Moderate to large fishes (maximum length 55 cm SL, usually 20-25 cm SL), with compressed, elongated or deep body. Mouth usually superior or terminal in some species; upper jaw with 2 supramaxillae; lower jaw articulation under eye; teeth on jaws small or minute, canines only in a western Atlantic species, Chirocentrodon bleekerianus. Eyelids with broad vertical opening in middle. Branchiostegals 6. Fins without spines; dorsal fin single, short (absent in Indo- West Pacific species, Raconda russeliana), situated near midpoint of body; anal fin long, 30-92 rays; pectoral fins moderate or large; pelvic fins with 6 or 7 rays, situated before dorsalfin origin, but absent in some genera; caudal fin forked. Body covered with cycloid scales; a complete series of scutes along abdomen; lateral line absent. Color: bluish green dorsally, blight silver laterally and ventrally.|
Similar families occurring in the area. Pristigasteridae different from other similar families in having lower jaw articulation under eye, pelvic fins inserting before dorsal-fin origin, long anal fin with more than 30 rays, a complete series of scutes along abdomen, and no lateral line. Elopidae: lateral line present; no abdominal scutes; gular plate present; numerous branchiostegal rays (more than 20). Megalopidae: lateral line present, no abdominal scutes; gular plate present; numerous branchiostegal rays (more than 20). Albulidae: lateral line present; no abdominal scutes; gular plate present. Chirocentridae: body highly compressed and elongate; no abdominal scutes; jaws with developed fanglike canine teeth. Clupeidae: pelvic fins inserting just below dorsal-fin origin; anal fin short with less than 28 rays. Engraulidae: snout pig-like and projecting; jaw articulation well behind eye. Chanidae: lateral line present; no abdominal scutes; branchiostegal rays few (4 or 5).
Remarks. Schooling fishes found in coastal areas of tropical and subtropical seas; some species entering estuaries, and a few species restricted to freshwater. Food fishes used as fresh, dried, or salted ones.