WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH) (6): THE SAND DIVER
Time for another in the WTF? series, featuring weird (begging their pardons) or not very fish-like fish. The Sand Diver Synodus intermedius is a type of lizardfish found in subtropical waters and often around coral reefs. They can grow up to about 18 inches long and a prime specimen might weigh a couple of pounds. The markings are quite variable but one common characteristic seems to be a tendency to look somewhat down in the mouth; and to possess jaws full of tiny sharp teeth.
Sand divers have two rows of teeth on their upper jaw and three rows on their lower jaw. Not content with that, they also have rows of teeth on the palate and tongue. Were they 50 times the size, they would be truly awesome.
The rather primitive appearance of the sand diver is explicable from fossils, which show that their forbears were active in the Jurassic / Cretacean periods.
HOW DO THEY GET THEIR NAME?
Sand divers often bury themselves in the sand with only their head showing. They are so-called ‘ambush predators’, and burial is one method they use. Another is simply to lie on the sandy bottom, or on reef surfaces and wait for passing prey. Their colouring provides very good camouflage.
WHAT’S ON A SAND DIVER MENU?
A good mix of small reef fishes. Bar jacks, blue chromis, wrasses, fairy basslets, small grunts and so forth. At their own level they are quite fearsome predators.
ARE THEY ON THE HUMAN MENU?
Well, I knew someone would ask that, so I carried out a search. The answer seems to be no. I have found nothing to suggest that they are edible, or that anyone has tried (or if they have, survived to tell the tale). Incidentally, the best way to find out if something is edible by humans is to search for a recipe. There are no sand diver recipes.
STOP PRESS Jason Knight has drawn my attention to a comment in WhatsThatFish.com (no relation) by one ‘Jenny’, who commends Sand Divers as food (“they cook up just as good as hogfish!”). So yes, they are edible and there is one recipe…
All photos: Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba
Are they dangerous to humans ? Saw two today whilst snorkelling in Barbados . One attacked another reef fish (no tiddler itself) right in front of me – there was scales & carnage everywhere. Quite brutal ! He had a friend who was eyeing me as I swam past – I didn’t stick around. Have wondered since if they attack humans ?,
Hi Judy, not that I know of. Lots of very small sharp teeth, but they prey on small fish. As ‘ambush predators’ they have to strike quickly. Perhaps that explains the carnage… I’ve never heard of one going for a human. Yet!
Not evidence it’s edible but a clue – http://www.whatsthatfish.com/fish/sand-diver/1529#comment-6736
Good spot, Jason! Yes, Jenny seems to have found a culinary use for these little fish… Not sure whether to publicise this (for the benefit of mankind) or suppress it (for the benefit of sand divers…). RH
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