General info


Madamango sea catfish
[Arius spixii]. 3 pairs of barbels on rostral region, 2 pairs on lower jaw, 1 pair on posterior end of maxilla; body dark brown or black dorsally, pale yellow ventrally; fin membranes brown, with small black spots. Head is widely flattened from above, nostril rounded, mouth inferior. The cephalic surface hardly reaches the level of the eyes. Found in shallow coastal marine waters and brackish estuaries, lagoons and river mouths. Feeds mainly on invertebrates and small fishes. Juveniles feed on amphipods, isopods and copepods. Flesh considered good quality.

Great barracuda
[Sphyraena barracuda], (bicuda, gaviana, picua). Commonly occur in nearshore coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves. They may also reside in the open ocean. Tend to be solitary but are sometimes found in small aggregations over reefs and sandy bottoms. Juveniles mature amongst mangroves and seagrass beds, habitats that offer cover from predators. Has a slender, streamlined body that is round in the mid-section. The top of the head between the eyes is nearly flat and the mouth is large, containing many large sharp teeth and a projecting lower jaw. The pectoral fin tips extend to the origin of the pelvic fins. The spinous and soft dorsal fins are widely separated and the double emarginate tail fin exhibits pale tips on each lobe. Body is brownish or bluish gray on the dorsum and upper side, with a greenish cast shading to silvery on the sides and a white belly. The black spots on the lower sides of the great barracuda distinguish it from other species of barracuda. The record for a hook and line caught great barracuda is 1.7 meters. Great barracudas feed on an array of prey including fishes such as jacks, grunts, groupers, snappers, small tunas, mullets, killifishes, herrings, and anchovies. Barracudas have a large gape and very sharp teeth, enabling them to feed on large fishes by chopping them in half.

[Belone belone], (garpike). Has a pelagic life and eats small fish. It reproduces at the end of winter and in spring, the eggs are very big and have long filaments with which they attach themselves to each other as well as to submerged rocks. The larvae when the egg is hatched, has a short face with jaws just jutting out. The green colour is characteristic of its bones, apparently due to the presence of pigmentation, which is known as green bile. They are found in dozens in Barra del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge.

Rainbow runner
[Elagatis bipinnulata]. Elongate fish. It has a large deeply forked tail and two separate finlets behind both the dorsal and anal fins. Is green to blue above and white below. It has two light blue stripes on the sides separated by a wider yellow to greenish stripe. It grows to 1.2 m in length.

Crevalle Jack
[Caranx hippos], (caballa, charo-largo, macoa). Has a body depth of about three times its fork length. It has large eyes. The chest is scaleless except for a small patch of scales in front of the pelvic fins. Is greenish-bluish or bluish-black above and silvery white to yellowish or golden below. This serves to blend in with the water from a predator searching from above, and to blend with the sunlight from a predator hunting from below. There is an oval, black spot on the pectoral fins. The maximum size of a crevalle jack is 101 cm and 25 kg. Lives in coastal areas of Carribbean side.

[Lobotes surinamensis], (berrugato, lobotes). Have small scales extending onto the dorsal, caudal and anal fins and a head profile which becomes more concave with age. Body is compressed with a triangular-shaped head. The eyes are relatively small, and its mouth is large. The bases of both its dorsal and anal fins are scaled, and its pectoral fins are shorter than its pelvic fins. It has distinctively large and rounded soft dorsal, caudal, and anal fins. This characteristic gave rise to the common name. It grows to 89 cms and weight of 18 kg. It have varied mottled color patterns, ranging from dark brown to a reddish brown or brown with a tint of gray. It is spot on both coastal regions.

Atlantic mackerel
[Scomber scombrus], (Caballa, Cavalla). Pelagic, fast swimming fish. Maximum fork length is 50 cm, common to 30 cm. It has markings on back oblique to near vertical, with relatively little undulating; belly unmarked. Mackerel does not have a swim bladder, which makes it difficult to register on fish finding equiment. Nor does it have scales, so it is difficult to register its age.


blue marlin - [Makaira nigricans], (espadarte-sombra). The largest marlin. Is spot on the atlantic side. The upper jaw forms a large bill. The body is cylindrical from anal fin forward. Two dorsal fins are present; the first dorsal fin is high and slopes steeply posteriorly, while the second is small. The caudal peduncle has keels. The lateral line forms a large net-like pattern of hexagons canvasing the sides of the fish. The pelvic fins are slender. The lateral keels on the caudal peduncle assist in making this fish a powerful swimmer of great speed and stamina. The body is dark blue dorsally, shading to a silvery white ventrally. On the body there are 15 vertical rows of blue spots on the side, on a background of blue to silvery white.

black marlin - [Makaira indica]. Body robust, slightly compressed. Head with upper jaw and snout prolonged in a stout bill, round in cross-section. Nape elevated. Branchiostegal membranes joined but free from isthmus. No gillrakers. Small, file-like teeth in jaws and palatines. First dorsal fin height less than body depth, pointed anteriorly and decreasing gradually, ending close to the second dorsal fin. Two anal fins, both pointed anteriorly; origin of second slightly behind that of second dorsal fin origin. Pectoral fin rigid (cannot be folded flat against body side). Pelvic fin very narrow, depressible into ventral grooves. Two keels on each side of caudal peduncle and located at the base of the caudal fin lobes. Head and body dark blue dorsally and silvery-white ventrally.

striped marlin - [Tetrapturus audax]. Anterior lobe of first dorsal fin pointed and higher than remainder of the fin, the height decreasing gradually backward; anus situated near origin of first anal fin, the distance between them smaller than half of anal fin height; tips of pectoral and first anal fins pointed. Body elongate and fairly compressed. Bill stout and long, round in cross section; nape fairly elevated; right and left branchiostegal membranes completely united to each other, but free from isthmus; no gillrakers; both jaws and palatines (roof of mouth) with small, file-like teeth. Is spot on the pacific side of Costa Rica.


tropical gar - [Atractosteus tropicus]. Predatory fish with very elongate jaws. Inhabit backwaters and slow moving sections of rivers and lakes. Often found in the warm stagnant waters of the lowland. It reaches a length of 3.7 m. Its scales are rhombusshaped, very tough and such thick that Indians used to make the arrows of them. Its meat is sweety but its spawn very toxic. Spot in Barra del Colorado and Cano Negro Wildlife Refuges.

alligator gar - [Aractosteus spatula]. Its broad, toothy snout, hard scales and feeding habits are reminiscent of its namesake reptile, but there is no record of the fish making an attack on humans. It reaches a length of 2 to 6 meters. It can feed prey on smaller alligators which by its strong jaws can cut into halfs. It is destinguished by wide, strong tail, and coffee coloured body. Its meat is firmly and sweety. Its spawn is very toxic for humans. It is spot in Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge.


manta ray - [Manta birostris], (devil-ray, urjamanta). They are easily recognized by their large triangular pectoral fins and projecting cephalic fins, forward extensions of the pectoral fins that project anteriorly on either side of the head. It has smooth skin, a broad, rectangular terminal mouth located at the front of the head, and a tail that lacks a spine. Unlike other mobulids, the mouth of the manta is in the terminal location, not inferior. The spiracles and the eyes are located laterally, while the gills are located ventrally. The disc is 2.2 times wider than it is long, not including the cephalic lobes. Mantas possess distinct dorsal and ventral coloration that is unique to each animal. Generally, it is dark brown, grayish blue, or black on top with pale edges and white underneath. It swims by flapping its large pectoral fins, and is usually observed near the surface or in the mid-waters of reefs and lagoons. This ray can achieve a maximum disc width of 9 m, with an average width of about 6.7m. The largest specimens of the manta weigh up to 1350 kg.

płaszczka mobula - (Mobula mobula). Wyróżnia się rombową tarczą ciała i szeroką oddzieloną od tułowia głową, na której bokach ułożone są oczy i duże tryskawki. Jej otwór gębowy jest prawie tak szeroki jak głowa. Jej grzbiet jest ciemnobrązowy do niebieskawo-czarnego, a strona brzuszna jest biała. Zawsze pływają parami lub w małych grupach. Unoszą się blisko powierzchni wody. Posiadają zwyczaj pozbywania się pasożytów skórnych poprzez wyskakiwanie z wody i opadanie z głośnym pluskiem.

bat ray - [Myliobatis californica]. It is found in muddy and sandy bottom bays, rocky bottoms, and kelp forests. It has been reported to jump out of the water and to skim along the surface for extended periods of time. They have a flat body with a distinct protruding head, large eyes, and smooth skin. The whip-like tail is as long or longer than the body width with a dorsal fin at the base and armed with a barb-like spine located just behind the body. This ray is commonly referred to as bat ray, named for its long pectoral fins that resemble bat wings. It has smooth skin which is dark brown or black in color, changing to white on the underside with no other distinct markings. It feeds on bivalves, polychaetes, shrimps, and crabs as well as small bony fishes. They are spot within Catalinas islands and in Papagayo Bay.

spotted eagle ray - [Aetobatus narinari], (nari-nari). It has a very angular disc and a long, broad snout with a v-shaped internasal flap. The ventrally located mouth is well- adapted for feeding on benthic prey. The flattened body disc is broad and short, measuring about twice as wide as long. Large spiracles originate close to the pectoral fin origins. The fleshy subrostral lobe is duckbill-shaped and distinct from the upper snout. The wing-like pectoral fins are broad with pointed tips. The trailing edge of the pectoral fins is deeply concave with angular tips. The stinging spines, originating just behind the dorsal fin, are short and number from 2-6. They have a barbed tip and recurved lateral teeth along with a forked root. These venomous spines can deliver a nasty sting when used in defense against potential threats. It has a spotted pattern across the dorsal side of the body. The small white, bluish-white, greenish, pearly, or yellow spots are distinct against the black, dark gray, or brown body color. It reaches a maximum length of 2,5 m. Clams, oysters, shrimp, octopus, squid and sea urchins as well as bony fishes provide prey for them. It spends most of its time swimming in schools in open water. They are seen in carribbean side of Costa Rica as well as around Playa Ocotal and Catalinas islands.

cownose ray - [Rhinoptera bonasus], (raia-sapo). For the most part, this species is known for its migrations to different parts of the ocean. This ray is set apart from all of its relatives by the indented anterior contour of its cartilaginous skull (chondrocranium), with the conspicuously bilobed subrostral fin. The eyes and the spiracles of the cownose ray are located on the sides of their broad head. The main portions of the pectorals arise from the sides of the head, close behind and below the eyes. The outer corners of the pectorals are pointed and become concave toward their posterior margins. The dorsal fin originates approximately opposite the rear ends of the bases of the pelvic fins and is rounded above. The tail, round to oval in cross-section, is moderately stout near the anterior spine, and narrows rearward, tapering to a lash-like tip. The length of the tail, measured from the center of the cloaca, is about twice as long as the body, measured from the cloaca to the front of the head, but can be three times as long on small specimens. There are one or two tail spines. The dorsal surface of the cownose ray is light to dark brown, and can sometimes have a yellowish tint. The ventral surface is white or yellowish white with the outer corners of the pectorals being more or less brownish. The diet of the cownose ray population consists mainly of mollucks. It is spot within Catalinas isles.

Wolf cichlid
[Cichlasoma dovii], (guapote). Very agressive fish. Very tough predator, specialized to feed on other cichlids. Its body is pure muscle, which allows this very slender, lean cichlid to move extremely quickly and with great power. The very think and muscular caudal peduncle and the large round tail are ideal for driving such a large fish through water with good speed. The eyes are well set back on the head and face forward, typical of a predator. At least two very prominent incisor teeth are visible, protruding upwards from the lower jaw. It is spot in San Juan river and its tributaries, and Rio Grande de Orosi.

Convict cichlid
[Archocentrus cryptoheros]. It is 10-15 cm in length fish. It stands out with dark vertical bands running the length of the body (hence the name). One of the most agressive fish. It has two main colour variations: black and pink grayish body with black bands or pinkish with darker pink bands. Adults often remove stones and leaves on the bottom exposing invertebrates and algas being the staple diet of their fries.

Bull shark
[Carcharhinus leucas]. It prefers to live in shallow coastal waters less than 30 m. It commonly enters estuaries, bays, harbors, lagoons, and river mouths. It is the only shark species that readily occurs in freshwater. They are very robust-bodied and have a blunt, rounded snout. They lack an interdorsal ridge. The first dorsal fin is large and broadly triangular with a pointed apex. The second dorsal fin is significantly smaller. The pectoral fins are also large and angular. They are pale to dark gray above, fading to white on their underside. The maximum reported length of the bull shark is 350 cm weighing over 230 kg. Bony fishes and small sharks make up the vast majority of its diet. They are spot in Tortuguero canals and San Juan river.

Whitetip reef shark
[Triaenodon obesus]. Body moderately slender with a very broad and flattened head. Broadly rounded snout. Short labial furrows. First dorsal fin is well behind the free rear ends of the pectoral fins. Second dorsal fin large but still smaller than first one. Pectoral fins fairly broad and triangular. No interdorsal ridge. No lateral keels on caudal peduncle. Grey to brownish upper body with light ventral surface. Feeds on reef fishes and crustaceans. Primarily nocturnal, but seems to be correlated with tidal ranges. It is spot within Catalinas islets and in Papagayo Bay.

Whale shark
[Rhincodon typus]. It was discovered in 1829. The largest living fish. Maximum size is thought to be 20m. Pelagic species. It has a streamlined body and a depressed, broad, and flattened head. The mouth is transverse, very large and nearly at the tip of the snout. Gill slits are very large, modified internally into filtering screens. The first dorsal fin is much larger than the second dorsal fin, and set rearward on body. The two lobed caudal fin (tail) is semi-lunate in adults. They are greyish, bluish or brownish above, with an upper surface pattern of creamy white spots between pale, vertical and horizontal stripes. The belly is white. They feed on wide variety of planktonic and larger free-swimming prey, such as small crustaceans, schooling fishes, and occasionally on tuna and squids. It is spot within Cocos Island and near playas Ocotal and Coco.

Hammerhead shark
[Sphyrna zygaena], (pata). It gets its common names from the large hammer-shaped head, which is broad and flattened with a broadly rounded unnotched anterior margin. The eyes are located on the outer edges of the head with the nostrils also spread far apart. Its back is smooth, lacking a mid-dorsal ridge. The moderately tall first dorsal fin has a rounded apex and is falcate in shape with a free rear tip in front of the origin of the pelvic fins. The origin of this first dorsal is located over the pectoral fin insertions. The low second dorsal fin is shorter than the anal fin, with the free rear tip not extending to the precaudal pit. Pelvic fins are not falcate with straight of slightly concave posterior margins. The pectoral fins have only slightly falcate posterior margins. The anal fin has a deeply notched posterior margin. The ventrally-located mouth is strongly arched. The body of the smooth hammerhead is dark olive to brownish-gray in color with a white underside. The avarage size ranges between 2,5-3,5 m. of lenght (maximum total lenght 5 m. and maximum weight of 450 kg). They are easily spot within Cocos Island and along coast of Corcovado National Park.

Greater amberjack
[Seriola dumerili]. It reaches to 110 cm of length. Elongated body, posterior end of upper jaw relatively broad. In adults, length of dorsal fin lobe equal or slightly longer than pectoral fin. Anterior margin of first pterygiophore of anal fin moderately concave. Caudal peduncle grooves present. Lateral line without scutes. It is dark pink dorsally and laterally, darker on the head, and pale ventrally.

[Megalops atlanticus], (silver king). It inhabits coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons, and rivers. It feeds on various fish and crabs. It is capable of filling its swim bladder with air and absorbing oxygen from it. Specimens have been recorded at up to 250 cm in length and weighing up to 161 kg. In appearance, it is greenish or bluish on top, and silver on the sides. The large mouth is turned upwards, the lower jaw containing an elongated bony plate. The last ray of the dorsal fin is much longer than the others, reaching nearly to the tail. It is very strong, making spectacular leaps into the air. The flesh is desirable but bony. It is spot in Rio Frio and Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. The biggest tarpons in Costa Rica inhabit Cano Negro lake. In 1978 was caught a record sized tarpon in Parismina river.


Costa Rica exports tunas to 26 countries. Soon to Costa Rica will be moved the Interamerican Tuna Comission which was established in 1950 as part of regional treaty to regulate tuna fishing in the eastern Pacific.

bluefin tuna - [Thunnus thynnus]. The body is deepest near the insertion of the pelvic fins, and tapers significantly to the caudal peduncle. The head is long and somewhat pointed, and the eye is small. Two dorsal fins are present, with a small space separating them. The second dorsal fin is taller than the first. The anal fin begins well behind the insertion of the second dorsal fin. The body is a metallic deep blue above and the lower sides and belly are silvery white. The maximum length reported is 458 cm and the maximum weight reported is 684 kg. They exhibit strong schooling behavior while they are young. It is spot on the atlantic side of Costa Rica.

yellowfin tuna - [Thunnus albacares]. Epipelagic, oceanic fish. Its body is strongly fusiform, and deepest under its first dorsal fin, while tapering considerably towards the caudal peduncle. Two dorsal fins are present. In adults, the second dorsal fin is very long, as is the anal fin, which is directly below the second dorsal. These fins become relatively longer in larger individuals. The pectoral fin is also long, reaching beyond the space between the dorsal fins. The caudal peduncle is very slender and includes three sets of keels. It is the most colourfull from tunas. The body is metallic dark blue or greenish above, while the belly and lower sides are silvery white and crossed by many vertical, interrupted lines. The maximum length reported for yellowfin is 280 cm total length and the maximum weight is 400 kg. Spot on both sides of CR.

[Acanthocybium solandri], (serra-da-india). It is pelagic, living in solitary or forming small, loose aggregations. Jaws are elongated to form an almost beak-like snout; the teeth are triangular and finely serrated. Two dorsal fins are present; the first is several times the length of the second. The pelvic fins are situated below the pectoral fins. The caudal peduncle is narrow and contains three sets of keels. Small scales cover the body and no anterior corselet is present. The body is dark blue or green above, with 24 or more wavy cobalt blue bars running vertically along the sides. The belly and lower sides are silvery. The maximum reported size for the wahoo is 250 cm total length, with a maximum weight of 83 kg. It swims with the speed compared to 80 km/h. It is spot within Cano island.

© 2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski