A Filefish record from Bonza Bay, East London

A 7 cm filefish was found on the drift line at Bonza Bay recently by museum scientist Kevin Cole. The small specimen presented with a 1st dorsal spine erect and a body covered with small embedded scales that felt almost like a Velcro-like skin.


Filefish of the genus Cantherhines. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

The species has been identified as belonging to the genus Cantherhines and further investigation may reveal it to be the honeycomb filefish. This species has three colour phases and the most common is the one illustrated. They attain a maximum of 21 cm.

The 1st dorsal fin spine is slender and weak in some species, or it can be large and strong. The fin spine can be locked in an upright position by a smaller 2nd spine.


Sexual dimorphism is common with some females of some species having a deeper body than males. They occur in coral reefs, shallow weed beds and can occur to depths of 200 m. Adults of some species have been observed with flotsam in the open ocean. They feed on brittlestars, polychaete worms, sponges, and other small fish. In Australia they are known as ‘leatherjackets’.

Reference:Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa by Phil and Elaine Heemstra (SAIAB – South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity)

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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