Gill [T. N.]
The Hemiramphidae, the halfbeaks, is one of five families of the order Beloniformes (Rosen and Parenti 1981 [ref. 5538]). The family contains two subfamilies, 14 genera and subgenera, and 115 species and subspecies. It is the sister-group of the Exocoetidae, the flying fishes, forming the super family Exocoetoidea (Collette et al. 1984 [ref. 11422]). Most halfbeaks have an elongate lower jaw that distinguishes them from the flying fishes (Exocoetidae) which have lost the elongate lower jaw and from the needlefishes (Belonidae) and sauries (Scomberesocidae) which have both jaws elongate. The Hemiramphidae is defined by one derived character, the third pair of upper pharyngeal bones are anklylosed into a plate. Other diagnostic characters include: pectoral fins short or moderately long; premaxillae pointed anteriorly, forming a triangular upper jaw (except in <b><i>Oxyporhamphus </i></b> ); lower jaw elongate in juveniles of all genera, adults of most genera; parapophyses forked; and swimbladder not extending into haemal canal. Nostrils in a pit anterior to the eyes. No spines in fins; dorsal and anal fins posterior in position; pelvic fins abdominal in position, with 6 soft rays; pectoral fins usually short. Lateral line running down from pectoral fin origin and then backward along ventral margin of body. Scales moderately large, cycloid, easily detached. Halfbeaks live near the surface and are protectively colored for this mode of life by being green or blue on the back and silvery white on the sides and ventrally. The tip of the lower jaw is bright red or orange in most species, due to carotenoid pigments, especially zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, and beta-doradexanthin. Development has long been of interest in beloniform fishes (Collette et al. 1984 [ref. 11422]). Most beloniform fishes produce large spherical eggs with attaching filaments, characters they share with other atherinomorph fishes (Rosen and Parenti 1981 [ref. 5538]). Three Asian freshwater genera are viviparous (Meisner and Collette 1999 [ref. 23950]). Halfbeak eggs are typically 1.5-2.5 mm in diameter and have attaching filaments although these are greatly reduced in length in the pelagic eggs of <b><i>Oxyporhamphus </i></b> . Halfbeaks hatch at 4.8-11 mm, smaller than needlefishes but larger than flyingfishes and sauries (Collette et al. 1984 [ref. 11422]). During post-embryonic development, halfbeaks, like other beloniform fishes, undergo a number of complex changes in beak length, melanistic dorsal fin lobe, body bars, and pelvic fin pigmentation. Although halfbeaks are not currently of great commercial importance, many species are regularly found in local markets. The flesh is excellent and halfbeaks are utilized as food in many parts of the world. They are also important bait fishes for fishing for billfishes. They are mainly caught with seines and pelagic trawls, and dipnetted under lights at night. They are utilized fresh, dried salted and smoked. Species of three freshwater genera (<b><i>Dermogenys</i></b>, <b><i>Hemirhamphodon </i></b> and <b><i>Nomorhamphus </i></b> ) are in the aquarium trade. No revision of the entire family or either subfamily is available but there are regional studies for the eastern Atlantic (Collette 1965 [ref. 13343]), Australia (Collette 1974 [ref. 12930]), the tropical Indo-West Pacific (Parin et al. 1980 [ref. 6895]), and the Far East (Collette and Su 1986 [ref. 5998]), and there are regional FAO guides to the halfbeaks of additional areas. Type catalogs are available for halfbeaks in two important collections - USNM (Collette et al. 1992 [ref. 22813]) and MNHN (Collette et al. 1997 [ref. 22813]).</i></b>
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