Butterflyfishes and Angelfishes

We started our fish identification lessons with brightly colored butterflyfishes and angelfishes. These will probably be the first thing that students notice when they begin their underwater journey in the Bahamas.

Banded butterflyfish (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

To learn how to identify fish, we started with a few pointers. It's important to note the size of a fish, its location, and body markings. When we're back on the boat after a dive, this information will help us determine the species of fishes we encountered.

Foureye butterflyfish (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

First we learned about fin placement. For a "typical" fish (as we know, there are always exceptions in biology!) the dorsal fin is on top, the pectoral fins are on the sides, the pelvic fins are on the bottom (or ventral) side, the anal fin is near the back of the fish, and the tail fin is also called the caudal fin. (So this would not be the case with a peacock flounder - which we hope to see in Bimini).

As for markings:

bands are diagonal lines

stripes are horizontal lines

bars are vertical lines

lines go in any direction

spots are solid - you guessed it! - spots

ocellated spots have a spot surrounded by a ring of color

We looked at photos of fish we're going to see on our trip. Instead of showing more photos here, let's play a game with a movie I took in the GOT. You can see four species of angelfish: gray angelfish, French angelfish, queen angelfish and rock beauty (in the angelfish family). You can also see two species of butterflyfish: spotfin butterflyfish and foureye butterflyfish.

Those of you who are really good with fish identification may also have noticed a whitespotted filefish, a brown chromis, a Spanish hogfish, a French grunt, a blue tang, two gray snappers (one is really old but still alive and kicking - or swimming!)

We'll be doing a lot more fish identification before the trip. Let us know if you like learning about it on the blog!

- Sarah

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