Notarius biffi , Ricardo Betancur-R. & Arturo Acero P., 2004

Ricardo Betancur-R. & Arturo Acero P., 2004, Description of Notarius biffi n. sp. and redescription of N. insculptus (Jordan and Gilbert) (Siluriformes: Ariidae) from the eastern Pacific, with evidence of monophyly and limits of Notarius, Zootaxa 703, pp. 1-20: 3-7

publication ID


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Notarius biffi

new species

Notarius biffi  ZBK  new species

Figs. 1-3

Arius species A  : Bussing and López, 1994: 62-63; Robertson and Allen, 2002.

“Arius” species A  : Kailola and Bussing, 1995: 876.

Holotype. STRI 6674 (formerly STRI 5713; stri 15942), male, 200 mm SL, collected by D.R. Robertson and R. Cooke, 17 December 2001, research vessel (R/V) Urraca, 9 m depth, high salinity estuary, Bahía La Unión, El Salvador (SV) (13°20’42” N, 87°49’07” W). Cyt b, ATPase 8 and ATPase 6 sequences are available in GenBank, accession numbers AY688667, AY688654 and AY688641, respectively. 

Paratypes. STRI 5713, two males, 201-298 mm SL, female, 234 mm SL, same collection data as holotype  ; UCR 2451-2 (voucher 95-6), female, 246 mm SL  , UCR 2451-2 (voucher 95-7), female, 259 mm SL, collected by T. Aldare, May 1995, Tárcoles, Puntarenas, Costa Rica (CR) (9º46'00" N, 84º32'00" W)  ; UCR 2452-3, female, 324 mm SL, collected by local fishermen, 13 February 1995, 100 m seine, mud flats, Costa de Pájaros, Golfo de Nicoya, Puntarenas, CR (10º06'05" N, 85º03'00" W), deposited by G. Klesson and D. Brooks  ; UCR 2386-15 (voucher 497), female, 190 mm SL  , UCR 2386-15 (voucher 498), unsexed specimen, 191 mm SL  , UCR 2386-15 (voucher 505), unsexed specimen, 175 mm SL, collected by M.I. Bussing and W.A. Bussing, 15 February 1994, 3 m dredge, R/V Victor Hensen, 10 m depth, off Manzanilla, upper Golfo de Nicoya, Puntarenas, CR (10º06'48" N, 86º03'54" W)  ; UCR 2387-23 (voucher 504), male 225 mm SL, collected by M.I. Bussing and W.A. Bussing, 16 February 1994, 3 m dredge, R/V Victor Hensen, 18 m depth, off Punta Morales, Golfo de Nicoya, Puntarenas, CR (10º02'06" N, 84º57'24" W)  .

Diagnosis. Notarius biffi  ZBK  is distinguished from other EP species of Notarius  ZBK  by the following combination of features: a small mouth, its width 34.2-39.3% (mean 36.2%) HL; eye large, its diameter 3.8-4.5% (mean 4.2%); short mandibulary barbels, their length 10.2-13.1% (mean 11.6%) SL; short anterior internarial distance, 17.9-20.8% (mean 19.4%) HL; relatively slender caudal peduncle, depth 6.1-6.7% (mean 6.4%) SL; and gill rakers on first arch 3-4+7-8 (mode 12). The combination of the following characters also distinguish this species from other EP ariids: triangular humeral process, three pairs of barbels present, fleshy furrow between posterior nostrils absent, fleshy groove in median depression of head absent, coarse to sharp granules or spinulations on anterior surface of head shield absent, and gill rakers on rear surfaces of first two gill arches absent. Meristic and morphometric data of the type series are summarized in Table 1.

Description. (based on combined data from type series) Body depth 5.4-6.9 in SL; body width 4.8-5.4 in SL. Head elongated, length 3.5-3.9 in SL, width 1.2-1.4 in HL, depth 1.6-1.8 in HL. Snout large, length 2.7-2.9 in HL. Mouth inferior to subterminal. Lips thin to moderately thick, upper lip width 14.1-21.0 in HL. Maxillary barbels short, usually not reaching pectoral fin bases, length 16.9-21.9% SL. Mental barbels 11.2-13.3 in SL. Distance between posterior nostrils short, 5.0-5.9 in HL. Interorbital distance short, 2.2-2.8 in HL. Eye diameter 5.9-7.6 in HL, 1.1-1.5 in distance between anterior nostrils, and 2.2-3.3 in interorbital distance. Postorbital length 1.9-2.1 in HL. Head shield exposed, covered posteriorly with large scattered granules, extending anteriorly as four ridges: lateral ridges rugose and reaching slightly forward of eyes, medial ridges smooth and extending into internarial space. Frontal depression broad. Supraoccipital process keeled; length 3.7-5.8 in HL and 14.1-20.1 in SL; width 3.9-5.2 in HL, 15.1-18.2 in SL, and 0.9-1.1 in its length. Epioccipital bones (= epiotics) sometimes slightly invade skull surface (mainly in large adults). Predorsal plate narrow and crescent-shaped. Premaxillary tooth patch with villiform teeth. Palatine with villiform teeth arranged in four patches: inner patches (vomerine) united medially and longer than wide, lateral patches broader, rounded anteriorly and with an indentation into which inner patches fit (Fig. 3). Predorsal fin length 2.6- 2.9 in SL. Dorsal fin base 9.5-10.8 in SL, dorsal fin spine height 5.1-6.0 in SL. Distance between dorsal fin and adipose fin 3.4-4.0 in SL. Base of adipose fin 8.4-9.8 in SL, as long as, or somewhat longer than base of dorsal fin; height of adipose fin 9.5-11.8 in SL. Pectoral fin base 18.6-21.6 in SL; pectoral fin spine length 5.3-5.9 in SL, its inner margin with strong and curved serrations. Pelvic fin base 22.6-25.3 in SL in females and 29.6- 33.3 in SL in males; pelvic fin length 6.2-6.7 in SL in females and 6.9-7.3 in SL in males. Anal fin base 6.5-7.9 in SL; anal fin height 5.6-6.7 in SL. Dorsal fin elements I,7; pectoral fin elements I,10-11; pelvic fin elements 6; anal fin elements 19-21; Gill rakers on second arch 3-4+7-9.

Coloration. In life, dorsum brown to grey, flanks and venter silver, dorsal fin pale, other fins dusky, barbels grey. In alcohol, brownish on dorsum, whitish below. Kailola and Bussing(1995) report a darker and duller coloration in breeding males of “Arius” species A  (= N. biffi  ZBK  ).

Size. Largest specimen examined 324 mm SL and 385 mm TL (UCR 2452-3, paratype). The maximum length reported by Kailola and Bussing (1995) and Robertson and Allen (2002) is 38 cm.

Distribution. The species is known in the tropical EP from central and north Costa Rica and El Salvador. Although Kailola and Bussing (1995) speculate that “Arius ” species A  extends southwards to Panamá, R. Cooke (pers. comm., 2004) doubts that this species is present in Panamá, at least from Parita Bay eastwards.

Habitat. Inshore marine and brackish waters, and high salinity estuaries. The type series was collected between 9 m and 18 m depth, but Robertson and Allen (2002) report a wider range of 10 m to 30 m.

Etymology. We name the species to honor Dr. Eldredge (Biff) Bermingham (STRI), for his important contribution to the knowledge of neotropical fish biogeography.

Common names. We propose the official English common name of “chomba sea catfish ”, given by Robertson and Allen (2002). In order to fulfill the need of official names in other languages, we also propose “cominata chomba” (Spanish) and “ mâchoiron chomba” (French).


Panama, Balboa, (via USA, Florida, Miami), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


USA, California, Riverside, University of California