Ariidae - sea catfishes

Sea catfishes are medium to large fishes having scaleless bodies and single sharp serrated spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins. They have prominent barbels on their jaws resembling cat whiskers. Their body shape is unique, being dorsoventrally flattened around the head and a laterally flattened body. A dark colored adipose fin is present. There are two species of sea catfishes in the Gulf of Mexico, the hardhead and the gafftopsail catfishes. Although their flesh is considered to be of good quality, many anglers consider them to be trash fishes. They can be hard to handle because their sharp spines can inflict painful wounds. It is said that slime on the body of the sea catfishes has an antiseptic and soothing effect when rubbed on punctures caused by the spines.


Males of the species brood marble-sized eggs in their mouths until hatching. The males also protect young fry by holding them in their mouths when danger is approaching. The skull of the sea catfishes is commonly found on beaches. The structure of the skull resembles a crucifix, which is why sea catfishes are sometimes called "crucifix" fishes.