather bass

Geographic Range

Dermatoplepis dermatolepis has a wide range that covers mostl of the Eastern Central Pacific and the Southeast Pacific. The most northern area that this fish extends into is the Gulf of California, USA, where it is very rare. The most southern country where the species is found is Ecuador. This fish is most abundant in the Revillagigedo islands. It is also found offshore of the following countries/islands: Bahia Magdalena, Galapagos islands, Cocos island, Clipperton island, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and USA. (Beller, 2000; Heemstra and Randall, 1993; Moore, 1991; "Marine Life Encyclopedia", 2004)


Leather bass live in reef areas with a depth between 4 to 40 m in the subtropics (35° N to 7°S). Leather bass inhabit rocky reefs and areas near the base of rocky faces. Juveniles are vulnerable to larger predators and will often times seek shelter in the spines of sea urchins. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

  • Range depth
    4 to 40 m
    13.12 to 131.23 ft

Physical Description

Adult leather bass have a distinctive color pattern of white markings on the head, body and fins along with small dark spots on a gray to olive brown background. On some fish, there are occasionally several dark bars running from top to bottom on the fish. Juvenile leather bass have black and white bands along their bodies, which help them integrate with the spines of the urchins they live in. Adults are about a meter long and can weigh up to 12.5 kg. Females are larger than males. (Beller, 2000; Moore, 1991; "Marine Life Encyclopedia", 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    12.5 (high) kg
    27.53 (high) lb
  • Average length
    100 cm
    39.37 in


Leather bass can change sex; some females change into males and become larger than individuals born as males. (Beller, 2000)


Leather bass assemble at dusk to mate. They locate a spot high on the reef, and then gather by the hundreds to spawn. The males and females pair off and hurry towards the surface, releasing a cloud of eggs and sperm. ("PBS Online", 2004)

Leather bass do not guard their spawn. They use external fertilization and breed in open water and scatter their eggs. Juveniles hide in the spines of sea urchins. (Beller, 2000)

The parents of juvenile leather bass have no parental investment. The only thing that the parents do is to mate and release a cloud of eggs and sperm. (Beller, 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Leather bass are expected to live in the wild for approximately 24 years, maximum. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    24 (high) years


Leather bass are social species that live within a large group. They are able to move about but usually stay in one general area, around coral reefs. Juveniles hide within the spines of sea urchins for protection. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

Home Range

Their home range is specifically found around coral reefs within the Neotropical Pacific ocean. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

Communication and Perception

There was no information found on communication and perception on Dermatolepis dermatolepis.

Food Habits

Leather bass can be found hovering above rocky reefs during the day searching for food. They feed on small benthic fishes that are disturbed when foraging grazers come to feed in an area. Occasionally, they feed on crustaceans, crabs, and shrimp nekton. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993; "PBS Online", 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans


The only known predators of the leather bass are hunting macrofauna. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

Ecosystem Roles

When leather bass are juveniles, they are able to hide in a sea urchin. This allows the fish to hide from predators until they are large enough to protect themselves. (Beller, 2000)

Mutualist Species
  • Centrostephanus coronalus

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans benefit from leather bass in that these fish provide minor commercial fisheries and gamefish for sportsman. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Dermatolepis dermatolepis on humans.

Conservation Status

The leather bass is in no immediate danger of being endangered. Therefore, it has no special status.

Other Comments

Dermatolepis dermatolepis usually breed in specific locations, which makes them vulnerable to over-fishing if the breeding areas are found. (Heemstra and Randall, 1993)


Kaj Johansson (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, William Fink (editor, instructor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

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.

World Map

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.


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.


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


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats fish


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


We Love Big Smelly Fish. 2004. "Marine Life Encyclopedia" (On-line). Coral Realm. Accessed October 28, 2004 at

PBS. 2004. "PBS Online" (On-line). Accessed October 28, 2004 at

Beller, P. 2000. "Ocean Oasis Field Guide" (On-line). Accessed October 28, 2004 at

Heemstra, P., J. Randall. 1993. FAO species catalogue. Groupers of the World, 16/124: 1. Accessed October 27, 2004 at

Moore, R. 1991. First Record of the Leather Bass In Southern California. California Fish and Game, 77: 145-147.