Caribbean coral reefs make up about 8% (by surface area) of the world’s coral reefs and contain somewhere between 500 to 700 fish species. The greater Caribbean reef systems extend from Florida and the Bahamas to the the northeastern coast of South America. The greater Caribbean areas provides a variety of habitats from densely populated reef systems to wetlands to open water for pelagic species. The Caribbean is also home to a number of endangered species and is a vital commercial fishing zone. There are many threats to the habitat including invasions of non-native species such as the Lionfish, over fishing, dust from Africa, coral disease and more that need to be better understood in order for us to help this beautiful and vital resource to recover and thrive.
Diodon holocanthus(Linnaeus 1758)
Balloonfishes are circumtropical in distribution. These fish are found in the Western Atlantic from Florida, USA to the Bahamas and Brazil, in the Eastern Atlantic around 30°N-23°S, and in South Africa. In the Eastern Pacific from Hawaii to Pitcairn and the Easter Islands, and from southern California, US to Colombia and the Galapagos Islands. They are reef fish with a depth range of 2-100m.
Balloonfishes, aka balloon porcupinefishes, blotched porcupine fishes, blotched porcupines, brown porcupine fishes, fine-spotted porcupinefishes, freckled porcupinefishes, freckled porcupinefishes, hedgehog fishes, long-spine porcupinefishes, longspined porcupinefishes, porcupines, porcupinefishes, spiny balloonfishes, and spiny puffers…, are known for their large eyes, spines and their ability to swell up like a balloon when attacked. This rather comical species reaches between 20-35 external cm to a maximum of 50 external cm. They have a total of 13-15 dorsal and anal soft rays. Juveniles have spots on their ventral (under) sides, adults have dark blotches and spots on their dorsal (upper) sides. They have 14-16 spines between their snouts and dorsal fins. A large brown bar is found above and below each eye; and a broad transverse brown bar on their occipital region (back of the head). The body of the balloonfish is covered in long, sharp spines that extend when the fish inflates by taking in water. All members of the Family Diodontidae are capable of inflation, and may also change in color when threatened.
Caranxruber, (Bloch, 1793)
Common Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body silvery, but can darken to almost black, especially when feeding near the bottom. A bright blue-and-black border runs along the dorsal fin and onto the lower tail fin (C. ruber). Size up to 59 cm. Common in clear insular areas or in reefs, common to 35 m. Juveniles frequently in areas with algae. Usually in schools which may be spawning groups, occasionally solitary. Feeds on fish, shrimps and other invertebrates.
Hypoplectrus puella (Cuvier, 1828)
Occasional Florida and Bahamas, common Caribbean
Body laterally flattened, pale white to yellowish with six brown body bars (the first of which runs through the eye, the second broad at nape narrowing towards the insertion of the ventral fin, the third very wide, the fourth to sixth as wide as the second and evenly spaced behind the third bar (H. puella)). Blue lines over the head and body. Ventral fins vary in color from white to yellowish (H. puella 2), pectoral fins clear. Sometimes with a black saddle blotch on the base of the tail (caudal peduncle). Size up to 15 cm.
Bermuda / Yellow Chub
Kyphosussectatrix (Linnaeus, 1766)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body uniformly gray to silver, more or less rounded in outline, but with thin yellow to bronze stripes on the body and a stripe, bordered in white, under eye from the mouth to the gill cover. Upper part of the opercular membrane blackish. The young may display pale spots, nearly as large as the eye, on the head, body and fins. Size up to 76 cm. Inhabits shallow waters, over seagrass beds, sand or rocky bottoms and around coral reefs, down to 30 m (K. sectatrix). Young chub are found among floating sargassum weeds. Feeds on plants, mainly on benthic algae, as well as small crabs and mollusks.
Stegastes partitus (Poey, 1868)
Western Atlantic: including southern Florida (USA), Bahamas, and the Caribbean, extending to Brazil
The most important characteristic of this species is the two colored body, which gives this fish its name; blue on the front and yellow (sometimes whitish) on the tail and rear half of the body. The young are more colorful than adults. Adults lose the bright blue body but retain the two toned coloration. The mouth is very small. One unusual feature is that it has one nostril on each side of the head (most fish have two). It grows to about four inches in length. The bicolor damselfish is one of the few fish that produce sounds. Males make a chirping noise to attract females. Inhabits shallow coral reefs and isolated patch reefs in deeper water. Feeds primarily on algae but also on polychaetes, hydroids, copepods and ascidians. Damselfish are egg layers. First they clear a site ready for a nest, then engage in a mating dance with rapid swimming and fin movements, during this time the males will often turn a shade or two darker and may display white blotches. Spawning occurs at dawn.
Melichthys niger (Bloch, 1786)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
The black triggerfish, Melichthys niger, called Humuhumu’ele’ele in Hawaiian, is a blimp-shaped triggerfish with bright white lines running along its dorsal and anal fins. When in the water, it appears to be completely black. In actuality it has a dark greenish-black triggerfish with purplish overtones. Pale blue lines run along the bases of the soft rear dorsal and anal fins (M. niger). Above the eye, the head may be blue, and below the eye orange or yellow (M. niger 2). Scales of the rear part of the body have prominent keels that form longitudinal ridges. Size up to 50 cm.Inhabits clear seaward reefs, more common around oceanic islands, down to 75 m. The diet consists primarily of calcareous algae and zooplankton, but also feeds on phytoplankton. Sometimes they even rise up to the surface to feed on drifting algae.
Acanthurus coeruleus Bloch & Schneider, 1801
Western Atlantic: New York, USA and Bermuda to the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Ascension Island
Blue tangs are high-bodied, compressed, pancake-shaped fishes with pointed snouts and small scales. Their eyes are located high on their heads and their mouths are small and positioned low. Their dorsal fins are continuous. Of particular interest is their distinct yellow caudal (tail) spines located at the base of their tails on either side of their bodies, a characteristic shared with other surgeonfishes. This spine fits into a horizontal groove and can be extended and used to fend off rivals and predators.These fish have three color phases. In their juvenile phase, they are bright yellow, changing to a mixture of yellow and blue during adolescence. They may also have blue crescents above and below the pupils of their eyes. They may also be spotted with blue or have a yellow body and blue fins.
Haemulon sciurus (Shaw, 1803)
The bluestriped grunt is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina (U.S.) south to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexio, Caribbean Sea, and Bermuda.
The head and body of the bluestriped grunt are yellow with narrow horizontal blue stripes. There is also a stripe with a distinctive arch under each eye. The spiny dorsal fin is yellow while the soft dorsal and caudal fins are dark and the anal fin is dusky yellow in color. The pelvic and pectoral fins are chalky in color. The inside lining of the mouth of the bluestriped grunt is a bright red. The common fish name “grunt” is derived from the grunt-like sound produced when it grinds the teeth deep within its throat. The sound is amplified by the taut air bladder that acts as a resonator. Grunts are closely related to snappers, but are generally smaller and have deeply notched tails.
Brown Garden Eel
Heteroconger longissimus Günther, 1870
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body long, snake-like, dark brown to gray. Virtually without dorsal, anal and tail fins. Pectoral fins small. Jutting lower jaw. Size up to 50 cm.Found in colonies in sand near coral reefs, down to 60 meters. Head and upper body extend from the burrow. Continuously move in wave-like motions to catch plankton.
Hippocampus reidi Ginsburg, 1933
They prefer to live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs, or mangroves. H. erectus are larger seahorses that range from Nova Scotia to around Uruguay. Three species live in the Mediterranean Sea: H. hippocampus (long snout), H. brevirostris (short snout) and H. fuscus (immigrated from the Red Sea). Two species in the Caribbean H. erectus and H. reidi.
Seahorses compose the fish genus Hippocampus within the family Syngnathidae, in order Syngnathiformes. Syngnathidae also includes the pipefishes. “Hippocampus” comes from the Ancient Greek hippos meaning “horse” and kampos meaning “sea monster”. There are nearly 50 species of seahorse. They prefer to live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs, or mangroves. H. erectus are larger seahorses that range from Nova Scotia to around Uruguay. Three species live in the Mediterranean Sea: H. hippocampus (long snout), H. brevirostris (short snout) and H. fuscus (immigrated from the Red Sea). These fish form territories, with males staying in about 1 square metre (11 sq ft) of their habitat while females range about one hundred times that area. They bob around in sea grass meadows, mangrove stands, and coral reefs where they adopt murky brown and gray patterns to camouflage themselves among the sea grass. During social moments or in unusual surroundings, seahorses turn bright colors.
E. genie – Western Central Atlantic: Bahamas and Grand Cayman Island.E. evelynae – Western Atlantic: Bahamas and the Lesser Antilles to the northern coast of South America. Also Antilles and western Caribbean
Neon gobies are very small, torpedo-shaped fish. Although sizes vary slightly by species, they are generally about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long.They have dark bodies with iridescent stripes (the color of which varies by species) running from the tip of the nose to the base of the caudal fin. Like all gobies, their dorsal fin is split in two, the anterior dorsal fin being rounded like that of a clownfish and the posterior dorsal fin being relatively flat. The anal fin lines up with the posterior dorsal fin and is of similar shape. The pectoral fins are nearly circular, and, like all other fins, transparent.Cleaning Gobies have long and clylindrical bodies and are found in groups perched at cleaning stations on rocks waiting for fish to service. They feed on zooplankton. Length – 3cm Depth – 3-15mSharknose Gobies have a long and cylindrical body with two dorsal fins. The mouth is underslung, or shark-like. Upper body dark, underside pale. Three distinct color patterns exist, each in a geographical region: Brilliant blue-stripe pattern, with a brilliant yellow stripe in front of each eye, joining near the tip of the snout to form a ‘V’, on the back these ‘V’ fades into pale or brilliant blue body stripes. These patterns are found in the central Bahamas and extending south to the north coast of South America. Pale blue-stripe pattern, with a yellow stripe in front of each eye, joining near the tip of the snout to form a ‘V’, on the back these ‘V’ fades into yellow body stripes. These patterns are found in the central and northern Bahamas. White-stripe-stripe pattern, with a narrow white stripe in front of each eye, joining near the tip of the snout to form a ‘V’, on the back these ‘V’ fades into bluish white body stripes. These patterns are found in the mid-Caribbean. Size of all patterns up to 4 cm.
Stegastes variabillis (Castelnau, 1855)
Western Atlantic: Florida (USA), Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea to Brazil.
The cocoa damselfish is an oval, laterally compressed fish and grows to about 12.5 centimetres (4.9 in) long. The top of the head and the snout bear several blue stripes. The top half of the body is generally dark blue or brown and the bottom half is yellow. The sides are finely barred with vertical dark lines. There are two small black spots, one above the pectoral fins and the other on the top of the caudal peduncle. The large dorsal fin has 12 spines and 14 to 17 soft rays. The anal fin has 2 spines and 12 to 15 soft rays. The caudal fin is shallowly forked and has rounded lobes.Juveniles have a number of tiny blue spots and stripes on the head and upper part of the body, including 2 spots and a stripe on the upper iris. These regions also have a dusky blue sheen. There is a blue-rimmed black eyespot located where the dorsal fin spines join with the soft rays. A similar blue-rimmed spot is found at the top of the caudle peduncle and it extends down nearly as far as the lateral line. Older juveniles develop the characteristic blue and yellow coloration of the adult. Adults feed mainly on benthic algae as well on sponges, ascidacea and anemones while juvenile feed on invertebrates.
Lutjanuscyanopterus (Cuvier, 1828)
Occasional South Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body oblong-shaped, with a triangular head and a nearly straight tail. Back and sides pale to dark gray with a reddish tinge. Color may lighten or darker dramatically. Back occasionally with pale bars. The dorsal and tail fins are grayish, the anal and ventral fins reddish. The pectoral fins are translucent or grayish. Anal fin rounded. Slightly upturned snout with a large mouth and prominent canine teeth near the front of the jaw. Mouth with thick lips. Size up to 1.6 m. Adults found mainly around ledges over rocky bottoms or around reefs, most common between 18 and 55 m. Feeds mainly on fish, shrimps and crabs. Young specimens sometimes inhabit mangrove areas.
Acanthurus chirugus, Bloch 1787
This is the most wide-ranging of the species of Acanthurus in the Atlantic and is found from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It can also be found along the tropical western coast of Africa.
This fish is high-bodied and compressed, resulting in a pancake-like shape. The eye is high on the head and the mouth is small. The dorsal fin is continuous. Of particular interest is the sharp, scapel-like spine that is located on each side of the body on the caudal peduncle. This spine can be extended and used to fend off aggressive encounters. Its teeth, specialized for scraping algae, are spatula-like in shape, close together, and notched on the edges.
Gramma loreto Poey 1868
Bahamas, Mexico (Quintana Roo), Belize, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Greater Antilles (Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grand Cayman), and Lesser Antilles (Böhlke and Randall 1963; Mooi and Gill 2002)
The fish begins as a dark purple starting at the head which fades mid-body to yellow at the tail. The royal gramma will also have a small black spot on the front of the dorsal fin.Lateral line interrupted (in two parts), the anterior part high on the body and ending at the last soft ray of the dorsal fin, the posterior part midlateral on caudal peduncle. Distinctive black spot on anterior portion of the dorsal fin. Head, pelvic fins, and anterior portion of the body violet, posterior half of the body yellow (see photo, above). Two narrow yellow stripes on the head. Pelvic rays elongate, reaching well beyond the origin of the anal fin. Dorsal fin XI-XIII (9-11); anal fin III (10). Pectoral fin soft rays 14-17. From Böhlke and Randall (1963), Randall (1996) and Mooi and Gill (2002).
Chaetodon capistratus Linnaeus, 1758
Western Atlantic: Massachusetts, USA and Bermuda to West Indies and northern South America. Also Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico, and Antilles
Four-eyed butterflyfish are deep-bodied and laterally compressed, with a single dorsal fin and a small mouth with tiny, bristle like teeth. The body is light grey, sometimes with a yellowish hue, and dark forward-pointing chevrons. The ventral fins are yellow. The species gets its common name from a large dark spot on the rear portion of each side of the body. This spot is surrounded by a brilliant white ring, resembling an eye. A black vertical bar on the head runs through the true eye, making it hard to see.This pattern may result in a predator confusing the back end of the fish for the front end. The Four-eyed Butterflyfish’s first instinct when threatened is to flee, putting the false eye spot closer to the predator than the head. Most predators aim for the eyes, and this false eye spot tricks the predator into believing that the fish will flee tail first. When escape is not possible, a Four-eyed Butterflyfish will sometimes turn to face its aggressor, head lowered and spines fully erect, like a bull about to charge. This may serve to intimidate the other animal or may remind the predator that the butterflyfish is much too spiny to make a comfortable meal. Four-eyed butterflyfish usually frequent shallow inshore waters, where they feed on a variety of invertebrates, mainly zoantharians, polychaete worms, gorgonians and tunicates. This fish is known for its uncanny ability to swim in and around coral heads and reefs. They are able to find their way through the most intricate passages by swimming on its side or even upside down. Like its relatives they mate for life and therefore they will often be seen in pairs. They are one of a few fish that mate for life.
French Angel Fish
Pomacanthus paru (Bloch, 1787)
Found in the western Atlantic from Florida and the Bahamas to Brazil, and also the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, including the Antilles, and the eastern Atlantic from around Ascension Island and St. Paul’s Rocks
The French angelfish, Pomacanthus paru, is a large angelfish of the family Pomacanthidae. Usually found at depths of between 2 and 100 m. Length is up to 41 cm. The French angelfish is common in shallow reefs, usually in pairs, often near sea fans. It feeds on sponges, algae, bryozoans, zoantharians, gorgonians and tunicates. Juveniles tend cleaning stations where they service a broad range of clients, including jacks, snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes, and wrasses. At the station the cleaner displays a fluttering swimming and when cleaning it touches the clients with its pelvic fins.The French angelfish is common in shallow reefs, occurs usually in pairs often near sea fans. It feeds on sponges, algae, bryozoans, zoantharians, gorgonians and tunicates. Juveniles tend cleaning stations where they service a broad range of clients, including jacks, snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes, and wrasses. At the station the cleaner displays a fluttering swimming and when cleaning it touches the clients with its pelvic fins. The adult background coloration is black but the scales of the body, except those at the front from nape to abdomen, are rimmed with golden yellow. Furthermore the pectoral fins have a broad orange-yellow bar, the dorsal filament is yellow, the chin is whitish, the outer part of the iris is yellow, and the eye is narrowly rimmed below with blue. Juveniles are black with vertical yellow bands. This species is oviparous and monogamous. Spawning pairs are strongly territorial and usually both partners defend vigorously their territory against neighboring pairs. The flesh of the French angel has good taste and the fish is sold on fish markets. The species has been reared in captivity.
Haemulon flavolineatum (Desmarest, 1823)
Western Atlantic: Bermuda, South Carolina (USA), and northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil; throughout the West Indies and the coasts of Central America
Sloping head with a relatively large mouth, a tapering body and a notched tail. Body with yellow stripes on a white to bluish or yellowish silver background. Stripes below the lateral line are set on a diagonal; stripes above the lateral line are horizontal. Fins yellow. Size up to 30 cm. Mostly yellow, paler below. Scales below lateral line in oblique rows and much larger than those above lateral line. No other grunt has enlarged scales below the lateral line. Prefer shallow parts of coral reefs, down to depths of 60 meters. Occur in small to large schools that may number in the thousands.
Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822)
Its range includes the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and practically all of the Brazilian coast, where they are known as mero. On some occasions, it is caught in New England off Maine and Massachusetts, but not commonly. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from Congo to Senegal.
The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), commonly known as the Jewfish is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths anywhere from 15 (5 m) to 165 feet (50 m). Its range includes the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and practically all of the Brazilian coast, where they are known as mero. On some occasions, it is caught in New England off Maine and Massachusetts, but not commonly. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from Congo to Senegal.Young goliath grouper may live in brackish estuaries, canals, and mangrove swamps, unusual behavior among grouper. Atlantic goliath grouperThey may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and can weigh as much as 800 pounds (363 kg). The world record for a hook and line-captured specimen is 680 pounds (309 kg), caught off Fernandina Beach, Florida, in 1961.  They are usually around 400 pounds when mature. Considered of fine food quality, goliath grouper were a highly sought after quarry for fishermen of all types. The goliath grouper’s inquisitive and generally fearless nature makes it a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning like clockwork to the same locations, making them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting. Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline. The goliath grouper is entirely protected from harvest and is recognized as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The U.S. began protection in 1990, and the Caribbean in 1993. The species’ population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish’s slow growth rate, however, it will take some time for populations to return to their previous levels. However, many conservationists are concerned that size-selective harvesting (seeking large fish and throwing back the small ones) may have inadvertently selected for smaller size, and fish of the size encountered so often in the mid-20th century may be lost forever.Goliath grouper eat crustaceans, other fish, octopuses and young sea turtles. Grouper are preyed upon by large fish such as barracudas, moray eels and large sharks.
Pomacanthus arcuatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Western Atlantic: New England, USA to the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean
Gray Angelfish P. arcuatus, is a large angelfish of the family Pomacanthidae, found in the western Atlantic from New England to the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and also the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean, including the Antilles, at depths of between 2 and 30 m. Length is up to 60 cm. It weighs about 4.5 lb. It feeds mainly on sponges,it is usually found in warm water,in coral reefs,and in oceans.
Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards in Catesby, 1771)
Found in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic; the Great barracuda, picuda or becuna (S. picuda), ranging on the Atlantic coast of tropical America from North Carolina to Brazil and reaching Bermuda. Other barracuda species are found around the world.
Barracudas live primarily in oceans, but certain species such as the Great Barracuda lives in brackish water. Some species grow quite large, such as the European barracuda, barracouta or spet (S. sphyraena). The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 centimeters (11.8 in) in width. The barracuda is a salt water fish of the genus Sphyraena, the only genus in the family Sphyraenidae. Barracudas are elongated fish, pike-like in appearance, with prominent sharp-edged fang-like teeth, much like piranhas, that are all of different sizes which are set in sockets of their large jaws. They have large pointed heads with an under bite in many species. Their gill-covers have no spines and are covered with small scales. In most cases, they are dark green, dark blue, or gray on their upper body with silvery sides and chalky-white belly. Coloration varies somewhat between species. For some species, there are irregular black spots or a row of darker cross-bars on each side. Their fins may be yellowish or dusky
Rypticussaponaceus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body elongated with a rounded dorsal fin. Color mottled, varying from drab reddish brown to gray, often with a green or blue cast. Pale spots, about the size of the pupil or smaller, on body and dorsal fin. Size up to 35 cm. A solitary species inhabiting shallow water on bottoms with mixed sand and rocks, as well as around reefs, down to 60 m. Often found lying motionless against rocks (). Secretes copious mucus which makes its surface slimy and when disturbed the slime turns into a soapy foam. The mucus has been shown to contain a toxic protein. Nocturnal.
Gymnothorax funebris Ranzani, 1839
The green moray is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Bermuda and the northern Gulf of Mexico southward to Brazil.
The green moray, Gymnothorax funebris, is a moray eel of the family Muraenidae, found in the western Atlantic from New Jersey, Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil, at depths down to 40 m. Its length is up to 2.5 m. The green moray is really brown! The yellow tint of the mucus that covers its body, in combination with the drab background color, gives the fish its characteristic uniform green color. The moray’s muscular, scaleless body is laterally compressed (flattened side to side). The dorsal and anal fins are continuous with the short tail, or caudal fin, giving the appearance of a single fin running from the top of the head, along the back, around the tail, and underneath forward to mid-body. It has neither pelvic nor pectoral fins. The green moray has conspicuous, tube-like nostrils and finds its prey mostly using its sense of smell.
Green Sea Turtle
Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758)
Found in all temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. The green turtle is globally distributed and generally found in tropical and subtropical waters along continental coasts and islands between 30° North and 30° South. Nesting occurs in over 80 countries throughout the year (though not throughout the year at each specific location). Green turtles are thought to inhabit coastal areas of more than 140 countries.
The Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic. They are easily distinguished from other sea turtles because they have a single pair of prefrontal scales (scales in front of its eyes), rather than two pairs as found on other sea turtles. Head is small and blunt with a serrated jaw. Carapace is bony without ridges and has large, non-overlapping, scutes (scales) present with only 4 lateral scutes. Body is nearly oval and is more depressed (flattened) compared to Pacific green turtles. All flippers have 1 visible claw. The carapace color varies from pale to very dark green and plain to very brilliant yellow, brown and green tones with radiating stripes. The plastron varies from white, dirty white or yellowish in the Atlantic populations to dark grey-bluish-green in the Pacific populations. Hatchlings are dark-brown or nearly black with a white underneath and white flipper margins.
Eretmochelys imbriocota, (Linnaeus, 1766)
Animal covered by a heavy shell that consists of an upper and lower part. Upper part with central, four costal and bordering plates. The first costal plate does not touch the nuchal. Shell yellow-brown with fan-like markings and overlapping plates. Rear border plates usually have a serrated edge. Head with an overhanging upper beak. One pair of plates between the eyes and three plates behind the eye. They are medium sized, usually 90 cm in length and a mass of 45 kg, on average. The Hawksbill turtle is omnivorous, feeding both on plant and animal material. They spent their lives mostly in the water. Only females come ashore to nest; males rarely return to land after crawling into the sea as hatchlings. Most females return to nest on the beach where they were born. A female will not nest in consecutive years, typically skipping one or two years before returning.
Lachnolaimus maximus (Walbaum, 1792)
Hogfish are plentiful in the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Caribbean, and they have been as far north as North Carolina and Bermuda, and into the Gulf of Mexico
A hogfish is a large wrasse, Lachnolaimus maximus, of the western Atlantic Ocean. The meat is considered to be high quality with a soft, white, firm consistency. The meat is considered one of the finest eating due to its shellfish diet. It is a popular target for spear-fishermen, and rarely caught by conventional rod and reel methods. It has fourteen dorsal spines, eleven dorsal soft rays, eleven anal spines, and ten anal soft rays. The coloring varies but is usually brownish red with a black spot at the bottom of the dorsal fin. Its habitats are often over coral reef areas. The fish’s diet is mainly mollusks, crabs, and sea urchins. The Mexican hogfish is often a pinkish color with a fleshy bump on the male’s forehead. The Hogfish is first a female then a male. The color pattern changes drastically between juvenile and adult. The head of the male resembles a hog’s snout. Related species include the Spanish Hogfish (Bodianus rufus) and Spotfin Hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus).
Acanthostracion polygonius Poey, 1876
Western Atlantic: New Jersey, USA and Bermuda to Brazil, including the Caribbean and Antilles. Absent from the Gulf of Mexico
Bold pattern of hexagons outlined by narrow dark lines; the centers and areas between hexagons are pale. Occurs in clear water around coral reefs. Feeds on sponges, alcyonarians, tunicates, and shrimp.
Hypoplectrus indigo (Poey, 1851)
Western Central Atlantic: Haiti, Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Florida (USA) and continental western Caribbean. Absent in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the Lesser Antilles.
Hamlets are simultaneous hermaphrodites (or synchronous hermaphrodites): They have both male and female sexual organs at the same time as an adult. They seem quite at ease mating in front of divers, allowing observations in the wild to occur readily. They do not practice self-fertilization, but when they find a mate, the pair takes turns between which one acts as the male and which acts as the female through multiple matings, usually over the course of several nights. The Indigo Hamlet has about 5 deep blue bars of uneven width; with a second bar, below the dorsal fin that is much wider than the others.
Pterois volitans (Linnaeus 1758)
Native to the Indo-Pacific region, P. volitans can be found through the Western and Central Pacific and off the coast of Western Australia.
The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a venomous coral reef fish in the family Scorpaenidae in the order Scorpaeniformes. Red lionfish are clad in white stripes alternated with red, maroon, or brown. Adults can grow as large as 17 inches (43 cm) in length while juveniles may be shorter than 1 inch (2.5 cm). It has fleshy tentacles which protrude from both above the eyes and below the mouth. The pectoral fin is present in a distinctive fan-like shape, and dorsal spines are long and separated. Red Lionfish (P. volitans), a significant invasive species off the East Coast of North America and in the Caribbean. “Lionfish” may also refer to a number of fish species within family Scorpaenidae that are characterized by venomous, feathery fins.P. volitans is natively found in the Indo-Pacific region, but has become a huge invasive problem in the Caribbean Sea and along the East coast of the United States. The fish has large venomous spines that protrude from the body like a mane, giving it the common name of the lionfish. The venomous spines make the fish inedible or deter most potential predators. Lionfish reproduce monthly and are able to quickly disperse during their larval stage for expansion of their invasive region. There are no definitive predators of the lionfish, and many organizations are promoting the harvest and consumption of lionfish in efforts to prevent further increases in the already high population densities.
Stegastes diencaeus (Jordan & Rutter, 1897)
Western Atlantic: southern Florida (USA), Bahamas, and Caribbean Sea. Including Antilles and Yucatan to Venezuela
Dorsal spines (total): 12; Dorsal soft rays (total): 15-16; Anal spines: 2; Anal soft rays: 13. Anal fin long and pointed, reaching well beyond base of tail (Ref. 26938). Adults dark gray-brown, the edges of the scales blackish; a wash of yellowish often present dorsally on head, nape, and on back below spinous portion of dorsal fin; a small black spot at upper base of pectoral fins; juveniles bright yellow with two bright blue lines dorsally on head, extending to beneath middle of dorsal fin where they break into spots; a large blue-edged black spot basally on dorsal fin centered on last spine.
Holocentrus rufus (Walbaum, 1792)
Western Atlantic: Bermuda and southern Florida, USA to northern South America and Brazil; throughout the West Indies. Antilles, northwestern Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan to Colombia.
Dorsal spines (total): 11; Dorsal soft rays (total): 14-16; Anal spines: 4; Anal soft rays: 9 – 11. Conspicuous white spot behind tip of each dorsal spine (Ref. 26938). Body slender. Upper jaw extending posteriorly to middle of pupil (Ref. 37108). Body bright red or red striped, sometimes blotched. Similar in color to H. ascensionis, but each interspinous membrane of dorsal fin with a white spot near margin. Nocturnal, inhabits clear reefs. Found near mouths of caves and holes; at night they usually move to sandy areas and grass beds to feed on crabs, shrimps, gastropods and brittle stars.
Lutjanus analis (Cuvier, 1828)
Western Atlantic: Massachusetts, USA and Bermuda to southeastern Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Most abundant around the Antilles, the Bahamas and off southern Florida.
Dorsal spines (total): 10 – 11; Dorsal soft rays (total): 13-14; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 7 – 8. Preopercular notch and knob weak. Pectoral fins are long, reaching level of anus. Scale rows on back rising obliquely above lateral line. Back and upper sides olive green, whitish with a red tinge on lower sides and belly. A black spot is on the upper back just above the lateral line and below the anterior dorsal fin rays. A pair of blue stripes runs on the snout-cheek region, the upper continuing behind eye to upper opercle edge. Occurs in continental shelf areas as well as clear waters around islands. Large adults usually among rocks and coral while juveniles occur over sandy, vegetated (usually Thalassia) bottoms. Forms small aggregations which disband during the night. Feeds both day and night on fishes, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods, and gastropods.
Epinephelus striatus (Bloch, 1792)
The Nassau Grouper lives in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda, Florida and the Bahamas in the north to southern Brazil, but it is only found in a few places in the Gulf of Mexico, most notably along the coast of Belize
The Nassau grouper is a medium to large fish, growing to over a meter in length and up to 25 kilograms in weight. It has a thick body and large mouth, which it uses to “inhale” prey. Its colour varies depending on an indivudual fishes circumstances and environment. In shallow water (up to 60 feet), the grouper is a tawny color, but specimens that live in deeper waters are pinkish or red, or sometimes orange-red color. Superimposed on this base colour are a number of lighter stripes, darker spots, bars and patterns including black spots below and behind the eye, and a forked stripe on the top of head. It is a solitary fish, feeding in the daytime, mainly on other fish and small crustaceans like crabs and small lobsters. It spawns in December and January, always around the time of the full moon, and always in the same locations. By the light of the full moon, huge numbers of the grouper cluster together to mate in mass spawning. One reason the Nassau Grouper fisheries are so depleted is that its huge spawning groups make easy targets for fishermen, who scoop up large numbers of reproducing fish, who then can obviously not reproduce. Many other grouper and snapper species are in trouble of becoming endangered or extinct for the same reason.
Diodon hystrixLinnaeus, 1758
The porcupinefish is widely distributed species, found circumtropically and often in temperate marine environments. The porcupinefish is the only member of its genus to be found in the Mediterranean Sea. In the eastern Pacific, it ranges from San Diego, California (US) to Chile including the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). It is also found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts (US) to the northern Gulf of Mexico south to Brazil. It also occurs in Bermuda. In the eastern Atlantic it is generally found between 30°N and 23°S.
Porcupinefish are fish of the family Diodontidae, (order Tetraodontiformes), also commonly called blowfish (and, sometimes, “balloonfish” and “globefish”). The porcupinefish (Diodon hystrix) gets its name from the numerous long spines located all over the head and body. There are approximately 20 spines in a row between the snout and dorsal fin. It is a member of the puffer fish family Diodontidae. These fish are capable of expanding their body size by taking in water and inflating when threatened. The spines of the porcupinefish only stick out when the fish is inflated, at all other times the spines lay flat against the body. When fully inflated, the fish has a formidable presence that makes predators think twice about taking a bite. Body is grayish-tan with small black spots but lacking large dark blotches. The underside is white surrounded by a dusky ring. The porcupinefish closely resembles its relative the balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus) which also is covered in spines.
Scarustaeniopterus, Desmarest, 1831
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Parrotfish owe their name to the shape of their mouth. Instead of teeth they have two beak-like plates, like parrots. They have even rows of large, noticeable scales on their bodies. Terminal phase: Body blue to green, with two blue to green stripes extending from the snout and passing across the eye. Borders of the tail yellow to orange or pink. Midbody with a yellow or orangish stripe, fading toward the rear. A distinct yellow or orange or pink stripe runs along the base of the dorsal fin (S. taeniopterus terminal phase; S. taeniopterus TP 2). Size up to 35 cm. Initial phase: Body brownish with dark stripes. With maturity, the stripes fade and become brown. Fins often become yellowish. Borders of tail dark. Juvenile phase: Body with three black stripes, two white stripes and a white belly, often with thin silver stripes. Borders of tail dark. They swim about reefs using their pectoral fins; the tail is only used for burst of speed. They use their ‘beaks’ to scrape algae and polyps from corals and rocks. They are often seen defecating, what looks like white clouds, which consists mainly of coral limestone. Common to 25 m depth. Like the wrasses, the parrotfishes have two types of reproductive behavior. The younger and not so colorful males fertilize together with other males the eggs of one single female, while colorful, large males have each their own territory where one male fertilizes one female.
Holacanthus ciliaris (Linnaeus, 1758)
From Florida to Brazil, including Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
Queen Angelfishes blend well with their natural habitat, despite their bright colors. Juveniles may exhibit cleaning behavior typical of some wrasses. The Queen and Blue angelfishes commonly hybridize, producing offspring that are intermediate in appearance. Deep, compressed; bluish, scale edges yellow-orange; head yellowish with blue markings on snout, opercle, and chest; large, black spot encircled by blue ring (crown) on nape; pectoral, pelvic, and caudal fins yellow, black blotch at base of pectorals; dorsal and anal fins with narrow, light blue edges. Juveniles yellowish green with narrow light blue bars; bluish-black band through eye. Upper profile of head nearly straight to slightly concave above eye; no spine on bone anterior to eye; preopercular spine present. Dorsal and anal fins long, filamentous, extending beyond end of caudal fin; caudal fin rounded, without upper filament.
Balistes vetula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Very common on Bahamas and Caribbean reefs. Fairly common on South Florida reefs and can be encountered offshore in most of Florida.
Roundish flat body, laterally flat body with an anterior dorsal fin. Can erect 2 dorsal spines (first one locks and second one unlocks) which prevents predators from pulling them out of their holes and attacking.
Sparisomaaurofrenatum, (Valenciennes, 1840)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Parrotfish owe their name to the shape of their mouth. Instead of teeth they have two beak-like plates, like parrots. They have even rows of large, noticeable scales on their bodies. Terminal phase: Body greenish, underside lighter, anal fin usually reddish. Tail square-cut, outer tips black. The upper forebody with a small yellow blotch with two or more small black spots. Usually with a salmon to orange band from the corner of the mouth to below the eye. A white spot behind the dorsal fin (S. aurofrenatum terminal phase). Size up to 28 cm. Initial phase: Color highly variable, from solid olive to green or blue-green. Fins red to mottled brown with two white stripes. A white spot behind the dorsal fin. Juvenile phase: Body in shades of red-brown, usually with two white stripes and a black blotch behind the upper gill cover. A white spot behind the dorsal fin. Both juvenile and initial phases can rapidly fade, intensify or change color and markings. They swim about reefs using their pectoral fins; the tail is only used for burst of speed. They use their ‘beaks’ to scrape algae and polyps from corals and rocks. They are often seen defecating, what looks like white clouds, which consists mainly of coral limestone. Common to a depth of 20 m. Like the wrasses, the parrotfishes have two types of reproductive behavior. The younger and not so colorful males fertilize together with other males the eggs of one single female, while colorful, large males have each their own territory where one male fertilizes one female.
Epinephelus guttatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Western Atlantic: North Carolina, USA to Paraíba, Brazil
Dorsal spines (total): 11; Dorsal soft rays (total): 15-16; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 8. Scales cycloid except for a ctenoid patch of variable size in the pectoral region. Greenish gray to light brown on the back grading to white ventrally, with numerous well-spaced dull orange-red to brown spots on the head, body and fins. Five faint diagonal bars formed by darker spots on the sides. No saddle-shaped blotch on caudal peduncle or along base of dorsal fin. Found in shallow reefs and rocky bottoms. Usually solitary and territorial. Feeds mainly on crabs (Calapa and Mithrax) and other crustaceans (alpheid shrimps and scyllarid lobsters), fishes (labrids and haemulids), and octopus. Some undergo sexual inversion at 28 cm TL; most fish larger than 40 cm are males.
Holacanthus tricolor (Bloch, 1795)
The Rock Beauty Angelfish inhabit reefs encompassing the tropical western Atlantic Ocean down to the northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico at depths of between 3 and 92 metres.
Dorsal spines (total): 14; Dorsal soft rays (total): 17-19; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 18 – 20. The adult Rock Beauty angelfish’s overall body color can be described as yellow in the facial region of the body with blue towards the tail end of the fish. Its tail, however, will retain the yellow coloration. Their pectoral fins and ventral fins are also yellow but their lips and the edges of their dorsal fins and anal fins are dark blue. An adult Rock Beauthy angelfish can measure up to 10 inches (25 cm). Inhabits rock jetties, rocky reefs and rich coral areas. Juveniles often associated with fire corals. Feeds on tunicates, sponges, zoantharians and algae.
Haemulon parra Desmarest, 1823
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Fish with a basic, ‘fish-like’ shape, with a sloping head with a relatively large mouth, a tapering body and a notched tail (H. parra). Body silvery to pearly gray. Distinct scale pattern accentuated by black spots that forms lines over the body. Pectoral fin may be light, other fins dusky to dark. Size up to 41 cm.
Lutjanus apodus (Walbaum, 1792)
Western Atlantic: Massachusetts, USA and Bermuda to Trinidad and northern Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Côte d’Ivoire to Equatorial Guinea
Dorsal spines (total): 10; Dorsal soft rays (total): 14; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 8. Snout long and pointed, mouth large. One of the upper pairs of canine teeth notably enlarged, visible when mouth is close. Preopercular notch and knob weak. Pectoral fins long, reaching the level of anus. Scale rows on back parallel to lateral line, at least anteriorly. Olive gray to brownish on upper back and sides, with eight narrow, pale vertical bars which may be faint or absent in large adults. A solid or broken blue line which may disappear with growth, runs under the eye. Occurs in shallow, clear, warm, coastal waters over coral reefs. Often near the shelter of elkhorn corals and gorgonians. Juveniles are encountered over sand bottoms with or without seagrass (Thalassia), and over muddy bottoms of lagoons or mangrove areas. Young sometimes enter brackish waters. Sometimes forms resting aggregations during the day. Feeds on fishes, shrimps, crabs, worms, gastropods and cephalopods.
Canthigasterrostrata (Bloch, 1786)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body with a pointed nose, dark olive brown on the back, white below. Blue line and dot markings over the head and body. Eyes brightly colored. Upper and lower border of tail base and fin black. Size up to 12 cm. Inhabit clear waters above coral reefs and reef flats, down to 30 m. Also in tide pools and seagrass beds. Diet consists mainly of sea grass and invertebrates.
Atherinidae, Clupeidae, Engraulididae
Western Atlantic: Bermuda, southern Florida (USA), and Yucatan, Mexico to northern South America. Antilles, western Caribbean. Southeast Pacific: known only from Tumaco, Colombia
The Old World silversides are a family, Atherinidae, of fish in the order Atheriniformes. They occur worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. About two thirds of the species are marine, and the remainder live in fresh water. Silversides are relatively small, with the largest species, the jacksmelt, Atherinopsis californiensis, reaching 44 centimetres (17 in), while most are under 20 centimetres (7.9 in), and several are not recorded at more than 5 centimetres (2.0 in). The body is generally elongate. Distinctive characters include two dorsal fins widely separated, with the first consisting of flexible spines and the second having one spine followed by soft rays, while the anal fin has one spine on the leading edge followed by soft rays. The pectoral fins tend to be high, and there is no lateral line. On the flanks there is a broad silvery band. The scales are relatively large.
Lactophrys triqueter (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body with a triangular, bony box of armor, dark in color but with white spots and an area of pale honeycomb markings on the central midbody (L. triqueter). Dark around the mouth and at the base of the pectoral fin. Mouth small and protrusible, tail broom-like. Size up to 47 cm. Juveniles with a dark body, covered with large yellow to pale spots. As they mature, they develop a pale midbody area where the honeycomb markings appear later. Found on coral reefs, down to 50 m. Solitary or in small groups. Feed on a wide variety of small bottom invertebrates that they exposed by a jet of water ejected through the mouth.
Chaetodon ocellatus Bloch, 1787
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Body thin and round in profile. Forehead slightly concave, the eye concealed by a dark bar on the head. Body silver-white. Fins, except for the pectoral ones, bright yellow. Rear dorsal fin with a black dot on the outer edge. Size up to 20 cm. Juveniles with a translucent tail and very young have a large black spot on the rear dorsal and anal fins and base tail, which form a rear body bar in older juveniles. Inhabit shallow, coral reefs in clear water, down to 30 m. Develops dusky bands at night.
Equetus punctatus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Characteristic for the drums is the elongated first dorsal fin. Second dorsal and tail fins with white spots and dashes (E. punctatus). Head white with two dark brown bars, one through the eye, the other more posterior and more diagonal, extending across the chest to the pelvics. Body with multiple stripes. Size up to 27 cm. Juveniles have an extremely long dorsal fin. Head with a black spot on the nose and two black bars. Body with one long black stripe from the first dorsal fin to the tail. Occurs primarily on coral reefs. Secretive and usually solitary, under ledges or near small caves, down to 30 m. Feeds at night on crabs, shrimps and polychaetes.
Spotted Eagle Ray
Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasen, 1790)
Common to occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean; occurs worldwide.
Spotted eagle rays, Aetobatus narinari, aka white-spotted eagle ray, bonnetray, and maylan, grow to at least 3.5 external m disc width and 9 external m total length and have a recorded maximum weight of 230 external kg. Current research on this species may reveal that what is being called the white-spotted eagle ray may in fact be several species. The spotted eagle ray has a long snout, flat and rounded like a duck’s bill, a thick head, and a pectoral disc with sharply curved, angular corners, and no caudal fin; jaws usually with single row of flat, chevron-shaped teeth. Each tooth is a crescent-shaped plate joined into a band. They usually have numerous white spots on black or bluish disc; with white below. Long whip-like tail, with a long spine near the base, behind small dorsal fin. Fish dorso-ventrally flattened, with greatly enlarged pectoral fins, which give them a disc-like shape. Back dark, with numerous white spots and circular markings. Underside white. Head pronounced with a flattened, tapering snout. Mouth on the underside of the head. Tail long and thin, with one to five venomous spines at the base. Size from wing-tip to wing-tip: 1.2 – 2 meter.
Gymnothorax moringa (Cuvier, 1829)
Occasional Florida and Bahamas, common Caribbean, south to Brazil and eastern Atlantic.
Body long and snake-like, without pectoral or ventral fins; dorsal, tail and anal fins form a single, long, continuous fin that begins behind the head, encircles the tail and extends midway down the belly. Body scale-less and coated with a clear, protective mucus layer. Body heavy to medium, ground color white to yellow, speckled with dark spots and blotches. Size: 0.5 – 0.9 meter. Inhabit shallow reefs, coral rubble and seagrass beds, down to 12 meters. Hide during the day in recesses; heads often extend from openings. Forage in open at night. Constantly open and close mouth in order to move water through their gills for respiration.
Lactophrys bicaudalis, (Linnaeus, 1758)
Western Atlantic: Florida (USA), Bahamas, and southern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Ascension Island
The Spotted Trunkfish is a member of the family Ostraciidae. It can be found in reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean as well as the south eastern Atlantic Ocean. The species gets its name from the black spots it has covered over its yellow/golden body. The spotted trunkfish, like all trunkfish of the Genus Lactophrys, secretes a colorless ciguatera toxin from glands on its skin when touched. The toxin is only dangerous when ingested, so there’s no immediate harm to divers. Predators however, as large as nurse sharks, can die as a result of eating a trunkfish.
Stoplight Parrotfish Initial Phase
Sparisoma viride (Bonnaterre, 1788)
Western Atlantic: southern Florida (USA), Bermuda, Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean Sea to Brazil.
Upper body and head mottled reddish brown, often mixed with white scales and crescent on tail. Dorsal spines (total): 9; Dorsal soft rays (total): 10; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 9. Relationship between fork length (FL) and maximum body depth (D): D = 0.10 + 0.33(FL); FL = -0.40 + 3.06(D), for n = 79, length range (cm, FL) = 13.5-25.5. A distinctive, colorful and abundant fish. Young adults and females with scales outlined in darker gray; often bright red below. Super males green, with bright yellow spot at upper edge of gill cover, yellow bar at base of tail, curved orange-yellow mark on caudal fin rays. Initial phase fish with a brown head, the scales of the upper two-thirds of the body with pale centers and dark brown edges, the lower third of body and fins bright red. Terminal phase males are green with three diagonal orange bands on upper half of head. Inhabits coral reefs with clear water. Young may be found in seagrass beds and other heavily vegetated bottoms. Feeds mainly on soft algae, but has been observed to graze on live corals like, Montastraea annularis. Produces a significant amount of sediment through bioerosion using its strong beak-like jaws and constantly re-growing teeth. Protogynous; strictly diurnal, spends the night sleeping on the bottom. Found singly or small in small groups.
Scarus iseri (Bloch, 1789)
Western Atlantic: Bermuda, Florida (USA), Bahamas, and northeastern Gulf of Mexico to northern South America; throughout the Caribbean. Range probably extends to Brazil
Parrotfish owe their name to the shape of their mouth. Instead of teeth they have two beak-like plates, like parrots. They have even rows of large, noticeable scales on their bodies. Terminal phase: Body blue to green, with a gold to yellow spot or stripe above and behind the pectoral fin. Dorsal fin with a distinct pink, yellow or orange stripe down the middle that is broken by blue to green linear markings. Tail dark blue or green, with yellow or orangish linear markings between the borders. Size up to 35 cm. Initial and juvenile phases: Body with three black stripes, two white stripes and a white belly, often with thin, broken silver, yellow or dark stripes. Usually yellow smudge on the nose, occasionally with yellow on the ventral fins, belly or tail. Tail without dark border. They swim about reefs using their pectoral fins; the tail is only used for burst of speed. They use their ‘beaks’ to scrape algae and polyps from corals and rocks. They are often seen defecating, what looks like white clouds, which consists mainly of coral limestone. Common to 25 m depth. Like the wrasses, the parrotfishes have two types of reproductive behavior. The younger and not so colorful males fertilize together with other males the eggs of one single female, while colorful, large males have each their own territory where one male fertilizes one female.
Megalops atlanticus Valenciennes, 1847
The Megalops atlanticus is found on the western Atlantic coast from Virginia to Brazil, throughout the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, throughout the Caribbean. It is also found along the eastern Atlantic coast from Senegal to Angola. Megalops cyprinoides is found along the eastern African coast, throughout southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti, and Australia.
There are two species of Megalops, the Megalops atlanticus and the Megalops cyprinoides. Both species are found in both salt and freshwater habitats usually ascending rivers to access freshwater marshes. They are able to survive in brackish water, waters of varying pH, as well as habitats with low dissolved O2 content due to their swim bladders which they use primarily to breathe with. The habitat of the Megalops varies greatly with the developmental stage they are in. Stage one larvae are usually found in clear, warm, oceanic waters relatively close to the surface. Stage two and three larvae are found in salt marshes, tidal pools, creeks, and rivers. The habitats are characteristically warm, shallow, dark bodies of water with sandy mud bottoms. It is quite common for Megalops to ascend rivers into freshwater. As they progress from the juvenile stage to adulthood, they move back to the open waters of the ocean, though many remain in freshwater habitats. One of the unique features of Megalops is the function of the swim bladder as a pseudo-respiratory organ.
Stegastesplanifrons (Cuvier, 1830)
Common South Florida and Bahamas, abundant to common Caribbean.
Body laterally flattened, oval in profile, varying in color from yellowish brown to tan and gray; becoming darker with age. Head profile of nape and snout straight. A yellow-gold crescent above the eyes. Base of pectoral fin with a black spot and a black saddle on the upper base of the tail. Juveniles yellow, with a black saddle on the upper base of the tail and a larger second dot on the back and dorsal fin, which is lost with maturity. Size up to 13 cm. Inhabits inshore and offshore reefs, down to 30 m. Found within caves at night. Feeds mainly on algae, but also on harpacticoid copepods, small gastropods, eggs of mollusks, sponges, polychaetes and hydroids. Juveniles feed on external parasites of other fish. Pugnaciously guards large territories, will chase and nip intruders of all sizes.
Mycteroperca tigris (Valenciennes, 1833)
It is found in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United States, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its natural habitats are open seas, shallow seas, subtidal aquatic beds, and coral reefs. It is threatened by habitat loss.
The tiger grouper (Mycteroperca tigris) is a species of fish in the Serranidae family. The grouper has a tapered body, often reddish, with vertical stripes on its sites. Young individuals have a yellow colour. This fish lives in sheltered reef areas. Body strong and stout, with a large mouth. Dark back crossed by 9 to 11 pale narrow lines that slope downward and forward. Can dramatically change color, pale or darken. Occasionally bright red, especially when visiting cleaning stations. Juveniles yellow with a dusky midbody streak. Size up to 1 m.
Aulostomus maculatus (Valenciennes, 1837)
Found throughout the Caribbean, but is more common in the Lesser Antilles (south-east Caribbean)
Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus, are long bodied fish with upturned mouths, that often swim vertically while trying to blend with vertical coral, like sea rods, sea pens, and pipe sponges. Trumpetfish occur in waters between 0.5 and 30 meters (1.6 and appr. 100 feet) deep and can grow to 40 to 80 cm (appr. 15 to 31 inches) in length. They are sometimes locally abundant over coral atoll reefs or in lagoons, where they may be caught even in areas of severe wave action. The spawning habits of the trumpetfish are unknown, but in the region around Madeira, it is known that the females have mature eggs from March to June. Trumpetfish are closely related to cornetfish. Trumpetfish can a bit more than 36 inches (3 ft.)long and have greatly elongated bodies with small jaws at the front end of a long, tubular snout. The gills are pectinate, resembling the teeth of a comb, and a soft dorsal fin is found near the tail fin. A series of spines occurs in front of the dorsal fin. Trumpetfish vary in color from dark brown to greenish but also yellow in some areas. A black streak, sometimes reduced to a dark spot, occurs along the jaw, and a pair of dark spots is sometimes found on the base of the tail fin. Trumpetfish swim slowly, sneaking up on unsuspecting prey, or lie motionless like a floating stick, swaying back and forth with the wave action of the water. They are adept at camouflaging themselves and often swim in alignment with other larger fishes. They feed almost exclusively on small fish, such as wrasses and atheriniformes,by sucking them suddenly into their small mouths.
Sharksucker, Echeneis neucratoides, Zuiew, 1789
Western Atlantic: Massachusetts in USA, Bahamas and northern Gulf of Mexico to northern South America
Whitefin Sharksucker have a distinctive first dorsal fin takes the form of a modified oval sucker-like organ with slat-like structures that open and close to create suction and take a firm hold against the skin of larger marine animals. By sliding backward, the Sharksucker can increase the suction, or it can release itself by swimming forward. Whitefin Sharksucker are commonly found attached to sharks, manta rays, whales, turtles and dugong (hence the common names ‘sharksucker’ and ‘whalesucker’). Smaller Whitefin Sharksucker also fasten onto fish like tuna and swordfish. It is a very slim fish, 11 or 12 times as long as it is deep, nearly round in cross section, and tapering to a very slender caudal peduncle. The sucking plate, reaching from close behind the tip of the snout back over the nape of the neck even with the middle of the pectoral fin, is about as broad as the head, flat, oval, and with 20 or more very conspicuous transverse plates. The soft dorsal fin and the anal fin both originate about the mid length of the body, and they both extend nearly to the base of the caudal fin. Both of them taper, too, from front to rear, but the anal is more concave in form than the dorsal. The caudal fin is slightly concave in old fish but in young ones its central rays are the longest. The ventral fins are pointed like the pectorals below which they stand, and their inner rays are attached to the skin of the abdomen for only a short distance. The broad-based pectoral fins are set so high up on the sides that their upper margins are close below the overlapping edge of the sucking plate. The general ground tint is slaty or dark brownish gray, with the belly nearly as dark as the back. Each side is marked by a broad darker brown or sooty stripe with white edges, that runs from the angle of the jaw to the base of the caudal fin but is interrupted by the eye and by the pectoral fin. The caudal fin is velvety black with white corners, a character noticeable enough to give rise to a vernacular name. The dorsal and anal fins are dark slate color or black, more or less margined with white. The pectorals and ventrals are black, either plain or more or less pale edged.
Microspathodon chrysurus (Cuvier, 1830)
From N. Florida to Venezuela; Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, and Caribbean.
Body laterally flattened, oval in profile. The entire body and all fins except the caudal are dark blue to almost black, bronzy on cheeks and breast, light blue spots on back and dorsal fin, caudal fin either yellowish or white. Young have more blue spots on back and dorsal fin, caudal fin dark. Upper profile of head steep; mouth small, terminal; eye small, relatively high on head; teeth in upper jaw flexible, brushlike; deep notch anterior to eyes next to exposed maxilla; preopercular bone smooth; 1 nostril on each side of snout. Posterior edges of soft dorsal and anal fin truncate. Lateral line ends under soft dorsal fin. Inhabits very shallow waters of coral reefs, usually near the top of the outer edge where there are caves, holes and fire corals. Most common between 3 and 12 m. Feeds primarily on algae, but also on polyps of fire corals and other invertebrates. Juveniles occasionally pick parasites from other fish. Territorial, but they do not defend their domain aggressively.
Halichoeresgarnoti (Valenciennes, 1839)
Common Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
Terminal phase: Anterior part of the body and the head yellow. Halfway the body there is a black cross-band that curves backward at the dorsal fin and runs along its base to the tail. Rear body and tail dark blue to green. Two wavy lines radiate from the rear of the upper part of the eye. Size up to 19 cm. Initial phase: Body with a yellow belly and a dark to dusky back, often shaded with blue. Color shadings highly variable, especially intermediates between terminal and juveniles phases. Two wavy lines radiate from the rear of the upper part of the eye (H. garnoti-initial phase). Juvenile phase: Usually bright yellow, rarely shading to reddish gold, with a brilliant blue midbody stripe. Common in shallow water near coral growths, down to 80 m.