Who’s Who among fishes, what they do and why they do it.

Sharksuckers: Not Just for Sharks! And They Don’t Suck

More properly known as remoras, the “sharksuckers” that famously hitch rides on sharks also stick themselves to tunas, manta rays and other large fishes, turtles, whales, boats and anything else that might move. Including, occasionally, divers.   SHARKSUCKERS – REMORAS – USE LARGE SUCTION PADS on the tops of their heads to stick to their hosts, relying on those sharks, rays or whatever to do the heavy work of actually moving. The suction pads are transformed

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The Lionfish Enigma: Atlantic Threat But Not Pacific

LIONFISHES HAVE BEEN AROUND IN THE INDO/PACIFIC FOR EONS, yet almost all talk about them focuses on their presence in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Google “lionfish” and you’ll find a zillion articles on them as an invasive threat in the Atlantic basin for each one about them in their native habitat. Okay. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but the idea is good. There’s an enormous disparity in Atlantic and Pacific lionfish articles. Almost all of

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Trumpetfish: Sneaky, Relentless Predators on the Reef

THINK ABOUT THE MOST RELENTLESS HUNTERS ON THE REEF and you probably envision menacing sharks, barracudas and moray eels. But those are mere grandstanders in the predation game. High on the list of sneaky relentless predators would have to be a species of fishes that Caribbean divers encounter so frequently – and that appear so benign – that they’re likely to take them for granted and ignore them. After all, the ever-present trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus)

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Balloonfish & Porcupinefish: Big Eyes, Mona Lisa Smile

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BALLOONFISH AND PORCUPINEFISH?  They’re both unobtrusive, usually little guys with an ability to inflate into spiny basketball-shapes when disturbed. It’s a defensive response to threats. And, divers are often confused as to which is which. First of all, when you see picture of them, they’re often inflated like stuffed pincushions. In fact, like this…. But the truth is that recreational divers who are minding their manners are unlikely to see them

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Hamlet Fishes: Chasing the Hamlet Grand Slam

WHO KNEW THAT SPOTTING LITTLE GUYS LIKE BUTTER AND BARRED HAMLET FISHES could be challenging? I’ve thought of them as fairly bland little fishes of modest interest. I’m aware of occasionally seeing vivid blue indigo hamlets (Hypoplectus indigo) in Bonaire and Belize but not the other dozen or so species to be found around the tropical Atlantic/Caribbean. Which sounds fishy considering that Humann and DeLoache’s Reef Fish Identification says barred hamlets (Hypoplectus puella) constitute the most

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Glass or Masked, Gobies We Hardly See You

THESE LITTLE GUYS ARE SO SMALL AND TRANSLUCENT THAT YOU HARDLY NOTICE THEM, but they’re actually pretty common on reefs in the Caribbean. Tiny fishes that swim in swarms of a dozen or so just off the corals, they’re either glass gobies or masked gobies. Both an inch or so in length, the two species are so similar that one source suggests the only way to be sure is to hold them in your hand

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Shades of Orange – Clownfish, By the Numbers

1  ALL CLOWNFISHES ARE ANEMONEFISHES, but only two species of anemonefishes get to be called clownfishes, and one of them is the false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). 2   Widely thought of as the archetypal clownfish, the adorable hero of Finding Nemo is actually a false clownfish, with three broad white bands encircling his body. But that’s a design that’s easily animated and he had great marketing reps. 3   The color patterns of true clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion percula) are

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Bluehead Wrasses – The Great Damselfish Egg-Raid

IF YOU’VE DIVED IN THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC/CARIBBEAN, you’ve almost certainly seen bluehead wrasses. Of course, most of them weren’t blue. The blueheaded members of bluehead wrasse world are terminal-phase males, or supermales. Despite their high visibility, they make up no more than 10 percent of a given bluehead wrasse population. The overwhelming majority of bluehead wrasses are yellow – juveniles or initial-phase adults or something in between. Blueheads (Thalassoma bifasciatum) are among those fish that

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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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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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