Kyphosus incisor
(Cuvier, 1831)

Relevant synonyms

There are cases of K. incisor mistook for K. sectatrix

Meristic formula
D, XI + 13-15; A III + 12 or 13; P 19; V I + 6; LL pored scales 54-62

 Photo: Maria Rosa Costa    

Body oval, compressed, with small head and terminal mouth. Jaws extend back to the margin of eye; each jaw has a regular row of incisor like, round tipped teeth of a peculiar hockey-stock shape, i.e. the teeth have long horizontally directed bases converging toward the center of the mouth. A single continuous dorsal fin with 11 spines and 13 to 15 soft rays, pectoral and pelvic fins short, anal fin with 11 spines and 12 or 13 soft rays, large forked caudal fin. Outstanding scales of two different sizes, above and below the lateral line respectively; scales cover the bases of dorsal and anal fin rays. Gill-rakers on lower limb of first arch 19 to 22.

color : olive brown with longitudinal golden stripes on algal beds; bluish in pelagic environments. Two golden bands on the head, separated by a silver stripe under the eye.

size : common to 40-50 cm; largest size 91 cm (Gulf of Mexico).

The sister species K. sectatrix has a dorsal fin with 11 to 13 soft rays, an anal fin with 10 or 11 soft rays and 16-18 gill-rakers on lower limb of first gill arch.

Juveniles are pelagic, frequently associated to vessels or to flotsam and have omnivorous feeding habits. Adult fish are specialized herbivores, digesting macroalgae through microbial fermentation.

habitat :  surface offshore waters (juveniles) and algal beds in coastal waters (adults).

Portofino, Ligurian Sea, Italy, 2010.

Worldwide : the genus Kyphosus is present on both Atlantic coasts with two very similar species, K. sectatrix and K. incisor whose adults are found in a tropical-subtropical belt, with juveniles occasionally reaching distant northern locations such as Canadian waters. Mediterranean : K. sectatrix entered in the Mediterranean fish fauna (Tortonese, 1986) on the basis of three records of juveniles at the time of sail navigation. A series of recent records indicate the presence of large adult K. sectatrix which can be considered at present an Atlantic species established both in northern (Ligurian) and Algero-Tunisian coasts.
Two large K. incisor have been fished together recently at Portofino.


Speculated reasons for success : sea warming allowed the reaching of adult conditions in both the sister species of Kyphosus.

Ships associated introductions via Gibraltar.

The two sister species, which can be identified only by meristic data, are marketed together. In the East Atlantic, regular catches of both species are signaled in Guinea and Angola.


  • Azzurro E., Peña-Rivas L., Lloris D. and Bariche M., 2013. First documented occurrence of Kyphosus incisor in the Mediterranean Sea. Marine Biodiversity Records, 6: e98; doi:10.1017/S1755267213000717.
  • Orsi Relini L., Costa M.R. and Relini M., 2010. First record of the yellow sea chub, Kyphosus incisor, in the Mediterranean. Marine Biodiversity Records, 3: e4; doi:10.1017/S1755267209991096.
  • Tortonese E., 1986. Kyphosidae. In: Whitehead P.J.P., Bauchot M.L., Hureau J.C., Nielsen J. and Tortonese E. (eds), Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Vol. 2. Paris: UNESCO, pp. 912-913.


Last update of the species sheet :
May 2014

ciesm 2001