Cepola macrophthalma

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Cepola macrophthalma
Cepola macrophthalma 01.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cepolidae
Genus: Cepola
Species: C. macrophthalma
Binomial name
Cepola macrophthalma
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Cepola macrophthalma mapa.svg
Distribution of Cepola macrophthalma
  • dark blue: common
  • light blue: uncommon

Ophidion macrophthalmum Linnaeus 1758
Cepola rubescens Linnaeus 1764
Cepola taenia Linnaeus 1766
Cepola serpentiformis Lacépède 1800
Cepola marginata Rafinesque 1810
Cepola longicauda Swainson 1839
Cepola truncata Swainson 1839
Cepola jugularis Swainson 1839
Cepola gigas Swainson 1839
Cepola attentuata Swainson 1839
Cepola novemradiata Swainson 1839

Cepola macrophthalma is a fish of the bandfish family Cepolidae. It is found in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from Senegal north to the British Isles.[2] This species is known as the red bandfish, though this name is also given to other members of the genus Cepola.[3]


It is found on the coast and inner continental shelf of the eastern Atlantic between northern Senegal and Scotland and the Mediterranean west of the Aegean Sea and the Nile Delta.[2] It can be found on sandy and muddy ocean bottoms at depths of between 10 and 400 metres (33 and 1,312 ft).[2][4]


Cepola macrophthalma has a thin, ribbon-like body, which tapers to a pointed tail. It is red in color, with an orange or yellow underside. It has large, silvery eyes. Its dorsal and anal fins stretch the length of its body and are nearly continuous with its tail (caudal fin). It has a large mouth, at an oblique angle, with thin, glassy, widely spaced teeth.[2]

These fish are highly variable in length, but an average length is 40.0 cm total length (15.7 in). The maximum length recorded for this species is 80.0 cm total length (31.5 in).[2] Taxonomic distinguishing features include 67–70 dorsal fin soft rays, 60 anal fin soft rays, two unsegmented dorsal fin rays, and a caudal fin with long median rays free at the tips.[2]

Ecology and behavior[edit]

Little was known of the behavior of this species until a population was discovered off the coast of the island of Lundy off the coast of Devon. Since then, many studies have been conducted on the population there, and on captive fish from Lundy.[4] The population at Lundy once comprised around 14,000 individuals, but numbers have dropped severely, despite a ban on fishing in Lundy's waters.[5][6]

These fish are burrowers, and they feed largely like garden eels, sticking their bodies out of their burrows to catch zooplankton. Unlike garden eels, they are not fixed in their burrows, but can move about both inside their burrows and in the open.[4] Their burrows have funnel-shaped openings, due to the large quantities of sediments they displace to construct their burrows, and they consist largely of single elliptical vertical shafts with a chamber at the bottom. The burrows reach depths of up to 1 metre (39 in), and 49 centimetres (19 in) is considered to be typical.[4] Bandfish excavate and maintain their burrows at dawn or dusk, with their mouth, and by pushing mud about with their body. They displace about three litres (three quarters of a gallon) of mud and sand in the excavation of a single burrow, and they take around six hours to construct their burrows.[4] Their burrows often connect with those of the crab Goneplax rhomboides and other burrowing fish and crustaceans, and these associations may be deliberate.[7]

Bandfish are an important part of the diets of many oceanic predators, especially john dories,[8] but also other fish, common dolphins[9] and the musky octopus, Eledone moschata.[10] Bandfish may have taken up an ecological niche burrowing and eating zooplakton due to strong pressures from predators.[11]

As food[edit]

Historically, this species was an important food fish. The earliest recorded recipe, by the Greek cook Mithaecus, was for this species.[12] Andrew Dalby translated it as follows:

Tainia: gut, discard the head, rinse, slice; add cheese and oil.[13]

Tainia was the name by which the ancient Greeks called Cepola macrophthalma, and the oil was, of course, olive oil.[13] In modern times the species is of a lesser importance. In some countries (such as Italy and Spain) it is still consumed, but in others (such as Greece) it is generally discarded when caught by fishermen trying to catch more desirable species.[14] This fish is prized by British deep-sea anglers, and poaching by anglers is a major threat to the population at Lundy.[5]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2013). "Cepola macrophthalma". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Cepola macrophthalma" in FishBase. November 2009 version.
  3. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). Species of Cepola in FishBase. November 2009 version.
  4. ^ a b c d e Atkinson, R. J. A.; Pullin, R. S. (1996). "Observations on the Burrows and Burrowing Behaviour of the Red Band-Fish, Cepola rubescens L.". Marine Ecology. 17 (1–3): 23–40. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0485.1996.tb00487.x. 
  5. ^ a b Pope, Frank (6 December 2008). "Lundy's S.O.S: a blueprint for sustainable fishing?". The Times. Retrieved 21 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "Getting a close-up look of Lundy's sealife". Where I Live. BBC Devon. 9 October 2003. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  7. ^ United Kingdom Marine Special Areas of Conservation. "Interactions between megafaunal burrowers". Community ecology: interactions between species. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  8. ^ Stergiou, K. I.; Fourtouni, H. (1991). "Food habits, ontogenetic diet shift and selectivity in Zeus faber Linnaeus, 1758" (PDF). Journal of Fish Biology. 39 (4): 589–603. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1991.tb04389.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  9. ^ Silva, M. A. (1999). "Diet of common dolphins, Delphinus delphis, off the Portuguese continental coast" (PDF). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 79 (3): 531–530. doi:10.1017/S0025315498000654. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  10. ^ Şen, Halil (2007). "Food Preference of Eledone moschata Lamarck, 1799 (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in Captive Conditions" (PDF). International Journal of Natural and Engineering Sciences. 1 (2): 29–31. Retrieved 22 November 2009. [dead link]
  11. ^ Stergiou, K. I.; Kokan, Bože; Vrgoč, Nedo; Glamuzina, Branko; Conides, Alexis J.; Skaramuca, Boško (1993). "Abundance-depth relationship, condition factor, and adaptive value of zooplanktonophagy for red bandfish, Cepola macrophthalma". Journal of Fish Biology. 42 (3): 645–660. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0426.2007.01047.x. 
  12. ^ Dalby, Andrew (1996). Siren Feasts. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-415-15657-2. 
  13. ^ a b Dalby, Andrew (2003). Food in the ancient world from A to Z. Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England: Routledge. pp. 79, 220. ISBN 0-415-23259-7. 
  14. ^ Stergiou, K. I.; Economidis, P.; Sinis, A. (1992). "Age, growth, and mortality of red bandfish, Cepola macrophthalma (L.), in the western Aegean Sea (Greece)". Journal of Fish Biology. 40 (3): 395–418. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1992.tb02586.x. 

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