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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Butterflyfish





Pufferfish are poor swimmers, but can quickly ingest huge amounts of water to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.









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Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.
A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.
Amazingly, the meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy. Called fugu in Japan, it is extremely expensive and only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually.
There are more than 120 species of pufferfish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment.
They range in size from the 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length. They are scaleless fish and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.
The diet of the pufferfish includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Large specimens will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.
Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most populations are considered stable.

It's hard to decide which of the colorful parrot fish's many unique characteristics is most remarkable.
There’s its diet, which consists primarily of algae extracted from chunks of coral ripped from a reef. The coral is pulverized with grinding teeth in the fishes’ throats in order to get to the algae-filled polyps inside. Much of the sand in the parrot fish's range is actually the ground-up, undigested coral they excrete.
There's its gender, which they can change repeatedly throughout their lives, and their coloration and patterns, which are a classification nightmare, varying greatly, even among the males, females, and juveniles of the same species.
Finally, there are the pajamas. Every night, certain species of parrot fish envelope themselves in a transparent cocoon made of mucous secreted from an organ on their head. Scientists think the cocoon masks their scent, making them harder for nocturnal predators, like moray eels, to find.
Close relatives of the wrasse, parrot fish are abundant in and around the tropical reefs of all the world’s oceans. There are about 80 identified species, ranging in size from less than 1 to 4 feet (30 to 120 centimeters) in length.
Their meat is rarely consumed in the United States, but is a delicacy in many other parts of the world. In Polynesia, it is served raw and was once considered "royal food," only eaten by the king.

Pretty much everything about the venomous lionfish—its red-and-white zebra stripes, long, showy pectoral fins, and generally cantankerous demeanor—says, "Don't touch!"
The venom of the lionfish, delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins, is purely defensive. It relies on camouflage and lightning-fast reflexes to capture prey, mainly fish and shrimp. A sting from a lionfish is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal.
Lionfish, also called turkey fish, dragon fish and scorpion fish, are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the Indo-Pacific, although they've found their way to warm ocean habitats worldwide.
The largest of lionfish can grow to about 15 inches (0.4 meters) in length, but the average is closer to 1 foot (0.3 meters).
Lionfish are popular in some parts of the world as food, but are far more prized in the aquarium trade. Their population numbers are healthy and their distribution is growing, causing some concerned in the United States, where some feel the success of this non-indigenous species presents human and environmental dangers.

Butterflyfish, with their amazing array of colors and patterns, are among the most common sites on reefs throughout the world.
Although some species are dull-colored, most wear intricate patterns with striking backgrounds of blue, red, orange, or yellow. Many have dark bands across their eyes and round, eye-like dots on their flanks to confuse predators as to which end to strike and in which direction they're likely to flee.
There are about 114 species of butterflyfish. They have thin, disk-shaped bodies that closely resemble their equally recognizable cousins, the angelfish. They spend their days tirelessly pecking at coral and rock formations with their long, thin snouts in search of coral polyps, worms, and other small invertebrates.
Some butterflyfish species travel in small schools, although many are solitary until they find a partner, with whom they may mate for life.