Midshipman fish

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Midshipman fish
Temporal range: Late Miocene to Present[1]
Plainfin Midshipman.JPG
Plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Batrachoidiformes
Family: Batrachoididae
Genus: Porichthys
Girard, 1854

See text.

Midshipman fish belong to the genus Porichthys of toadfishes. They are distinguished by having photophores (which they use to attract prey and after which they are named, reminding some of a naval uniform's buttons) and four lateral lines. Typical midshipman fishes, such as the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus), are nocturnal and bury themselves in sand or mud in the intertidal zone during the day. At night they float just above the seabed. Some species have venomous dorsal spines and are capable of inflicting serious injuries if handled.

There are three genders of midshipman fish: females, type I males, and type II males. Type I and type II males have different reproductive strategies, and can be distinguished from each other based on physical characteristics. Type I males are eight times larger in body mass, and have much larger vocal organs. Type II males’ reproductive organs are seven times larger in size than those of type I males.[2] Female and type II male midshipman fish can be distinguished from each other by the female’s slightly larger size, and the type II male midshipman’s large reproductive organs.[3]


Atlantic midshipman (Porichthys plectrodon)
Photophores on an Atlantic midshipman. Midshipman fish are named after their photophores.

There are currently 14 recognized species in this genus:[4]


Reproduction and vocalization[edit]

Mating in midshipman fishes depends on auditory communication. Male midshipman fish produce several different vocalizations while females only make grunts in non-breeding situations.[2]


  1. ^ Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology. 364: 560. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  2. ^ a b Brantley RK and Bass AH. 1994. Alternative male spawning tactics and acoustic signaling in the plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus. Ethology 96: 213-232.
  3. ^ Lee SFL and Bass AH. 2006. Dimorphic male midshipman fish: reduced sexual selection or sexual selection for reduced characters? Behavioral Ecology 17(4): 670-675.
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). Species of Porichthys in FishBase. April 2012 version.

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