Mayaheros urophthalmus

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Mayaheros urophthalmus
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cichliformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Mayaheros
M. urophthalmus
Binomial name
Mayaheros urophthalmus
(Günther, 1862)[1]
  • Heros urophthalmus Günther, 1862
  • Cichlasoma urophthalmum

Mayaheros urophthalmus, also known as the Mayan cichlid or Mexican mojarra is a species of cichlid.


Previously, this species was a member of the genus Cichlasoma and the subgeneric section Nandopsis. However, the genus Cichlasoma is in revision and has been restricted to the 12 species of South American cichlids related to Cichlasoma bimaculatum. Thus, many of the approximately 100 species that were formerly members of Cichlasoma have yet to be formally assigned to a new genus.[1]


This species can be found in Middle America. It is native to the Atlantic slope of tropical Mesoamerica, ranging from eastern Mexico southward to Nicaragua.[2] It was first recorded from Everglades National Park, Florida in 1983 and is now a common nonindigenous fish in South Florida.[3]


The Mayan cichlid inhabits freshwater marshes, mangrove swamps, lakes, rivers, rocky shorelines, lagoons, estuaries, and coastal islands. Adults prefer coastal lagoons and rivers and may survive in marine conditions.[4] It can be found in oxygen-rich areas near submerged vegetation and over muddy substrates. Despite its preference for waters with dissolved oxygen content of at least 3.5 mg/L, though, it is capable of surviving in extreme hypoxia, because it is an oxygen conformer, becoming much less active in hypoxic water, and even surviving virtual anoxia for up to two hours.[5] Unusually, this fish has been recorded in some cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mayaheros urophthalmus in Everglades. Video clip


Mayaheros urophthalmus reaches a maximum length of 39.4 cm.[4] This fish is one of the larger cichlids. The body is oval and flattened on the sides and the head is tapering towards the mouth. Fins are spiny. It has a base color of yellow-brown to gray-brown in most cases, that becomes intense red during breeding. The head and throat are reddish, especially in younger fish. The caudal fin and the soft-sections of the dorsal and anal fin are usually more or less reddish. Six wide green-black vertical stripes run across the sides of the body between the base of the pectoral fin and the base of the caudal fin. There is a large black eye spot circled with blue-green on the tail stem (hence the species scientific name urophthalmus (from oura, Greek for tail and ophthalmos, Greek for eye).[6] Since the distribution area of the species is relatively large, this species may occurs in different colors, which may differ from the one described above.

Human relevance[edit]

Mayaheros urophthalmus with Hypostomus plecostomus.

In its native range, the Mayan cichlid is a popular food fish. For this reason it is the basis of a regional fishery, is commonly used in aquaculture. As in many animals, the red color is much more brilliant in wild specimens than captive ones, but one can help maintain some of its vibrance by feeding the fish live foods and foods that contain Vitamin A, which breaks down into the red pigment beta-carotene in the body.

It is among the most-studied of the Neotropical cichlids.[7] To date, the Mayan cichlid has been most intensively studied at localities in southeastern Mexico on or near the Yucatan Peninsula.[5]


The Mayan cichlid is philopatric, or site tenacious, i.e. - individuals are non-migratory and prefer to stay within a home range.[8] The Mayan cichlid has a minimum temperature requirement of about 14 degrees Celsius.[9] In its native range, it inhabits waters with temperatures from 18 - 34 degrees Celsius, but its optimal temperature range is 28 - 33°C.[10]

The Mayan cichlid is capable of surviving in a variety of conditions. It is euryhaline and can survive in a range of salinity from 0 - 40 ppt.[7] Experiments on captive specimens have shown that it can tolerate abrupt increases in salinity of up to 15 ppt.[11] The Mayan cichlid has a broad range of tolerance to abiotic conditions and a broad functional repertoire to enable it to feed on about 20% of evasive prey due to its 6.8% jaw protrusion while feeding.[12]

This species is also a dietary generalist, consuming organisms from a variety of disparate taxa.[13] However, it is susceptible to malnourishment, apparently due to the requirement that a relatively large proportion of its diet be animal prey.[7] The Mayan cichlid's diet includes plant matter, smaller fish, algae, detritus, snails, crustaceans, and insects.[14][15]


The Mayan cichlid is territorial and aggressive when breeding.[4] As parents, Mayan cichlids are highly protective of their young, and they have several broods per year. This species is a monogamous, biparental substrate spawner that exhibits minimal sexual dimorphism and guards its fry for up to six weeks. All of these traits are greatly developed and represent an extreme in the general pattern found in the genus Mayaheros. In Mexico, the Mayan cichlid spawns for a nine-month period from March to November, particularly during the wet season from June to September. This corresponds to a period when the water temperature is at least 24 degrees Celsius.[7] Multiple broods are raised per year. The fry appear to be adapted to lotic water. They exhibit strongly positive geotactic behavior, actively swimming down to the substrate upon hatching from the egg and adhering themselves to the bottom by means of three pairs of mucous glands.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Říčan, O., Piálek, L., Dragová, K. & Novák, J. (2016): Diversity and evolution of the Middle American cichlid fishes (Teleostei: Cichlidae) with revised classification. Vertebrate Zoology, 66 (1): 1-102.
  2. ^ Miller, R.R. (1966): Geographical Distribution of Central American Freshwater Fishes. Copeia, 1966 (4): 773-802.
  3. ^ Bergmann, G.T. & Motta, P.J. (2005): Diet and morphology through ontogeny of the nonindigenous Mayan cichlid ‘Cichlasoma (Nandopsis)’ urophthalmus (Günther 1862) in southern Florida. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 72 (2): 205-211.
  4. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2016). "Cichlasoma urophthalmum" in FishBase. January 2016 version.
  5. ^ a b Gamboa-Pérez, H.C. & Schmitter-Soto, J.J. (1999): Distribution of cichlid fishes in the littoral of Lake Bacalar, Yucatan Peninsula. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 54 (1): 35-43.
  6. ^ Florida Museum
  7. ^ a b c d e Martínez-Palacios, C.A., Chávez-Sánchez, C. & Olvera Novoa, M.A. (1993): The potential for culture of the American Cichlidae with emphasis on Cichlasoma urophthalmus. In: Muir, J.F. & Roberts, R.J. (Eds.), Recent advances in aquaculture. Vol. 4., Blackwell, Oxford, England.
  8. ^ Faunce, C.H. & Lorenz, J.J. 2000. Reproductive Biology of the Introduced Mayan cichlid, Cichlasoma urophthalmus, Within an Estuarine Mangrove Habitat of Southern Florida. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 58 (2): 215-225.
  9. ^ Stauffer, J.R.Jr. & Boltz, S.E. (1994): Effect of Salinity on the Temperature Preference and Tolerance of Age-0 Mayan Cichlids. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 123 (1): 101-107.
  10. ^ Martinez-Palacios, C.A., Chavez-Sanchez, M.C. & Ross, L.G. (1996): The effects of water temperature on food intake, growth and body composition of Cichlasoma urophthalmus (Günther) juveniles. Aquaculture Research, 27 (6): 455-461.
  11. ^ Martinez-Palacios, C.A., Ross, L.G. & Rosado-Vallado, M. (1990): The effects of salinity on the survival and growth of juvenile Cichlasoma urophthalmus. Aquaculture, 91 (1-2): 65-75.
  12. ^ Hulsey, C.D. & García de León, F.J. (2005): Cichlid jaw mechanics: linking morphology to feeding specialization. Functional Ecology, 19 (3): 487-494.
  13. ^ Martinez-Palacios, C.A. & Ross, L.G. (1988): The feeding ecology of the Central American cichlid Cichlasoma urophthalmus (Gunther). Journal of Fish Biology, 33 (5): 665-670.
  14. ^ Bergmann, Gaddy T.; Motta, Philip J. (2005). "Diet and morphology through ontogeny of the nonindigenous Mayan cichlid ?Cichlasoma (Nandopsis)? Urophthalmus (Günther 1862) in southern Florida". Environmental Biology of Fishes. 72 (2): 205–211. doi:10.1007/s10641-004-1480-1. S2CID 7750210.
  15. ^ "Cichlasoma urophthalmus (Mayan Cichlid) — Seriously Fish".

External link[edit]