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Healthy Fish for a Healthy Ocean
Fish and their ocean neighbors are fascinating. Get to know some of our favorite ocean creatures with the coloring pages below, created by Ocean Conservancy’s own
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There are over 300 species of squid worldwide. Squid are cephalopods, part of the same class of mollusks as octopuses and cuttlefish. A group of squid is called a shoal, but it’s also fun to call them a squad of squid. Squid swim using jet propulsion, where they fill their bodies with water and then rapidly shoot the water out, which moves them in the opposite direction. Green sea turtles ( Chelonia mydas) can be found in the coastal waters of the much of the U.S. and around the world. As adults, their diet consists of mostly algae and seagrasses. This diet means that even their fat is green, which is the reason they are called green sea turtles. Green sea turtles can live for 80 years or longer in the wild and weigh up to 700 pounds. In the Gulf of Mexico, seahorses can be found hanging on blades of seagrass by their tails in shallow coastal areas. Masters of camouflage, they might be hard to spot. Seahorses are unusual among animals because the male seahorse carries the eggs in a specialized pouch until they hatch as babies. Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) are found in the Gulf of Mexico and in Atlantic waters off the southeastern United States. Red snapper are extremely popular among recreational fishermen and a prized offering at restaurants and seafood markets in the Gulf. They are a top predator in the Gulf ecosystem, feeding on shrimp, squid, and other fish. A red snapper can weigh 50 pounds and live for more than 50 years! Manta rays are large fish with a diamond-shaped body and wing-like fins. The giant manta ray is found worldwide in oceanic waters and can reach wingspans of up to 29 feet! Giant manta rays will sometimes congregate at feeding sites, even doing somersaults and creating feeding chains with one another to be more efficient at filter feeding to catch food. An octopus hangs out on a reef. Octopuses are famous for their intelligence and are masterful at hiding in the nooks and crannies of the reef to hide from predators or stalk their prey. Lionfish are originally from the South Pacific, but were introduced in waters off the Florida coast in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They have long venomous spines, making them unappetizing to predators. They are also voracious predators that eat young reef fish. Because they reproduce quickly, lionfish have become one of the most problematic invasive species in the United States. While they are relatively rare in their native South Pacific, they can reach high abundances in the Gulf and Caribbean. Greater amberjack, triggerfish, snapper, and grouper are all types of reef fish found in the Gulf of Mexico that rely on habitat like coral reefs for shelter and food. In turn, fishermen in the Gulf rely on healthy populations of these and other fish for food and recreation. A queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) reigns over the reef. These colorful and territorial fish are common on Florida reefs and can reach up two feet in length. Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) are nicknamed silver kings because of their coloring with large and distinctive silver scales and their size, which can be up to 8 feet. Tarpon are a top game fish and are known as acrobatic fighters when hooked. Tarpon are unusual in that they will come to the surface to gulp air as a way to get additional oxygen. They are the only marine fish that does this behavior, and it helps them survive in waters that are low in oxygen. The most defining feature of the yellowtail snapper (Lutjanus chrysurus) is its prominent yellow stripe, which runs the entire length of its body and broadening to color the caudal fin or tail. These fish prefer to hang out in small schools on or near reefs in the Western Atlantic. Characteristic for all snappers, these mostly predatory fish also have several canine teeth! Permits (Trachinotus falcatus) are found in coastal waters of the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, but they are most abundant in Florida waters. Permit have a specialized plate at the back of their mouth designed to help them crush their prey, which include hard shelled crabs and clams. These neon gobies (Elactinus sp.) get most of their food from cleaning other fish! Like cleaner wrasses and shrimp, these cleaner gobies inhabit known “cleaning stations” at or near coral heads on the reef. Larger fish, such as the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), will line up a cleaning station to have parasites and other material removed from their body. The gobies provide the service and get a meal! Butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) are brightly colored reef fish with many species having a “false” eye near their tail, meant to confuse predators about which way the fish will flee.
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