Natural marine world tidbits

The Scrawled Filefish by Tom Byrnes

The Scrawled Filefish is naturally curious.

One of my favourite marine creatures, the Scrawled Filefish (Aluterus scriptus), beams with bright blue iridescent patterns.

Usually found in pairs, these fish are not only highly approachable, but will often come and check you out.

Filefish and Triggerfish are members of the family Balistidae, though some taxonomists will split them into very closely-related families. It is more natural to lump them in a general grouping known as the Leatherjackets, owing to their thick and sandpaper-like skin.

They lack pelvic fins and swim using the culling motion of their dorsal and anal fins. If threatened, they can slide into tight places on the reef and distend their bellies – while locking their spiked dorsal spines or triggers – making it impossible to extricate them.

They possess tiny, yet intelligent-looking turret-like eyes, and a small but powerful mouth, suitable for a picking-feeding style. They can even consume fire coral.

Tom Byrnes is the owner/operator of Cayman Marine Lab. He acquired his Coast Guard Captain’s Licence when he was a teenager and worked as a commercial fisherman in his youth. He got his first diving certificate in 1974 with the YMCA. He has worked in the local dive industry for more than 35 years and has a PhD in Marine Biology.

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