Marine Creatures

Four-eyed butterflyfish

Four-eyed butterflyfish, Chaetodon capistratus

The “false eye” on the flanks of this fish is much larger than the real one in its head. This is a classic example of a distraction pattern which misleads predators into aiming for the rear of the fish, rather than its head. Similar eye-like spots are seen in other fishes and many insects. This is an abundant species in the Caribbean and the Southern Gulf of Mexico. In the summer, young specimens drift up the Atlantic coast with plankton, as far north as New England. This species has been popular in public aquariums for more than a hundred years.

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Clarion angelfish

Clarion angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis

While many angelfish have broad ranges in the Pacific or Atlantic, others are found in only a few locations. One of the more famous is this beautiful species, named for Clarion, one of the Revillagigedo Islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico. These islands are its center of distribution, but they are also found around remote Clipperton Island, and occasionally around the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Though kept in aquariums for more than 40 years, it remains a prized exhibit, collected only under special permit from the Mexican Government.

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Longsnout seahorse

Longsnout seahorse, Hippocampus reidi

Of the three Caribbean seahorse species found in US waters, this one has the smallest distribution, being absent from the Gulf of Mexico. In the US, it is found only in North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Its range extends to Brazil, where it is an important species in the tropical fish trade. It is also called the Brazilian or Slender seahorse. Like most seahorses, the color can be highly variable, but tends towards bright yellows and oranges. Its favored habitat is seagrass beds and mangroves.

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Spotted moray eel

Spotted moray eel, Gymnothorax moringa

The 200 or so species of eels in the moray family have long fascinated humans. In the time of Julius Caesar, Romans kept their local species as status symbol pets in specially built pools at their Mediterranean villas. One kept thousands, and another held a funeral when his favorite pet died. Today they are popular with divers and snorkelers. Found in tropical and temperate seas around the world, they seize their prey with a unique set of “double jaws” (the second pair being in the pharynx). This species grows to seven feet, and is found in the Tropical Atlantic.

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Arrow crab

Arrow crab, Stenorhynchus seticornis

It may not be immediately apparent that this delicate-looking creature, with its four-inch leg-span, is a fairly close relative of the Japanese giant spider crab, with its 12-foot leg span, or the Snow crab, whose legs are popular at seafood buffets. Inhabiting coral reefs from Bermuda and North Carolina through the Caribbean to Brazil, this nocturnal animal preys on marine worms and other invertebrates. Quite aside from its unique appearance, it is prized by aquarists for controlling Bristle worms, which can be pests in aquariums.

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