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(tangs, surgeonfishes), a family of fishes of the order Perciformes. The Acanthuridae measure 15–60 cm in length. The body, extremely flattened laterally, is covered with tiny, coarse scales. Each side of the caudal stalk has one or two bony shields equipped with a pointed keel, spike, or sharp, movable knifelike spine. The spine, which is concealed under the skin, can be abruptly erected to wound enemies.
The family consists of nine genera, embracing 300 species. Many are brightly and fantastically colored. The genus Acanthurus lives in all oceans except the northern Arctic; the rest are distributed mainly near the coasts of Southeast Asia and western India. No species inhabit seas of the USSR. The Acanthuridae live in shallows near the bottom, most often among coral reefs and rocks. The larvae feed on plankton, and adults are mainly herbivorous. The flesh of the Acanthuridae is edible but of little commercial value. Some species are poisonous.