Symphurus ocellaris is described on the basis of a holotype (73.2 mm SL) and paratype (42.3 mm SL) collected in the environs of Coiba Island, Gulf of Chiriqui, Pacific Panama, at 24 m and 7.4 m, respectively. This species is distinguished from congeners by the combination of: a 1–3–4 pattern of interdigitation of dorsal-fin pterygiophores and neural spines (ID pattern), 12 caudal-fin rays, presence of an ocellated spot on the caudal fin in both sexes, 51 total vertebrae, 96–97 dorsal-fin rays, 80–81 anal-fin rays, 85–86 longitudinal scale rows, a pupillary operculum, unpigmented peritoneum, uniformly pigmented blind side, and ocular-side background coloration lacking prominent dark spots or conspicuous crossbands. Symphurus ocellaris is only the second known species in the genus characterized by a 1–3–4 ID pattern. Among eastern Pacific Symphurus, S. callopterus also has a 1–3–4 ID pattern and 12 caudal-fin rays, but lacks the ocellated caudal spot, has a different ocular-side pigmentation, and has higher, non-overlapping meristic features. The only other eastern Pacific tonguefish with an ocellated caudal-fin spot, S. fasciolaris, differs in having 10 caudal-fin rays, a 1–4–3 ID pattern, and ocular-side pigmentation featuring prominent spots and crossbands.
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