Michi Tobler, 2005
Cichlid Room Companion
Focus Central America

The "Cichlasoma" urophthalmus species group

By , 2006. image
Last updated on 03-Mar-2006

The 'C.' urophthalmus species group includes a group of very distinct Central American cichlids characterized by a large mouth, distinct vertical bands and a blotch on the caudal peduncle. Until recently, only one species with a wide distribution from Southern México to Nicaragua was recognized: Heros urophthalmus Günther, 1862 from "Petén" in Guatemala. 'C.' urophthalmus is one of the very few Central American cichlids that are well studied in terms of their geographical variability (Hubbs, 1935 to 1938). On the basis of this variability several subspecies were proposed. These were elevated to species level by Kullander (2003): " Some of the most enigmatic cases include 'Cichlasoma' urophthalmus, of which Hubbs (1936) described numerous subspecies. Some of these taxa are certainly distinct species, but the status of highly localized subspecies from the Yuacatan Peninsula, which are based on one or very few specimens, remains a subject for revision. All these taxa are herein treated as valid for want of any better option."

Please also refer to the short overview over the Mayan cichlid complex including a list of recent literature (mostly in Spanish and so far not available to me) by Medina Barrientos (here).

The following list and figure should give a short overview on the forms described and their geographical origin.

Type locality Species name proposed Characteristics

Petén area, Guatemala

Petén, Guatemala

'C.' urophthalmus

  • laterally compressed; pointed snout; lower jaw longer than upper jaw
  • eye color: yellow to orange
  • blotch on caudal peduncle is small in both sexes, lies on the upper edge and has a white margin
  • male ground coloration: yellowish to greenish, reddish coloration on the flanks, vertical bands narrow and grey
  • female ground coloration: yellowish, dorsalis with a dark blotch
Rio San Pedro de Marti, tributary of the Rio Usumacinta, at El Paso de los Caballos, Petén Guatemala

'C.' uropthalmus trispilum

  • very high bodied
  • two additional blotched on the caudal peduncle (trispilum = with three spots)
  • synonymized with 'C.' urophthalmus (Kullander, 2003)

Tabasco, México

Rio Usumacinta at Montecristo, Tabasco, México

'C.' alborum

  • body very slender
  • blotch on the caudal peduncle with a white margin (albus = white, ora = margin)
  • occurs from Rio Usumacinta to Rio Coatzacoalcos

Campeche, México

Aguada at Tuxpena, interior Campeche, about 90 km south, and 40 km east of Champoton

'C.' aguadae

  • black vertical bands wider than spaces in between

Yucatan Peninsula, México: Progreso area

Brackish pool, 3 km south of Progreso

'C.' cienagae

  • very high bodied
  • color pattern like 'C.' urophthalmus and 'C.' alborum

Yucatan Peninsula, México: Chichen Itza area

Xtolok Cenote, Chichen Itza

'C.' mayorum

  • slender body
  • dark ground coloration
  • described on specimens of maximally 90 mm SL

Yucatan Peninsula, México: Merida area

Conchita Cenote, Merida

'C.' conchitae

  • slender body
  • narrow vertical bands
  • possibly introduced in the Conchita Cenote
San Bulha Cenote, Merida

'C.' ericymba

  • cave form with enlarged eyes and sensory pores
  • ground coloration varies from faint to dark
  • typical vertical bands present
Xlaka Cenote, Merida

'C.' zebra

  • very distinct and constant vertical bands that reach into the vertical fins (name!)

Yucatan Peninsula, México: Cancun area

Isla Mujeres, off the eastern coast of Yuacatan Peninsula

'C.' amarum

  • short and high bodied
  • dark ground coloration with very distinct vertical bars that are as wide as the spaces in between

Exact type locality unknown

Central America

'C.' stenozonum

  • vertical bands very narrow

'C.' troschelii

  • synonymized with 'C.' urophthalmus by Stawikowski & Werner (1998)

Miller (2005) refers to unpublished work by J. N. Taylor and notes that the use of trinomials and thus the splitting of 'C.' urophthalmus is unjustified. The names resurrected by Kullander (2003) hence should be considered as synonyms.

Satellite image with type localities of the species included in the 'C.' urophthalmus species group. Figure by Michi Tobler

References (2):


Tobler, Michi. (Mar 03, 2006). "The "Cichlasoma" urophthalmus species group". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Feb 24, 2024, from: