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

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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Osteichthyes vs. Chondrichthyes, Bony vs. Cartilaginous

The terms Osteichthyes and Chondrichthyes may seem a trifle wonkish, as opposed to street talk like “bony fish,” “sharks” and “rays,” but you will encounter them from time to time and should at least be aware of them. •   Osteichthyes (os-tee-ik’-thee-eez, from the Greek for “bone” and “fish”) is the taxonomic class of bony fishes, those with hard, rigid skeletons based on calcium, phosphate and other minerals, smooth scales, covered gills and flexible fins. With

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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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 Diving with Manta Rays: Atlantic Giant Manta Encounter

DIVING WITH MANTA RAYS WAS SORT OF A DISTANT FANTASY. I just wanted to see them. The giant Atlantic mantas I had seen in the past were fast-moving and, mouths agape, totally focused on sweeping up the plankton they make their livings on. Suddenly here, there, gone. Spending extended time in close-up choreography with one of these gentle giants was not in my vision. Until it was. The dive was at Flower Garden Banks National

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Manta Rays: Gentle Giants Explained

1)  THERE ARE TWO SPECIES OF MANTA RAYS – OCEAN MANTAS (MANTA BIROSTRIS) AND REEF MANTAS (MANTA ALFREDI). M. birostris is also sometimes known by the names giant ocean manta and Atlantic giant manta. Mantas are the largest members of the ray family and among the largest fishes in the sea. 2) Oceanic mantas are found worldwide, often reported as swimming great distances across oceans. They generally prefer tropical and subtropical waters. 3) Reef mantas 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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