BEAUTIFUL DAMSELS: BAHAMAS REEF FISH (9)
THREE-SPOT DAMSELFISHPhoto credits: Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba (except header image – Wiki-cheers)
THREE-SPOT DAMSELFISHPhoto credits: Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba (except header image – Wiki-cheers)
Butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae) belong to a large worldwide family of small, colourful reef fishes. There are several sorts to be found in the Bahamas, of which 4 are shown below. These creatures resemble small angel fishes, and are invariably vividly coloured, strikingly patterned, or in many cases, both. Apart from that, the most interesting fact about them is that their species name Chaetodontidae derives from a Greek compound noun meaning ‘hair tooth’. This unsettling description relates to the rows of tiny, fine filament-like teeth inside their protuberant mouths. If I ever get a photo of a butterflyfish showing its teeth while feeding or yawning, I will add it here…
The term ‘PARROTFISH’ comprises many related species (80) around the world inhabiting shallow tropical and subtropical waters. They are commonly found in coral reefs and seagrass beds, and along rocky coasts. They play a significant role in BIOEROSION. Here are some examples of 5 of this species that inhabit the waters of the Northern Bahamas
PARROTFISH FACTS TO ASTOUND AND IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH
A. FEEDING HABITS
1. Named for their dental arrangements – a mouthful of teeth, forming the characteristic ‘beak’
2. Primarily herbivore but not above snacking on small creatures / organisms or even molluscs
3. Their teeth grow continuously, replacing ones worn away by feeding on coral
4. As they feed on algae etc, their teeth grind up the coral, which they ingest
5. Then (get this!) they digest it and excrete it as sand… it’s a component of your favourite beach!
6. “One parrotfish can produce 90 kilograms (200 lb) of sand each year”. Wiki says so – it must be true
7. They are a vital species in preventing algae from choking coral
B. PERSONAL INFORMATION (theirs, I mean)
1. Some species secrete a protective mucous cocoon to sleep in or to conceal themselves from predators
2. A mucous substance also helps heal damage, repel parasites, & protect them from UV light
3. As they develop, most species change colour significantly to become vivid adults – “polychromatism”
4. Some juveniles can change colour temporarily to mimic other species as a protection
5. Most are “sequential hermaphrodites”, turning from female to male (a few change vice versa)
6. They tend to hang out in groups of similarly-sized / -developed fish
7. Single males tend to have several lady friends, and aggressively defend their love rights
8. Parrotfish are PELAGIC SPAWNERS. Females release many tiny buoyant eggs into the water, which float freely and settle into the coral until they hatch
9. Unlike other fishes, they use their pectoral fins to propel themselves
10. Their feeding behaviour makes them unsuitable for marine aquariums
Anyone interested in getting more information about Parrotfishes – maybe about that whole female / male transformation thing? – is recommended to look at an article by Tim Smith of Miami University, Ohio entitled THE BAHAMAS: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE COLORFUL AND UNIQUE PARROTFISH Click on the P-word to get to it directly.
If you are pressed for time, here is the article conveniently digested into bullet points:
Some more bullet points from Tim Smith’s article:
STOPLIGHT PARROTFISH (adult and, below, juvenile form)Thanks to Melinda of Grand Bahama Scuba for her fantastic illustrative pics; the header is mine own
It’s possible that I won’t be quite as attentive with posts / replies to comments etc over the next couple of weeks or so. I’ve a few things in the pipeline, but it may depend on wifi access… I’m giving up trying to use an iPhone to post while on the move – fine for snaps, but not for anything more complicated. So apologies in advance, and like Arnie, I’m afraid I’ll be back…
I recently posted about the highly coloured QUEEN ANGELFISH, a striking coral reef resident glowing with fluorescent blues and yellows. It’s the Angelfish that went into showbiz and succeeded. Its close cousin the Gray Angelfish is a more sedate creature, with the appearance of a professional – law, possibly, or medicine. That thin blue fin-edging suggests a flamboyant streak. Slightly mean mouth? Lawyer.**
This species is found in the warm waters of Florida, and south through the Bahamas and Caribbean as far as Brazil. They are found at depths from 2 m. down to 30 m. You are most likely to encounter one on a coral reef feeding on sponges, its main diet. The fish below with the bluer face is a teenager, in transition between juvenile and adult.
It’s clear from side on that Gray Angelfish are ‘upright flat’, but it’s surprising just how slim they actually are. Photographer Melinda Riger has captured this front view against a stunning red backdrop. Disappointingly, these fish seem to lead blameless and anodyne lives as reef-foragers, and I’ve been unable to turn up a single interesting fact about them. That’s lawyers for you.**Photo Credits: main images ©Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba; Header – Wikipix
** I can say this – I am one…
The Queen Angel is one of several reef fish species where the difference in colouring between juveniles and adults is marked. They are commonly found in the waters of Florida and the Bahamas, with a range extending to the Gulf of Mexico. Adults can grow to 3.5 lbs (to mix metric with avoirdupois) and they can live up to 15 years. Like all Angelfish, they rely on their pectoral fins for propulsion as they forage on the reefs for their mixed diet of sponges, coral, plankton, algae, and even jellyfish. As the photo below shows, they have no problem swimming upside down…
Evidence suggests that adult Queen Angels may form ‘monogamous’ pairings. Brief research in the factosphere suggests that the proposition is somewhat tenuous. Maybe pairs just like hanging out - possibly to gain some territorial advantage – and anthropomorphising that into lifelong partnership terms may be overstating the relationship… Whether wed for life or not, the actual mating process is remarkably efficient. The pair snuggle up close, simultaneously releasing large quantities of sperm and tens of thousands of eggs. The fertilised eggs hatch within a day. Respect!
Photo Credits for the amazing main images: ©Melinda Riger (Grand Bahama Scuba), with thanks; header image WikiPic
This post is the first of a planned series on Bahamian reef fish. Those who follow this blog (I thank you both) may recall with horror (or worse, pity) my own efforts with reef fish, using a tiny cellphone-sized video camera. Misty stills culled from video footage. Enthusiastically wobbly movies as I struggle to swim and breathe simultaneously in an alien element. I am more underwater CLOUSEAU than COUSTEAU. However, thanks to Melinda Riger, who with husband Fred runs GRAND BAHAMA SCUBA, I have kind permission to borrow and display images from her stock of wonderful reef fish photographs.
The spotted drum fish (or Jack-knife fish) belongs to a large worldwide family, the Sciaenidae. Besides other drum varieties, the family includes ‘croakers’. These species are all named for the repetitive throbbing or drumming sounds they make. This involves the fish beating its abdominal muscles against its swim bladder. If I find out the reason for this (Species communication? Food call? Alarm? Warning? A piscine ‘advance’? Happiness?) I will add it here in due course. Here an example of an atlantic croaker from the excellent DOSITS site (Discovery of Sounds in the Sea)
The spotted drum is one of the few fish of the species to inhabit coral reefs – most are bottom-dwellers (often in estuaries), avoiding clear water. These fish tend to be nocturnal feeders, feeding on small crabs, shrimp and small invertebrates. As far as I can make out they are solely (or primarily) carnivore, and do not graze on algae of other reef plant life.
The photos above are of adult spotted drums. The ones below are of juveniles, and show the remarkable growth-pattern of these fish, from the fragile slender creature in the top image, through the intermediate phase of the one below it (with the amazing brain coral), to the striking adult versions above. People like to keep these pretty fish in aquariums; fine, I’m sure there are plenty to go round, but these ones look pretty happy to me in their natural reef environment…
Juvenile drum fish (school-age)
Finally, I’ve just come across this short video from a “Florida Aquarium”, showing how these fish swim. It rather looks as though it has been fin-clipped for some reason… or just damaged, maybe
I usually have 3 or 4 planned posts on the go. Some are quick to compose, some are not. Especially those requiring technical input from the technically unsound – downloading a video, changing the file format, editing and polishing, uploading to a compatible ‘carrier’ etc. I’ve been meaning to get round to making some fish and reef videos from footage of a trip with Kay Politano of Abaco Above & Below. Now I have…
If you are tolerant enough to at least start this one, which focusses on coral, can I restate the excuses? I swim like a panicking cat. I hadn’t snorkelled for a great many
decades years until 2011. I was a stranger to underwater scenery, let alone photography. I wave my tiny camera around too excitedly, though not deliberately to inflict seasickness on hapless viewers… It is a bit less bad this time round, however. Luckily I can tell from my stats if anyone has bothered to click on the video below, and you can rely on me to trash the thing if I find a paltry (or non-existent) response. Best just to watch on the small screen, though.
With those dire warnings, here is the video. I would be very interested to ID all the corals that can be seen. There are the easy ones like sea fan, elkhorn, mustard hill, brain… but what’s that one over there? No, behind the waving one…? Comments / suggestions welcome. And if you don’t much care for coral, there are some pretty fish to look at…
Music Credit: Adrian Legg’s ‘Old Friends’, from ‘Guitar Bones’
ADDENDUM JAN 13 I am really grateful to Capt Rick Guest for taking the time to view the video, and the trouble to analyse the contents. He has very helpfully highlighted many points of interest in the film, both as to coral and as to fish, so I’ll post his commentary in full, with my thanks. Of both interest and concern are Rick’s remarks about the Elkhorn Coral. I had wondered about its bleached look. It’s dying…
This is the first short video from footage taken in June at Fowl Cay, 2000 acres of protected coral reef waters. This was the start of another great day out snorkelling and island-hopping with dive-diva Kay Politano of ABOVE & BELOW ABACO Marsh Harbour. In due course there will be more videos of fish and coral. There is very slight evidence that lessons have been learned since last year’s erratic novice snorkeler / underwater photographer efforts. Still a way to go of course. The production process has been hampered by a major format problem between my camera chip thingy and the Mac I now use. It told me the data was unrecognisable / corrupted / damaged etc, which was massively disappointing. Then I thought of <<techno-tip>> downloading to an old PC and transferring to the Mac on a memory stick. Problem solved.
This huge swirling mass of (tens of) thousands of small fish confronted me as I round one end of the reef. I’ve never seen anything like it before, except on TV. It was an astounding, dizzy-making spectacle. When I swam into the middle of the shoal, I expected to feel tickled all over – but despite the huge numbers of fish, their speed, and their sudden and apparently random direction changes, I wasn’t conscious of feeling them at all. I assume the commotion resulted from the presence of larger fish feeding on the small ones. Or possibly from my appearance…
Music credit: Gordon Giltrap (Hofner champion) ‘Fast Approaching’
EXPLORING THE CORAL REEF AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO
First, a warning for anyone arriving new to this blog (hi! welcome) either on purpose or accidentally: I can’t swim very well, I hadn’t snorkelled for decades until last year, and I’d never before used a camera underwater.
That said, there is probably enough in this 2:40 min video to warrant a quick view. As with other videos from this expedition to Fowl Cay Marine Preserve (STINGRAY / BLUE TANG), best viewed small to avoid queasiness and disorientation. You can always Pause for a breather. There are some nice fish obligingly in view from time to time, and the coral is very diverse. And I’ll know what to do this year to get better results, besides trying harder with the swimming… (Music: East Wes by Eric Johnson, off Ah Via Musicom)
AUDUBON FISHES OF THE CARIBBEAN & GULF OF MEXICO APP
iphone, ipad (172mb) £0.69 / $0.99 offer until 31 Jan, then reverts to $9.99 rollingharbour rating *****
This is app is so good, and such an utter bargain until 31 Jan 2012, that I have awarded it the rh logo position at the top of the page. Praise indeed. Audubon guides are legendary, of course. The excellent Audubon bird app has already been reviewed and also given a rare 5*- see BIRD APP on the BOOKS ETC drop-down menu. Now here are the Caribbean Fishes, in all their glory. First, a clip shot of the download page – click on it to enlarge and avoid eye-strain
This is a very well designed app, a comprehensive search and identification tool with a myriad of features. It’s fine for an iPhone, but I guess it would really come into its own on an iPad. Whatever that is. Here’s a brief overview of the contents
SEARCH OPTIONS: by shape (dividing size into 5 categories, from giant to tiny); family (alphabetical list of species); name (alphabetical list with useful thumbnails to assist – and cleverly, the ability to search by first name ‘Sergeant’ or last name ‘Major’), or advanced search (size / shape; habitat; regions; colour)
REFERENCE sections on biology; fish-watching tips; marine habitats; biogeography; conservation; fish taxonomy; dangerous fishes; large glossary
OTHER FEATURES include the facility for having a (free) account, enabling a ‘My Content’ facility; Journal; and GPS
Crits? Very few at first glance. The odd typo. My inital search for bonefish by size (over-optimistic, of course) led me to the larger ladyfish, but a search by name took me straight to it. The most significant confusions may arise from the present ‘single image’ ID format. For example, if you look for the uncomely greeny-blue adult male stoplight parrotfish, you may be surprised to find the prettier black, white & red female pictured. Similarly, you won’t find juveniles, such as the small blue-with-yellow-spots yellowtail damselfish. But these are small points in an app with such a large scope. Anyway, who knows what upgrades will follow?
Overall for £0.69 / $0.99 a complete steal for New Year
A while ago, I posted stills from a reef-snorkelling video – my first ever underwater video attempt, and indeed my first snorkel for about 40 years CLICK===>>> REEF FISH I started with a stingray, producing some rather… ok, very… modest results, but it was at least identifiable if you looked carefully and felt benign.
I’ve learned a few tricks since then. Here is the whole clip, still hopeless in most respects but there’s something quite cute about the creature. Mercifully it is only 37 seconds long. I reserve the right to delete this post when I realise no one has actually watched it! [LATER: Oh! I find a few hardy souls have done so. It's a democratic vote for the ray to stay, as I see it]
[Belated credit to the fairly litigious Joe Satriani (see JS v Coldplay 2009) for borrowing the intro to one of his songs. It's a non-commercial tribute, Joe]
Here are some more stills of reef fish taken from the video of our reef-snorkelling trip to Fowl Key with Abaco Above and Below. I’ll add the fish IDs gradually. The first batch are images of individual fish; the second batch is a sequence showing a queen parrot fish feeding on small fish (?gobies) – images that I’d expect David Attenborough to describe in his quiet and breathy way as “really quite extraordinary”, especially if he has seen the general standard of pics in this blog…
PREDATORY QUEEN PARROTFISH (CUE JAWS-STYLE THEME MUSIC)
You will need: swimming kit; sweatshirt (it can be cold on the boat after snorkelling); stuff for Island Hopping later on, inc. camera, money etc; snorkel practice in the pool if you haven’t used one for (say) 20+ years – use the Club gear; Ian Took’s slim ‘Fishes of the Caribbean Reefs’. NB there is limited room on the boat, so you’ll need a bit of a nifty towel work to preserve modesty when changing…
Kay Politano of Abaco Above and Below in Marsh Harbour pencils in an unspecified number of places for a day’s island-hopping and reef-snorkelling while I find out how many non-fishing-that-day Delphi guests might be interested. Seven sign up, and one morning we all set off to Marsh Harbour. In Kay’s shop we try on our flippers, marvel at the scuba possibilities (a completely implausible proposition for most of us…), then we troop off to the marina and Kay’s reassuringly powerful and safe-looking catamaran. It takes 12 passengers; the other 5 are already aboard. We set off towards a threatening-looking weather front; rain later is a certainty…
Kay and rh at the controls
Passing by several Cays, we arrive at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve and drop anchor. We don our flippers, wrestle with our masks and snorkels, and in turn drop off the back of the boat (ok, stern, is it?) into warmish water, under thick grey cloud. My practice in the Delphi pool has paid off, and soon I am wheezing and gurgling my way towards the reef with my head (mostly) under water, a situation I generally avoid.
I am completely unprepared for what I find when I get to the reef. David Attenborough’s favourite production team has kindly arranged for a wide variety of bright fish, some electrically charged, to come up close and inspect me, an intruder in their world. I’ll spare you the colour-supp superlatives and graphic intensifiers – you’re probably blasé and have seen it all before – but I am totally gobsmacked, even with my mouthpiece in place. It’s all real! It’s even better than TV! And don’t get me started on the coral…
While I gasp and bubble my way around, I keep a small waterproof video camera running (see GADGETS review). My swimming is feeble at the best of times, but somehow it all seems to be coming together – my flailing limbs, the laboured breathing, the reef, the fish and the footage. We circle round the reef – occasional pale figures appear in my lateral vision – for about 25 minutes, then return to the boat and the struggle to remove our flippers…
Everyone is excited about what they have seen (some saw barracudas). Who cares that it’s started drizzling… we are wet already and it’s off to Lubbers Cay for lunch; see forthcoming Island-Hopping Post. And see MARINE LIFE page for more reef fish photos taken on this expedition.
ADDITION April 2012 I notice there have been a few specific searches ‘what is the plural of Sergeant Major?’ Good question. The strict grammatically correct answer is, I suspect (as with the military rank), ‘sergeants major’ because it’s the sergeants who are plural and the ‘major’ is a qualifier to distinguish from other degrees of sergeant (were there sergeants minor, for example). It’s the same with courts martial – not ‘court martials’. BUT it sounds all wrong and pernickety. I reckon the whole fish is a sergeant major. If there are 2 or more, you’ve got some sergeant majors to play with.