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Revista de biología marina y oceanografía

versión On-line ISSN 0718-1957

Rev. biol. mar. oceanogr. vol.52 no.1 Valparaíso abr. 2017 




Vertebral deformities in hardhead catfish Ariopsis felis (Siluriformes: Ariidae) in the southeastern Mexico

Deformidades vertebrales en el bagre Ariopsis felis (Siluriformes: Ariidae) en el sureste de México


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

1Instituto Nacional de Pesca, Centro Regional de Investigación Acuícola y Pesquera de Yucalpetén. Boulevard del Pescador s/n esquina Antigua Carretera a Chelem Yucalpetén, 97320, Yucatán, México.
2Universidad Autónoma del Carmen, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Centro de Investigación de Ciencias Ambientales (CICA), Avenida Laguna de Términos s/n Colonia Renovación 2da Sección, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, 24155, México.


On 2 July, 2014 in the docking of the Copesmar fishing cooperative in Frontera, Tabasco, Mexico, an Ariopsis felis specimen was captured, which displayed kyphosis and scoliosis of the vertebral column, diagnosed by high resolution X-ray. This is the first report of axial skeleton deformities in the genus Ariopsis.

Key words: Ariidae, Ariopsis felis, vertebral malformations, spinal deformity, Southeastern Mexico


Vertebral deformities can be scoliosis (abnormal lateral curvature), lordosis (excessive inward curvature), kyphosis (excessive outward curvature) and ankylosis (abnormal stiffening and immobility of joint due to fusion of bones) (Fagbuaro & Oso 2011).

In natural populations, vertebral abnormalities are related sewage and industrial effluents (Lemly 1993), exposure to chemicals (Liem et al. 1997) and biological and physical factors such as parasitism (Yokoyama et al. 2004) and mechanic trauma for attack from predators (Amitabh & Firoz-Ahmed 2010). Several cases of vertebral deformities have been reported in catfish (Table 1), but until now no record of a hardhead catfish Ariopsis felis (Linnaeus, 1766) has been reported.


Table 1. Deformities reports in Siluriformes
Table 1. Reportes de deformidades en Siluriformes


The hardhead catfish Ariopsis felis is a tropical benthic fish distributed in coastal waters from North Carolina to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatán peninsula (Acero 2002). This species is generally found mostly in estuaries, through the surf zone and into near-coastal waters of the shelf and river mouths, over muddy bottoms, or at least in murky waters (Acero 2002).

The hardhead catfish is a dominant species in the coast and coastal lagoon of Tabasco and Campeche (Ayala-Pérez et al. 2003) and it is a one commercial fish species in Southeastern Mexico, its landings represent about 2.5-3.4% of the longline small scale fishery of Tabasco (Mendoza-Carranza et al. 2012). In the current fish species, the first record of vertebral deformities is presented.


Ariopsis felis specimen was caught with a cast net 3 m in diameter and 7.6 cm mesh size during July 2, 2014 in the docking of the Copesmar fishing cooperative in Frontera, Tabasco, Mexico (18°32'12.74''N-92°39'19.98''E). This place is under great influence from the sea by proximity of the Usumacinta River mouth.

The total length (mm) and weight (g) of hardhead catfish was measured and was then frozen and transported to the laboratory. The fresh specimen (lateral and dorsal aspect) was radiographed using a medical X-ray system and the radiographs were used to evaluate the anomalies observed (vertebrae and caudal bones). The specimen was deposited in the Colección ictiológica regional de referencia UMDI Sisal under catalog number CIRR-UMDI-Sisal-355.


At the posterior region of the present fish vertebral anomalies were visible immediately after capture, with the spine curved in one or more places (Fig. 1). According to X-ray radiographs (Fig. 2), 2 types of spinal deformity, kyphosis and scoliosis, were determined. The specimen with vertebral deformities has a total length of 250 mm.


Figure 1. Lateral view X-ray radiographs of Ariopsis felis from Frontera,
Tabasco (Mexico), a) normal and b) with kyphosis-scoliosis

Figura 1. Radiografías de la vista lateral de Ariopsis felis de Frontera,
Tabasco (México), a) normal y b) con cifosis-escoliosis


Figure 2. Dorsal view X-ray radiographs of Ariopsis felis from Frontera,
Tabasco (Mexico), a) with kyphosis-scoliosis and b) normal
Figura 2. Radiografías de la vista dorsal de Ariopsis felis de Frontera,
Tabasco (México), a) con cifosis-escoliosis y b) normal


Skeletal deformities can be physical and/ or environmentally induced. Physical causes can be from mechanic trauma and attack from predators (Amitabh & Firoz 2010). By environment can be by alteration of the biological processes necessary for maintaining the biochemical integrity of bone, as many organic contaminants, such as organochlorines, polychlorinated biphenyls and fluorinated herbicides (Mehrle & Mayer 1975) or neuromuscular effects, which lead to deformities without a chemical change in vertebral composition as some metal such as cadmium, zinc, mercury and lead can also affect the neuromuscular system (Sauer & Watanabe 1984).

Specifically to Siluriformes, some studies mention that the causes of skeletal deformities may be the exposure to malathion and other chemicals (Srivastava & Srivastava 1990), poor immune response or fluctuations in water quality, or accidental injuries during the life cycle (Marimuthu et al. 2000). However, because of the isolated observations and lack of data on the aquatic environment, we cannot establish any correlation between any environmental anomalies. In the present study, perhaps no single factor could be attributed as the cause of vertebral column deformities.


We acknowledge the National Fishery Institute (INAPESCA) for the financial support for project No. 057-04C. We also thank the anonymous reviewer's suggestions and recommendations.


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Received 4 November 2015 and accepted 4 August 2016
Editor: Claudia Bustos D.

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