|Blue blanquillo, Malacanthus latovittatus|
Branchiostegidae Jordan, 1923
Commercial fisheries exist for the largest species, making them important food fish. However, the US Food and Drug Administration warns pregnant or breastfeeding women against eating tilefish and some other fish due to mercury contamination.  The smaller, exceptionally colorful species of tilefish are enjoyed in the aquarium.
The family is further divided into two subfamilies: Latilinae, sometimes called the Branchiosteginae, and Malacanthinae. Some authors regard these subfamilies as two evolutionarily distinct families.
The placement of this family within the Eupercaria is still not certain. The 5th Edition of Fishes of the World classifies them within the Perciformes but in a grouping of seven families which may have a relationship to Acanthuroidei, Monodactylidae, and Priacanthidae. while other authorities place it outside the Perciformes, at an order level but with its true relationships being incertae sedis.
Subfamilies and genera
- subfamily Latilinae Gill, 1862
- subfamily Malacanthinae Poey, 1861
The two subfamilies appear to be morphologically different, with members of the Latilinae having deeper bodies bearing predorsal ridge and heads rounded to squarish in profile. In contrast, members of the Malacanthinae are more slender with elongated bodies lacking predorsal ridge and rounded head. They also differ ecologically, with latilines typically occurring below 50 m and malacanthines shallower than 50 m depth.
Both subfamilies have long dorsal and anal fins, the latter having one or two spines. The gill covers (opercula) have one spine which may be sharp or blunt; some species also have a cutaneous ridge atop the head. The tail fin may range in shape from truncated to forked. Most species are fairly low-key in colour, commonly shades of yellow, brown, and gray. Notable exceptions include three small, vibrant Hoplolatilus species: the purple sand tilefish (H. purpureus), Starck's tilefish (H. starcki), and the redback sand tilefish (H. marcosi).
Tilefish larvae are notable for their elaborate spines. The family name Malacanthidae, is based on the type genus Malacanthus which is a compuond of the Greek words malakos meaning "soft" and akanthos meaning "thorn", possibly derived from the slender, flexible spines in the dorsal fin of Malacanthus plumieri.
Habitat and diet
Generally shallow-water fish, tilefish are usually found at depths of 50–200 m in both temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. All species seek shelter in self-made burrows, caves at the bases of reefs, or piles of rock, often in canyons or at the edges of steep slopes. Either gravelly or sandy substrate may be preferred, depending on the species.
Behaviour and reproduction
Active fish, tilefish keep to themselves and generally stay at or near the bottom. They rely heavily on their keen eyesight to catch their prey. If approached, the fish quickly dive into their constructed retreats, often head-first. The chameleon sand tilefish (Hoplolatilus chlupatyi) relies on its remarkable ability to rapidly change colour (with a wide range) to evade predators.
Many species form monogamous pairs, while some are solitary in nature (e.g., ocean whitefish, Caulolatilus princeps), and others colonial. Some species, such as the rare pastel tilefish (Hoplolatilus fronticinctus) of the Indo-Pacific, actively builds large rubble mounds above which they school and in which they live. These mounds serve as both refuge and as a microecosystem for other reef species.
The reproductive habits of tilefish are not well studied. Spawning occurs throughout the spring and summer; all species are presumed not to guard their broods. Eggs are small (<2 mm) and made buoyant by oil. The larvae are pelagic and drift until the fish have reached the juvenile stage.
The relative extant of Branchiostegus in the archeological record:
Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico have been shown to have high levels of mercury, and the FDA has recommended against their consumption by pregnant women. Atlantic Ocean tilefish may have lower levels of mercury and may be safer to consume.
Great northern tilefish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Malacanthidae.|
- Richard van der Laan; William N. Eschmeyer & Ronald Fricke (2014). "Family-group names of Recent fishes". Zootaxa. 3882 (2): 001–230.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2015). "Malacanthidae" in FishBase. October 2015 version.
- J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. p. 456. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6.
- Nelson, J. S. (2006). Fishes of the World (4 ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 357–358. ISBN 978-0-471-25031-9. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- FDA (1990–2010). "Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish". Retrieved 2011-09-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Melody Joy Kramer (October 17, 2006). "Fish FAQ: What You Need to Know About Mercury". Retrieved 2011-09-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Eschmeyer, W. N. and R. Fricke (eds) (4 January 2016). "Species by family/subfamily in the Catalog of Fishes". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 18 January 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Betancur-R, Ricardo; Wiley, Edward O.; Arratia, Gloria; Acero, Arturo; Bailly, Nicolas; Miya, Masaki; Lecointre, Guillaume; Ortí, Guillermo (6 July 2017). "Phylogenetic classification of bony fishes". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17 (1): 162. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0958-3. ISSN 1471-2148.
- Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara (18 September 2020). "Series EUPERCARIA (Incertae sedis): Families CALLANTHIIDAE, CENTROGENYIDAE, DINOLESTIDAE, DINOPERCIDAE, EMMELICHTHYIDAE, MALACANTHIDAE, MONODACTYLIDAE, MORONIDAE, PARASCORPIDIDAE, SCIAENIDAE and SILLAGINIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Malacanthidae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
- "Tilefish Family Photographs, and Information – Malacanthida". Mexican Fish. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Henry C. Schultz III. "Fish Tales: Redoing the Seafloor with Tile: The Subfamily Malacanthinae, Part I". Reefkeeping an online magazine for the marine aquarist. Reef Central. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Baird, Troy A. (1988). "Female and male territoriality and mating system of the sand tilefish, Malacanthus plumieri". Environmental Biology of Fishes. 22 (2): 101–116. doi:10.1007/BF00001541. S2CID 46452205.
- Kenneth Wingerter (2011). "Aquarium Fish: Reconsidering the Sand Tilefishes". reefs.com. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Tilefish". gma.org. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Marsh, Robert; Petrie, Brian; Weidman, Christopher R.; Dickson, Robert R.; Loder, John W.; Hannah, Charles G.; Frank, Kenneth; Drinkwater, Ken (1999). "The 1882 tilefish kill—a cold event in shelf waters off the north‐eastern United States?". Fisheries Oceanography. 8 (1): 39–49. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2419.1999.00092.x.
- "Tile Fish Reappears". New York Times. 2 July 1910.
- "Chameleon Sand Tilefish (Hoplolatilus chlupatyi)". Seascape Studio Fish Guide. Seascape Studio. Retrieved 7 March 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know".
- "Atlantic Tilefish Are Absolved, F.D.A. advisory says ocean species low in mercury; fishermen vindicated". The East Hampton Star.
- Tilefish at the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL)
- Acero, A. and Franke, R., (2001)., Peces del parque nacional natural Gorgona. En: Barrios, L. M. y M. Lopéz-Victoria (Eds.). Gorgona marina: Contribución al conocimiento de una isla única., INVEMAR, Serie Publicaciones Especiales No. 7:123–131.
- Breder, C.M. Jr., (1936)., Scientific results of the second oceanographic expedition of the "Pawnee" 1926. Heterosomata to Pediculati from Panama to Lower California., Bull. Bingham Oceanogr. Collect. Yale Univ., 2(3):1–56.
- Béarez, P., 1996., Lista de los Peces Marinos del Ecuador Continental., Revista de Biología Tropical, 44:731–741.
- Castro-Aguirre, J.L. and Balart, E.F., (2002)., La ictiofauna de las islas Revillagigedos y sus relaciones zoogeograficas, con comentarios acerca de su origen y evolucion. En: Lozano-Vilano, M. L. (Ed.). Libro Jubilar en Honor al Dr. Salvador Contreras Balderas., Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo León:153–170.
- Dooley, J.K., (1978)., Systematics and biology of the tilefishes (Perciformes: Branchiostegidae and Malacanthidae), with descriptions of two new species., U.S. Nat. Ocean. Atmos.