Swimming with the fishes… isn’t so bad Have you ever wondered:“What’s down there?” Thispresentation entitles you to know.
Cartilaginous Fish First, I will introduce the cartilaginous fishes, which happen to be my personal favorites. In the cartilaginous fish family, there are sharks, rays, skates, and a group of fish called chimaeras. I will now describe some specific species in detail:
Sharks Sandtigers: Also called grey nurse sharks, these sharks can very in color from dark grey to deep brown with a tint of copper. They have a tail similar to a nurse shark, with the top part of the caudal fin longer than the bottom. They have a flat head, and look quite menacing with their long, sharp teeth, however they are actually on the docile side. Note: I have actually been in a cage in water with these sharks; they have to be one of my favorites!
Sharks Blacktips: These are actually endangered sharks, and don’t confuse them with their more common relatives, the blacktip reef sharks. Both are distinguished by their fins with black tips on them. They are sometimes aggressive, being held accountable for 16% of attacks on humans. They are usually dark grey in color, while blacktip reef sharks are more tan.
Rays My favorite animals! They are equipped with poisonous barbs at the base of their tails, but only use them in defense! Cownose : (Rhinoptera bonasus) Residing in the eagle ray family, this ray can grow up to about 3.5 ft from wing tip to wing tip. Their color range is from goldish brown to grey, and tan in between. They have white bellies! Their gill slits and mouths are on the ventral side, while they spiracles are on the dorsal side. Meanwhile, their eyes are on the sides. I LOVE their little mouths!
Rays Southern stingray: With a soft body (however a hard ridge following their spine) this disk-shaped stingray comes in dark browns and grays. Eyes and spiracles are on the dorsal side, while the mouth and gill slits are under. They often bury themselves in sand, like any other ray or skate. STINGRAY SHUFFLE!
Chimaeras Chimaeras are deep-down-living fish that have rounded snout and a pointed tail. Here is an example of a chimera fish, the ratfish:
Bony Reef Fish Imagine: You’re swimming through a reef in crystal clear, sunlit waters. The sunlight filters through the water and beams onto a tiny percula clownfish peeking out of the swaying bright peach pink polyps of an anemone. You will now learn about not any fish, but the colorful collection of coral reef fish!
Surgeonfish One group of fish in this family is the surgeonfish. There are 100+ kinds of surgeonfish, and you can admire various types depending on where you are. They are in a sort of a disk shape, and can be identified as surgeonfish by their bone that sticks out between the caudal fin and the body. The bone is used in defense (it is sharp!).A few examples of surgeonfish is theeyestripe surgeonfish (left), Achilles‘ tang(middle), and you will see a close up oftheir defensive bone on the right.
Angelfish Like the surgeonfish family, some angelfish are disk- shaped, too, such as the French and grey angelfishes.The queen angelfish on the left is found inthe Florida Keys, as well as the Frenchangelfish on the right.
Triggerfish Surgeonfish and angelfish aren’t the only bony coral reef fish. Triggerfish are another family of interesting and colorful fish to observe and enjoy. Triggerfish are unique fish. They have a beak-like mouth similar to an angelfish. What makes them different is their second dorsal fin and anal fin. These fins, as you will notice in the image below, are vertically across from each other and quiver while the fish is swimming, a movement not unlike the stingray’s movement of its wings. It helps the fish to propel themselves forward.Here are some examples (from left toright): clown triggerfish, Picassotriggerfish, & black durgon (with bluechromis in lower right corner).
Squirrelfish These common reef fish have large eyes and are pink or light red in color, sometimes light orange. Their dorsal spines are poisonous, so don’t get close.Above you will see a longspinesquirrelfish, which, as you may observe,has a long, spiny dorsal fin.
Jawfish Jawfish are small, approx. 3 inch long, reef fish They are very unique; they dig vertical little burrows or holes, then vertically dart in and out of them. They resort to going in when they feel threatened. They only leave these holes when in search for food.This is a yellowhead jawfish, common inthe Florida Keys.
Discus Fish The discus family holds an assortment of dish-shaped, beautifully colored fish. These fish are common salt water aquarium fish.This green mamba discus’s gorgeous, iridescentscales make it my favorite discus fish!
Snapper This group is commonly fished They have a compressed body The first fish I witnessed on my first snorkeling trip was a yellowtail snapper! They are common in the Florida KeysBelow is a yellowtail snapper, a mahogonysnapper, and a schoolmaster.
Groupers Groupers are large fish with wide mouths There are many kinds of grouper They are curious fish that will look a diver right in the eyes They make a low sound to warn divers that this is their territory, and not to mess with anything!From left to right: Nassau grouper, goliath(endangered) grouper, and a red hind.
Butterfly Fish These small species of reef fish live throughout tropical and subtropical waters. They resemble angelfish but the butterfly fish are much smaller.From left to right: an ornate butterfly fish, acopperband butterfly fish, and a threadfinbutterfly fish.
Parrotfish Parrotfish were probably named for their beak-like mouths, similar to a parrot’s mouth. There are many species in this group, and most of them display a dazzling array of color. These are relativelyAbove: princess parrotfish large fish.Top Right: stoplight parrotfishBottom Right: midnight parrotfish
Damselfishes This is a large group composed of chromis, clownfish, sergeant majors, and many others. Damselfish are relatively small, and many inhabit reefs in the Florida Keys.Top (left to right): blue chromis, jeweldamsel, cocoa damselTop right: sergeant majorRight bottom: green chromisLeft bottom: yellowtail damsel
Marine Mammals Living without gills, marine mammals can still spend up to hours under the water’s surface. This group is very unique to me; they seem to connect us air breathers to the sea.
Marine Mammals: Whales Whales look quite fishy, but are actually complete mammals. Whales is the large group that includes whales & dolphins The sperm whale holds the record for deepest diving mammal at 3000 ft+Bottom right: bottlenose dolphin
Marine Mammals: With Flippers Sea lions, seals, and walruses live throughout the world. Some can be found at aquatic/marine parks like many other marine mammals.Center: Hawaiian monk sealTop right: walruses
Aquatic/Marine Birds Aquatic/marine birds spend their lives over oceans, pecking the soggy shore, and nesting in fuzzy beach grasses and roots. Some groups of birds include penguins, pelicans, cranes, and sea gulls.From left to right: rockhopper penguin, pelican
Marine Reptiles: Sea Turtles These reptiles spend most of their lives in the water, only coming ashore to lay their eggs. Most species (out of the seven) are endangered/threatened due to overfishing, habitat changes, and the fact that few eggs make it to the ocean. The seven species include the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, the olive ridley and Kemps ridley, and the AustralianLeft: loggerhead turtle flatback.Right: green turtle
Marine Reptiles: Marine Iguana Marine iguanas are lizards that live in the Galapagos Islands. They are a dark green, almost black, and may have some other markings as well. They are herbivorous, and they have the characteristics that define a herbivore: they have a blunt snout, wide eyes, and blunt teeth.