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It grows to a maximum of 26 cm (10 in) long. The body is golden yellow. The base of the posterior portions of the dorsal and anal fins is black, a prominent vertical black bar runs across the eye and there are diagonal rows of black dots on the sides. A filament originating from the soft portions of the dorsal fin rays trails posteriorly. The Dotted Butterflyfish belongs to the large subgenus Rabdophorus which might warrant recognition as a distinct genus. In this group, it appears to represent a distinct lineage, with the Saddle Butterflyfish (C. ephippium) perhaps the only somewhat closely related species. Next closest seems to be a group including the Black-backed Butterflyfish (C. melannotus), Spot-tailed Butterflyfish (C. ocellicaudus) and Yellow-dotted Butterflyfish (C. selene), but these are already so distant that their ancestors must have diverged from the Saddle Butterflyfish's soon after the Rabdophorus lineage started to diversify.
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