Synodontis membranaceus

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Synodontis membranaceus
Synodontis membranacea.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Mochokidae
Genus: Synodontis
Species: S. membranaceus
Binomial name
Synodontis membranaceus
(Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809)
  • Hemisynodontis membranacea (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809)
  • Pimelodus membranaceus Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809
  • Synodontis guentheri Vaillant, 1893

Synodontis membranaceus, known as the moustache catfish,[2] is a species of upside-down catfish that is native to northern Africa.[3] It was first described by French naturalist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1809 as Pimelodus membranaceus, from specimens obtained in the Nile River.[2] The species name membranaceus refers to membranes present on the barbels of the fish.[4]


Like all members of the Synodontis genus, S. membranaceus has a strong, bony head capsule that extends back as far as the first spine of the dorsal fin.[5] The head contains a distinct bony, external protrusion called a humeral process.[6] The shape and size of the humeral process helps to identify the species. In S. membranaceus, the humeral process is subtriangular, flat, rough, and as long or shorter than it is deep.[6]

The fish has three pairs of barbels. The maxillary barbels are on located on the upper jaw, and two pairs of mandibular barbels are on the lower jaw. The maxillary barbel is straight without any branches, with a broad membrane down the length almost to the end.[6] It extends about the length of the head.[6] The inner pair of mandibular barbels is about 13 to 23 as long as the outer pair, have long, slender branches with secondary branches, and a membrane in the outer half.[6]

The front edges of the dorsal fins and the pectoral fins of Syntontis species are hardened into stiff spines.[2] In S. membranaceus, the spine is 35 to 45 as long as the head, straight or curved, smooth on the front and serrated on the back.[6] The remaining portion of the dorsal fin is made up of seven branching rays.[6] The spine of the pectoral fin is as long or a little longer than the dorsal spine, and serrated on both sides.[6] The adipose fin is 3 to 5 times as long as it is deep.[6] The anal fin contains five unbranched and eight to nine branched rays, and is acutely pointed.[6] The tail, or caudal fin, is deeply forked.[6]

All members of Syndontis have a structure called a premaxillary toothpad, which is located on the very front of the upper jaw of the mouth. This structure contains several rows of short, chisel-shaped teeth. In S. membranaceus, the toothpad forms a short, narrow band.[6] On the lower jaw, or mandible, the teeth of Syndontis are attached to flexible, stalk-like structures and described as "s-shaped" or "hooked".[2][5] The number of teeth on the mandible is used to differentiate between species; in S. membranaceus, there are about 8 to 14 small teeth on the mandible.[6]

The color of the fish is silvery grey or whitish on the back and sides, with the lower parts and underside dark brown to black. The barbels are whitish, with a dark brown or black border on the membrane. Juveniles may have poorly defined dark blotches on the body and spots forming stripes on the fins that will fade with age.[6]

The maximum standard length of the species is 46 centimetres (18 in).[3] Generally, females in the Synodontis genus tend to be slightly larger than males of the same age.[7]

Habitat and behavior[edit]

In the wild, the species is known from Senegal to Sudan.[1] The species is harvested for human consumption.[1] It naturally occurs in the deep water of streams, close to the shore. In the wild, it swims upside down with its belly facing upward, which explains its darker colors on the underside and lighter colors on the dorsal side.[1] In captivity, however, the fish sometimes stops swimming upside down and its color pattern reverses, so that it is dark on the back and light on the underside.[1] In the wild, it feeds on plankton, detritus, insects, crustaceans, and mollusks.[1] The reproductive habits of most of the species of Synodontis are not known, beyond some instances of obtaining egg counts from gravid females.[8] Spawning likely occurs during the flooding season between July and October, and pairs swim in unison during spawning.[9] The growth rate is rapid in the first year, then slows down as the fish age.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Awaïss, A.; Azeroual, A.; Getahun, A. & Lalèyè, P. (2010). "Synodontis membranaceus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 3 Nov 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Hemisynodontis membranacea (Geoffroy - St. Hilaire, 1809)". Planet Catfish. 20 Dec 2009. Archived from the original on 2016-11-04. Retrieved 3 Nov 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2016). "Synodontis membranaceus" in FishBase. June 2016 version.
  4. ^ Scharpf, Christopher & Kenneth Lazara (12 Sep 2016). "Order SILURIFORMES: Families MALAPTERURIDAE, MOCHOKIDAE, SCHILBEIDAE, AUCHENOGLANIDIDAE, CLAROTEIDAE and LACANTUNIIDAE". The ETYFish Project. Archived from the original on 2016-10-14. Retrieved 3 Nov 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Cuvier, Georges (1934). The Animal Kingdom Arranged in Conformity with its Organization, Volume 10. Translated by Griffith, Edward. London: Whittaker and Co. p. 406. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Boulenger, George Albert (1909). Catalogue of the fresh-water fishes of Africa in the British museum (Natural history). London: British Museum. pp. 474–476. 
  7. ^ a b H. M. Bishai & Y. B. Abu Gideiri (1965). "Studies on the biology of genus Synodontis at Khartoum". Hydrobiologia. 26 (1–2): 85–97. doi:10.1007/BF00142257. 
  8. ^ Wright, J.J. & L.M. Page (2006). "Taxonomic Revision of Lake Tanganyikan Synodontis (Siluriformes: Mochokidae)". Florida Mus. Nat. Hist. Bull. 46 (4): 99–154. 
  9. ^ John P. Friel & Thomas R. Vigliotta (March 2, 2009). "Mochokidae Jordan 1923: African squeaker and suckermouth catfishes". Tree of Life Web Project. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 

External links[edit]

Data related to Synodontis membranaceus at Wikispecies