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Introduction to Caribbean Reef Fish

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  1. Introduction to Caribbean Reef Fish M.L. Anderson, 2009

  2. Fisheries Abundance and Distribution of Key Species Blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus Four-eyed butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus Queen triggerfish Balistes vetula Queen parrotfish Scarus vetula Yellowtail snapper Ocyurus chrysururs

  3. Caribbean Fish An amazing diversity.

  4. Factors for fish and coral reef habitats… • Proximity to the coast. • Exposure to wave action. • Currents. • Light levels. • Amount of algae. • Plankton and other food. • Abundance/shape/varieties of coral and other shelter. = LOTS OF PLACES TO LIVE!

  5. Reproduction Methods: Spawning (sperm and eggs released in open water). Scattering eggs over substratum. Preparing/defending nests on bottom. Carrying fertilized eggs inside mouth or pouch.

  6. Two stages, pelagic and benthic. Pelagic (oceanic) larval stage is when the fish float freely in the water. • In around 9 to 100 days, the fish find a place to live and settle. The pelagic stage determines geographical size of population units. This is the only period when fish disperse for long distances. Life Cycle 3. After settlement, the fish establish relatively small home-ranges with the majority spending the rest of their lives on the same reef. This is the benthic stage.

  7. Feeding: HERBIVORES Feed on algae located on the coral reefs. Control algae abundance on the reef and keep the hard surfaces clean and allow new corals to grow or invertebrates to attach to the substrate. There is some evidence that herbivorous fish have bacteria in their guts, much like cows, to allow them to digest more nutrients from the algae. Surgeonfish, damselfish, parrotfish.

  8. Invertebrate Predators They play an important role on composition of prey communities. Butterfly fish, angelfish, wrasse. This group includes the largest number of coral reef fish species. They eat coral polyps, sessile inverts, and some mobile inverts.

  9. Omnivores / Carnivores They influence the composition of prey communities. Eat well-armored inverts, crustaceans, star-fish, some algae. Filefish, triggerfish, puffers.

  10. Fragile Balance… The disturbance of any of these feeding groups may affect directly another group or entire reef community. There is such a fragile balance holding the coral reef fish community together like links in a chain.

  11. Fish: Jawless Fish… Jawless HagFish Examples: lampreys and hagfish. …are primitive species with no jaws, scales, pelvic or pectoral fins. Most lampreys live in freshwater and those that live in the open ocean come back to FW to spawn. Hagfish are scavengers, dining on dead or dying fish, using their rasping mouths to consume the flesh. They produce great quantities of slime and are usually found in deep cold water.

  12. Cartilaginous Fish Reef Fish - Jawed Fish Jawed fish are divided into either bony or cartilaginous fish. Bony Fish Bony fish have skeletons made of bone. They have round, comb-like or diamond shaped scales, and a pair of gill covers. Most are also equipped with swim bladders to control buoyancy. This group of fish have skeletons made of cartilage. The scales are sharp and plate-like and they have no gill covers or swim bladders. Instead, they use large, oil-filled livers to keep them buoyant. Sharks and rays are the most common cartilaginous fish.

  13. Angel Fish Butterfly Fish Damsels Eagle Rays Jacks Eels – Moray Goat Fish Groupers Grunts Nurse Shark Parrot Fish Sandbar Shark Sting Rays Snappers Surgeons Tarpons Trigger Fish Wrasses Caribbean Reef Fish

  14. Butterfly Fish: Chaetodontidae Reef Fish Butterfly fish have a rounded tail, like a butterfly's wing. (Put two together nose to nose and you get the whole butterfly!) Usually seen in pairs, butterfly fish are one of the only fish that mate for life.

  15. Reef Fish • Angel Fish: Pomacanthidae • Angelfish ‑ Streaming dorsal, anal and tail fins, like an angel's gown. Some of the Angelfish's favorite foods are sponges. They are usually found around colorful coral reef bottom.

  16. Reef Fish • Damselfish - Pomacentridae • Most Damsels are algae eating fish that actually stake out a territory on the reef in which to farm their favorite algae for food. • If another fish comes too close, or even a diver for that matter, the damselfish will charge out and chase the intruder away, regardless of size. • For that reason we say damselfish are very selfish with their territory. In fact, they are Dam ‑Selfish!

  17. Eagle Rays Reef Fish Eagle Rays fly through the water by flapping their long, pectoral fins. They gather in large schools and feed on bottom dwellers such as mollusks and clams. They have flat teeth that crush shell fish and strong suction which draws in the prey. They also have a strong, serrated, venomous spine near the base of the tail.

  18. Grunts - Haemulidae Reef Fish Goatfish Goatfishes get their name from the set of barbels hanging under their chin. These barbels are used in feeding to detect small shrimp, crabs and worms buried in the sand. The Yellow Goatfish looks much like a Yellowtail Snapper if not for the barbels. These barbels can be folded up into a concealed location under the chin. Grunts are often found schooling under and around ledges during the daytime. They are nocturnal feeders that move out to surrounding grass beds to feed on small fish and invertebrates at night. Grunts get their name by making grunting sounds when threatened. They do this by rubbing bony teeth plates together in the back of their throat. Grunts lack any prominent teeth in the front of the mouth.

  19. Moray Eels Reef Fish Though looking like snakes, eels are fish. They have a bad reputation mainly due to the constant opening and closing of their sharp toothed mouths. However, this is not a threat to divers, as this action pumps water through their gills. Most eels are actually very shy.  The Green Moray is the largest of the Caribbean morays.

  20. Reef Fish • Jacks- Carangidae • Silvery fish are most often found in areas where they blend in with the background ‑ open water where their color reflects light or sandy bottoms that are fairly lacking in coloration. • Jacks have streamlined bodies, forked tails and long pectorals are characteristics of the Jacks. • Voracious predators, Jacks tend to swim quickly and constantly around the reef.

  21. Reef Fish Nurse Shark The nurse shark is the most commonly sighted shark in the Caribbean due to its docile nature and habit of laying still on the bottom under a ledge. They can often be approached, though like many animal should never be antagonized. They can still bite!

  22. Reef Fish • Parrotfish continually graze the hard bottom, using their parrot‑like beak of fused teeth to scrape a bite of algae. • Often, hard calcium carbonate is ingested with the algae and processed by a second set of plates in the back of the throat. • Parrotfish digest the algae and expel the rest through their digestive system. • The resulting by‑product is sand! It is estimated that a large Parrotfish can produce over one ton of sand each year. • Parrotfish - Scaridae

  23. Sea Basses - Groupers Reef Fish Groupers are found on fine dining menus around the world and are consequently under extremely heavy fishing pressure. A top of the line predator, groupers grow very slowly and can be many decades old. They are hermaphrodites, starting life as females and after a number of years, change sex to end life as males. This sex /age relationship has serious implications when placed under the old standard of throwing the little ones back and keeping all the big ones. Too many males may be removed from the population to allow for effective spawning.

  24. Reef Fish Sandbar Shark Sharks and rays are the only fish that have a skeleton made up of cartilage. They are some of the most ancient creatures in the sea. The large Southern Stingray is normally found half buried in the sand next to the reef and has no markings on a gray to brown body. • Sandbar sharks have a 10’ heavy body , are dark grey to brown above and light below. Stingray

  25. Reef Fish Snappers-Lutjanidae They get their family name because they snap their mouths open and shut when caught on a fishing line. Fishermen reaching into the mouth to remove the hook often receive a nasty bite from the sharp pointed teeth in the front of the mouth. These teeth are often visible to a diver during a close approach. Snappers tend to hang out under ledges in the daytime.

  26. Reef Fish • Surgeonfish-Acanthuridae • Surgeonfish have a very sharp spine at the base of the tall that is referred to as a scalpel. The Surgeon wields the scalpel. • They are also very important grazers on the reef system, continually keeping excess algae growth in check to keep corals from being smothered and providing new clean areas on the bottom for new corals to attach.

  27. Tarpons Reef Fish Large, powerful, predatory, game fish. Can grow to 300lbs (136kg.) and 96” (2.4m). They have very large scales, a large mouth and a protruding lower jaw.

  28. Wrases - Thalassoma Reef Fish Wrasses are similar to Parrotfish in their swimming behaviors, but lack the fused beak‑like teeth. Instead, of eating algae, most Wrasses feed on either small invertebrates in the sand or pick plankton drifting in the water column.

  29. Reef Fish • Triggerfish have a short, stout spine just behind the head that can be locked in place when the fish wedges itself into a crevice. • This makes it almost impossible for a predator to pull it out. • The only way to release the spine is to push on a second "trigger" spine located behind the first. Triggerfish

  30. Fisheries Abundance and Distribution of Key Species Blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus Four-eyed butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus Queen triggerfish Balistes vetula Queen parrotfish Scarus vetula Yellowtail snapper Ocyurus chrysururs

  31. The End