Parrotfish Beaks Are Really, Really Strong

CORAL REEFS ARE DYNAMIC EQUATIONS, CONSTANTLY BEING BUILT UP AND TORN DOWN. The stony corals and the coralline algae mostly do the building. Major factors in the tearing-down side are parrotfish. And, especially, the teeth in parrotfish beaks. Parrotfish don’t set out to tear down coral. As herbivores, they focus on eating the algae that live on the surfaces of coral polyps’ calcium carbonate exoskeletons, or corallites. And they work at this pretty continuously, scraping

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Reef Lizardfish, Ambush Experts

LIKE ALL LIZARDFISH, REEF LIZARDFISH ARE AMBUSH EXPERTS. With their typical lizard-ish posture of sitting up on their pectoral fins, their M.O. is to lie on the bottom and grab passing prey in the form of small (sometimes surprisingly large) fishes with lightning-fast strikes. Reef lizardfish (Synodus veriegatus) are Indo-Pacific denizens, one of some 45 species found worldwide in Family Synodontidae. LYING IN WAIT With colors and markings that help camouflage them, lizardfish are found on

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Lionfish Hunting Techniques Count on Confusion

INVASIVE LIONFISH HAVE BEEN A PROBLEM FOR NATIVE FISH SPECIES throughout  the Atlantic/Caribbean since their introduction into Florida waters in the 1980s. For one thing, they have the advantage of preying on fishes unaccustomed to their modus operandi. For another, lionfish hunting techniques are fast, crafty and sneaky. In the Indo/Pacific basin, they’re formidable predators anyway, equipped with a wealth of venomous spines, superb camouflage in colorings and body shape and an ability to herd

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Pearlfish and their Sea Cucumber B&B

A POST HERE SEVERAL MONTHS AGO closed with the “Really Odd Fact” that blenny-like pearlfish (Periclimenes imperator) have a habit of taking up residence in the … well…rear ends of sea cucumbers. The overall post, “Sea Cucumbers – Superheroes of the Sea,” was about the fact that sea cucumbers, often ignored as inert, unimportant creatures, actually had a lot to recommend them.  THE PEARLFISH/CUCUMBER EQUATION The pearlfish/cuke interaction is generally described as commensal relationship, but that term implies a

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“Fish Flashing:” Fishy Therapy, or Simply a Good Backscratch?

WHETHER FOR HEALTH OR PLEASURE, FISH SOMETIMES ENGAGE IN A PHENOMENON CALLED “FLASHING,” otherwise known as rubbingtheir bodies along the sea bottom. Ned Deloach, in his estimable Reef Fish Behavior, describes it as an effort to deal with the irritation of parasites by scrapping them off, an alternative to the much more commonly seen symbiotic cleaning by small fishes and crustaceans. Discussions about the cleaning dynamic sometimes suggest that, in addition to health benefits, the fish

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Who’s Who: Juvenile Slender Filefish

SLENDER FILEFISH (Monacanthus tuckeri) are only a few inches long and spend much of their time hiding out among gorgonians like this sea rod at the Turneffe Flats atoll off the coast of Belize.  They’re very good at camouflage and somewhat challenging to spot. They’re denizens of the Atlantic/Caribbean basin, found from the southeastern Caribbean as far north as North Carolina and Bermuda. SECOND OPINION PRINCIPAL SOURCES: Reef Fish Identification Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas; Reef Coral Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas,  Paul

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Puffers Sleeping, Brittlestars at Work

THE MARKINGS OF THE FISHES AT LEFT AND LOWER RIGHT suggest members of the genus Canthigaster, sharp-nosed puffers often known as toby’s that are found in the Indo-Pacific. But the specific designs and colors are sufficiently different from the familiar black saddled toby (Canthigaster valentini) to suggest they’re not described in any of the references I have access to. CANTHIGASTER POSEIDONSWEBUS   But there are a lot of fishes in the sea, so to speak, and

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Black Durgons: In Living Color

BLACK DURGONS (MELICHTHYS NIGER) HAVE LONG BEEN BOTH A FAVORITE FISH OF MINE and a challenge to photograph. A favorite because I like their dramatic effect – all that blackness with blue stripes along their anterior dorsal and anal fins – and their wiggly technique of swimming powered by those fins. A challenge because, well, they’re black. They suck up light like a black hole. And (see above), they’re wiggly. I’ve shot more black, blobby

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Anglerfishes: Graceful and Stunning in an Awesome Video

A STUNNING VIDEO OF PERMANENTLY MATED ANGLERFISHES  has been captured by two marine biologists in the Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean off Portugal’s coast. As deep-sea denizens, anglerfishes are best known for the bioluminescent lures projected from their heads, positioned to attract prey in the dark surrounding waters. With long, sharp teeth, they appear quite fierce, but because of the depths at which they live, much about them is a mystery. REMARKABLE MATING PROCESS But

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Trunkfishes, Cowfishes: Boxy But Cute!

WHAT’S MORE ENDEARING THAN WATCHING A TRUNKFISH SWIM? Watching a baby trunkfish jiggle about trying to. Trunkfishes at their best are relatively inept swimmers, with bulky, triangular bodies and limited tailfin  propulsion. They row furiously, they move slowly and awkwardly. As juveniles, they’re small and round. Their tails are barely there, almost negligible, making for less control, with a certain amount of yeeing and yawing. It’s both irresistible to watch them work to master their

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