These little fellas are a common sight in tropical seas, but can you guess what it is?
(scroll down to find out if you were right……)
The Butterfly fish is of the family Chaetodontidae, and they are commonly found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. There are many different species of Butterfly fish, but identification is relatively easy as they all closely resemble each other.
Between 12 and 22cm long, the Butterfly fish is named after its bright, colourful appearance with specimens displaying a range of colours including yellow, white, red, black and orange.
The fish are found in pairs or schools, dependent on sub-species. Of those in pairs, if one falls prey to a predator or meets an untimely demise, then the remaining fish will remain solitary for the rest of its life and not take another partner (make sure you feel some sympathy next time you see one on its own!)
They feed mostly on coral polyps although some will take a bite out of a sea anemone if the opportunity presents itself.
But how does it stop itself being eaten? If you take a close look at the markings, you may notice that some have black patches or ‘false eyes’ and this is vital to help its defense against larger animals, much like their namesake on land. This poor fish was not blessed by Mother Nature and, due to its slow moving nature, it is a meal for many larger fish in the sea. By sticking close to the reef, and even hiding in crevices if necessary, it can defend itself to a point, but it’s the markings that help them the most. They are there to make it difficult for a predator to figure out which end the head is located. A fish is far more likely to survive a bite to the rear end than the head! This clever disguise is further helped by the body shape and fin configuration. The wafer thin body is oval shaped, but the fins run the entire way round (apart from over the head). If under attack, the fish does two things…firstly turns head on, in the hope the narrow body will ‘disappear’ and secondly it will become motionless. Whilst not moving, the fins come together and appear to be one continuous extension of the body, further confusing anything that is looking for food, increasing the chance that their nibble will result in nothing more than a mouth full of scaly fin.Share