Friday, 26 May 2017

The Squirrelfish

The squirrelfish, Holocentrus adscensionis, are commonly found along the southeastern coast of the United States to northern South America and Brazil. They also inhabit shallow coral reefs in the Caribbean. I spotted a squirrelfish at Looe Key hiding under Acropora palmata. Squirrelfish are most commonly spotted at depths of 30-70m, and are rarely seen in shallow waters. Squirrelfish commonly stay in deeper water where it’s darker because they are nocturnal fish. They remain in holes or caves in the reef structure during the day.
            Squirrelfish have adapted to see in the dark and to see in shaded spots of the coral by evolving very large eyes. There bodies are streamlined with a white spot at the end of each dorsal spine. They are a brightly colored species with silvery-red coloration and their fins are gold orange striped. A carnivorous predator, the Squirrelfish have small teeth so they have to digest prey whole. When traveling at night squirrelfish typically stay in schools of 8-10 individuals to avoid being eaten by predators, however squirrelfish are extremely territorially during the day over their homes both toward other fish and fish of the same species.
            Squirrelfish are not listed by IUCN because there are not any serious threats to their population. Humans rarely eat squirrelfish because its body size has such little value. The biggest anthropogenic threat on squirrelfish is the aquarium industry, because these fish has bright colored bodies. 
             This species is capable of producing sounds with its swim bladder for intra-specific communication.  It emits a grunting sound to fend off threatening fish, and short burst of a distinctive sound to signal an alarm to other squirrelfish. They also are known to have sharp spines that can secrete a poison. In conclusion the beautiful brightly colored squirrelfish is one of my favorite reef fish and I’m so glad I got to see it on my last snorkeling trip of the week.

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