Familia Hemiramphidae

(sometimes included in the Exocoetidae)

by B. B. Collette and N. V. Parin

Body elongate, compressed. Lower jaw prolonged; upper jaw short and triangular. Teeth small. Lower pharyngeal bones fused into triangular plate; third pair of upper pharyngeal bones also fused into plate. Nasal organ formed as a pit with protruding lobate tentacle. No spines in fins; dorsal and anal fins posterior in position; pelvic fins abdominal, with 6 soft rays; pectoral fins high on sides, usually short; caudal fin emarginate or forked. Lateral line beginning on throat, then running along ventral margin of body, with one or two branches to pectoral fin origin. Scales moderately large, cycloid, easily detached.
Epipelagic; most species are marine (oceanic or neritic), but some inhabit freshwaters. Locally abundant in warm waters. Some species are herbivores, feeding on floating sea grasses; others are omnivores or carnivores, feeding on crustaceans and small fishes. Eggs have filaments which attach to floating or anchored vegetation; larvae are pelagic. They are prone to leap and skitter at the surface. The flesh is excellent and halfbeaks are utilized as food in some parts of the world; also important as baitfish.

Genera 12; in Clofnam area 2.

Recent revision: Collette (1965 eastern Atlantic species).