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needlefishes, long toms
Bonaparte [C. L.]
Needlefishes are a relatively small family of beloniform fishes (Rosen and Parenti 1981 [ref. 5538], Collette et al. 1984 [ref. 11422]) which differ from other members of the order in having both upper and lower jaws extended into long beaks filled with sharp teeth (except in the neotenic <b><i>Belonion </i></b> ), the third pair of upper pharyngeal bones separate, scales on the body relatively small, and no finlets following the dorsal and anal fins. The nostrils lie in a pit anterior to eyes. There are no spines in the fins. The dorsal, with 11-43 rays, and anal fins, with 12-39 rays, are posterior in position; the pelvic fins, with 6 soft rays, are located in an abdominal position; and the pectoral fins are short, with 5-15 rays. The lateral line runs down from the pectoral fin origin and then along the ventral margin of the body. The scales are small, cycloid, and easily detached. Precaudal vertebrae number 33-65, caudal vertebrae 19-41, and total vertebrae 52-97. Some freshwater needlefishes reach only 6 or 7 cm in total length while some marine species may attain 2 m. The classification is based on Collette et al. (1984 [ref. 11422]), Boughton et al. (1991 [ref. 26766]), and Lovejoy (2000 [ref. 26767]). Ten genera are recognized containing 34 species. Eight of the genera are monotypic or contain only two or three species. Two genera, <b><i>Tylosurus </i></b> and <b><i>Strongylura </i></b> contain most of the species in the family, six and 14 respectively. Five species are considered polytypic, containing a total of 17 subspecies. There are type-catalogs for beloniform fishes at two of the major collections, USNM (Collette et al. 1992 [ref. 19410]) and MNHN (Collette et al. 1997 [ref. 22813]). Two major remaining taxonomic problems are defining the genus <b><i>Strongylura </i></b> which has not been demonstrated to be monophyletic and clarifying the number of species of <b><i>Xenentodon </i></b> . Most needlefishes are marine, but 12 species are restricted to freshwaters and several species of <b><i>Strongylura </i></b> move long distances into freshwater. Freshwater species include three genera (<b><i>Belonion</i></b>, <b><i>Potamorrhaphis</i></b>, and <b><i>Pseudotylosurus </i></b> ) with seven species plus two species of <b><i>Strongylura </i></b> in freshwaters of Central and South America, and one genus (<b><i>Xenentodon </i></b> ) with two species plus <b><i>Strongylura krefftii </i></b> in Asian freshwaters. Needlefishes live at the surface of the water and are protectively colored for this mode of life by being green or blue on the back and silvery white on the lower sides and belly. A dusky or dark blue stripe may be present along the sides of the body. The fleshy tip of the lower jaw is frequently red or orange. Needlefishes are carnivorous, feeding largely on small fishes which they catch sideways in their beaks. Needlefishes tend to leap and skitter at the surface and people have been injured when accidentally struck by them, particularly at night when the fishes are attracted by lights. They are caught by casting or trolling surface or near-surface lures and in floating gill nets. The flesh is excellent in flavor although some people have misgivings about eating them due to the presence of many small bones and the green color of the bones. [ref. 25982], [ref. 26392], [ref. 12456], [ref. 20553], [ref. 4911], [ref. 10272], [ref. 13277], [ref. 12442], [ref. 7191], [ref. 4302], [ref. 26735], [ref. 515], [ref. 26981], [ref. 13862], [ref. 4374]</i></b>
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