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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fish Bulletin 157. Guide To The Coastal Marine Fishes of California


This is a comprehensive identification guide encompassing all shallow marine fishes within California waters.

Geographic range limits, maximum size, depth range, a brief color description, and some meristic counts including, if available: fin ray counts, lateral line pores, lateral line scales, gill rakers, and vertebrae are given. Body proportions and shapes are used in the keys and a statement concerning the rarity or commonness in California is given for each species.

In all, 554 species are described. Three of these have not been recorded or confirmed as occurring in California waters but are included since they are apt to appear. The remainder have been recorded as occurring in an area between the Mexican and Oregon borders and offshore to at least 50 miles. Five of California species as yet have not been named or described, and ichthyologists studying these new forms have given information on identification to enable inclusion here. A dichotomous key to 144 families includes an outline figure of a representative for all but two families. Keys are presented for all larger families, and diagnostic features are pointed out on most of the figures. Illustrations are presented for all but eight species.

of the 554 species, 439 are found primarily in depths less than 400 ft., 48 are meso- or bathypelagic species, and 67 are deepwater bottom dwelling forms rarely taken in less than 400 ft. depth. The deepwater forms included are those taken in commercial trawling gear or that occasionally occur near the surface.

An illustrated glossary is included to facilitate use of the identification keys and species descriptions. A comments section presents in detail reasons for certain taxonomic choices and to acknowledge personal communications.

Original data presented include a ventral sensory pore pattern key for the skates, 170 geographic range limit extensions, and several depth range and maximum size records. Many of the family keys have been revised to incorporate recent taxonomic changes and to clarify previously ambiguous terminology.

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