Greek, hemi = half + Greek, rhamphos = beak, bill
No. of Species
Halfbeaks are known from the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The lower jaw much longer than upper jaw; premaxillae pointed anteriorly; short pectoral and pelvic fins. Vertebrae 38-75 (except 18-25 in Arrhamphus). About 45 cm maximum length. Eggs are attached to algae in shallow waters; viviparity in Dermogenys, Nomorphamphus, and Hemirhamphodon. Surface dwelling omnivores of algae, zooplankton and fishes. CLOFFSCA: The Hemiramphidae, the halfbeaks, are one of five families of the order Beloniformes. They are the sister-group of the Exocoetidae, the flying fishes, forming the superfamily Exocoetoidea. Most halfbeaks have an elongate lower jaw that distinguishes them from flying fishes which have lost the elongate lower jaw and from needlefishes (Belonidae) and sauries (Scomberesocidae) which have both jaws elongate. The family is defined by one derived character, third pair of upper pharyngeal bones anklylosed into a plate. Other diagnostic characters include: pectoral fins short or moderately long; premaxillae pointed anteriorly, forming a triangular upper jaw (except in Oxyporhamphus); lower jaw elongate in juveniles of all genera, adults of most genera; parapophyses forked; 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 in abdominal position, with 6 soft rays; lateral line running down from pectoral fin origin and then backward along ventral margin of body. Scales moderately large, cycloid, easily detached. Color. These fishes live at the surface and are protectively colored for this mode of life being green or blue on the back and silvery white on the sides and ventrally. Tip of the lower jaw bright red or orange in life in most species. Most species are marine, but some inhabit freshwaters; omnivorous, feeding on floating sea grasses, crustaceans and small fishes. They are prone to leap and skitter at the surface and one offshore species, Euleptorhamphus velox can leap out of the water and glide like a flying fish. The flesh is excellent and larger species of halfbeaks are utilized as food in many parts of the world. In the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, they are more important as baitfish for billfishes, dolphins, kingfish, wahoo, and king mackerel than as food fish. They are caught with seines or dipnetted under lights at night. The Hemiramphidae contains 12 genera and over 100 species. Four genera, the first three monotypic (Arrhamphus, Chriodorus, Melapedalion, and Oxyporhampus) have very short or no beaks. Euleptorhamphus and Oxyporhamphus contain two offshore species each. The subfamily Zenarchopterinae, which is now recognized as a separate family, Zenarchopteridae, contains five genera and about 50 sexually dimorphic internally-fertilizing Indo-West Pacific estuarine or freshwater species. Three of these genera (Dermogenys, Hemirhamphodon, and Nomorhamphus) are viviparous and have the anal fin of the male modified into an andropodium. Hemiramphus (with 10 species) is a world wide marine genus. Rhynchorhamphus (with 4 species) has fimbriate nasal papillae and is confined to Indo-West Pacific marine waters. Hyporhamphus, the most speciose genus, includes two subgenera, Hyporhamphus with 23 species and Reporhamphus with 11 species, all confined to the Indo-West Pacific. Some species are marine, some estuarine, and some freshwater. All genera are characterized by particular lateral line characters (Parin and Astakhov, 1982). The halfbeak fauna of the western Atlantic includes nine marine species in five genera (Collette, in press), Chriodorus (1 species), Euleptorhamphus (1), Oxyporhamphus (1), Hemiramphus (3), and Hyporhamphus (3), plus two freshwater species of Hyporhamphus in rivers draining into the western Atlantic.