The spotted drum, Equetus punctatus, is a member of the family Sciaenidae.
This fish is a nocturnal plankton feeder, sparingly found in about 50-foot depths on reefs throughout the Caribbean. It quickly grows out of its spectacular juvenile stage, which sports a flamboyantly flowing black-and-white dorsal and tail fin.
The juvenile spotted drum is distinguished from the young jackknife fish by its black-spotted nose, as the latter has a black vertical dash.
It is not unusual for my divers to stop and admire one of these delicate fish do a swimming ballet in the confines of their lair, which is typically under a coral overhang.
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.