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Revista de biología marina y oceanografía

versión On-line ISSN 0718-1957

Rev. biol. mar. oceanogr. vol.48 no.1 Valparaíso abr. 2013 

Revista de Biología Marina y Oceanografía
Vol. 48, Nº1: 203-206, abril de 2013
Research Note



First record of albinism in gafftopsail catfish Bagre marinus (Pisces: Ariidae) from southeast Mexico

Primer registro de albinismo en el bagre bandera Bagre marinus (Pisces: Ariidae) del sureste de México


Armando T. Wakida-Kusunoki1 and Luis Enrique Amador-del-Ángel2

1Instituto Nacional de Pesca, Centro Regional de Investigación Pesquera de Ciudad del Carmen, Av. Héroes del 21 de Abril s/n, Col. Playa Norte, C.P. 24120, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, México.
2Universidad Autónoma del Carmen, Centro de Investigación de Ciencias Ambientales (CICA), Av. Laguna de Términos s/n Col. Renovación 2da Sección, C.P. 24155, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, México.


This paper describes the first record of albinism in the gafftopsail catfish, Bagre marinus, on the coast of Tabasco, Mexico. The standard length of the albino specimen was 311 mm and the gutted weight was 962 g. It is not only the first record of albinism of the Bagre genus, but of any kind of fish in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

Key words: Abnormalities, pigmentation, Tabasco


Albinism is a genetically inherited condition in which the pigment protein melanin is either absent or nonfunctional (Reum et al. 2008). There are 2 kinds of albinism: (1) complete albinism, where the integumentary and retinal pigmentation is absent and (2), partial albinism or leucism, where there is a partial or complete loss of integumentary pigments, but the retinal pigments are present (Goto et al. 2004). In most fish, the absence of color is related to mutations in the genes of the tyrosinase family, where the skin of albinos lacks melanin and eye development is affected (Wang et al. 2007).

Total or partial albinism has been observed in 36 different species of cartilaginous fish, including skates, rays and sharks (Sandoval-Castillo et al. 2006, Veena et al. 2011) with different anatomical and ecological features, demonstrating that albinism is not exclusive to some ecological or taxonomic groups. Albinism has also been reported in more than 20 species of teleosts worldwide (e.g., Sazima & Pombal Jr. 1986, Béarez 2002, Brito & Caramaschi 2005, Reum et al. 2008, Mansur 2011, Piorski & Nunes 2011).

The gafftopsail catfish Bagre marinus (Mitchill, 1815) is a tropical benthic fish distributed in coastal waters from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Panama, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico coast (Muncy & Wingo 1983). It is mainly marine but enters brackish estuaries with relatively high salinities (Cervigón et al. 1992). B. marinus is one of the most important fisheries in the Southeastern coastal zone of the Gulf of Mexico, particularly along the coast of Tabasco state, where it is captured abundantly almost all year round (Mendoza-Carranza & Hernández-Franyutti 2005).

This paper describes the first record of albinism in the gafftopsail catfish, Bagre marinus, on the coast of Tabasco, Mexico.



An albino adult female B. marinus was landed in July 2012 from the commercial catch of the small-scale daytime fleet from San Pedro, Tabasco, in the Southern Gulf of Mexico (18°39'32.35" N, 92°28'13.45"W). Bottom-set longlines with 60 mm shank length tuna circle hooks were the method of capture. The catch depth ranged from 10 to 40 m. The specimen was collected and transported to the laboratory where it was identified using the criteria described by Hoese & Moore (1998). The specimen was deposited in the Ichthyology Collection of the Centro de Investigación de Ciencias Ambientales (CICA) of the Universidad Autónoma del Carmen under catalog number CI-CICA-UNACAR 0250.



The standard length of the albino specimen was 311 mm and the gutted weight was 962 g. The entire fish including the fins was dull whitish pink in color and devoid of any pigmentation (Fig. 1a). Pigmented specimens of B. marinus normally have a blue-grey to dark brown color with dark margins on the dorsal part of the body and caudal fin, and a light grey belly; the ventral body surface is unpigmented (Fig. 1b).


Figure 1. Lateral view of the gafftopsail catfish, Bagre marinus. a) Albino specimen and b) normal specimen. Photographs were taken from fresh fish. by A.T. Wakida-Kusunoki

Figura 1. Vista lateral del bagre bandera Bagre marinus. a) espécimen albino y b) espécimen normal. (Fotografía tomada en ejemplares frescos por A.T. Wakida-Kusunoki)


Several cases of albinism have been reported in catfish (Table 1), but until now no record of an albino gafftopsail catfish has been reported.

The incidence of albinism can be artificially increased in fish by exposing the eggs to heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury, selenium, zinc) (Oliveira & Foresti 1996). Thus, the albinism in B. marinus is more probably the result of a genetic random alteration since high concentrations of heavy metals seem to be improbable in the sampled habitat.


Table 1. Albinism reports in Order Siluriformes

Tabla 1. Reportes de albinismo en el Orden Siluriformes


Sazima & Pombal Jr. (1986) and Brito & Caramaschi (2005) stated that albinism in tropical fish is more common among nocturnal and/or cryptobiotic species than among diurnal or non-cryptobiotic ones.

The lack of coloration in albinos has been suggested to increase susceptibility to predation or render them less attractive for reproduction (Sandoval-Castillo et al. 2006), however, the considerable size of adult albino gafftopsail catfish in question, leads us to suppose that albinism in catfish is not determinant for the survival of the organism.

This is the first report of albinism in the genus Bagre and in all fish from the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. B. marinus is a species subject to commercial fishing with a high number of individuals being captured for decades with no previous record of albinism. This, then, is a rare event still undetected in most wild fish species, at least regarding adult individuals.



We would like to extend our thanks to Fernando Wakida, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California for his useful suggestions regarding the manuscript.



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Received 13 August 2012 and accepted 10 December 2012
Associate Editor: Gabriela Muñoz C.

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