Mandarinfish [Synchiropus splendidus]

Mandarinfish

The Mandarinfish or Mandarin dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus), is a small, brightly colored member of the dragonet family, which is popular in the saltwater aquarium trade. The mandarinfish is native to the Pacific, ranging approximately from the Ryukyu Islands south to Australia.  It was later placed in genus Synchiropus. The common name of the Mandarinfish comes from its extremely vivid colouration, evoking the robes of an Imperial Chinese mandarin. Other common names include Mandarin goby, Green mandarin, Striped mandarinfish, Striped dragonet, Green dragonet and sometimes Psychedelic mandarinfish. The similarly named mandarin fish (Siniperca chuatsi), properly known as the Chinese perch, is only distantly related.

The Mandarinfish belongs to the perciform family Callionymidae, the dragonets, which counts 10 genera and more than 182 species. Genus Synchiropus counts 51 species, divided into 10 subgenera. The Mandarinfish is in subgenus Synchiropus (Pterosynchiropus) along with the Australian LSD-fish (S. occidentalis) and the LSD- or psychedelic fish (S. picturatus).

To date, S. splendidus is one of only two animal species known to have blue colouring because of cellular pigment, the other being the closely related LSD-fish Psychedelic Mandarin (S. picturatus). The name “cyanophore” was proposed for the blue chromatophores, or pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells. In all other known cases, the colour blue comes from thin-film interference from piles of flat, thin and reflecting purine crystals.

Mandarinfish are reef dwellers, preferring sheltered lagoons and inshore reefs. While they are slow-moving and fairly common within their range, they are not easily seen due to their bottom-feeding habit and their small size (reaching only about 6 cm). They feed primarily on small crustaceans and other invertebrates.

 Pictures: Sulawesi, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

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Oriental Flying gurnard [Dactyloptena orientalis]

flying gurnard

The oriental flying gurnardDactyloptena orientalis, is a flying gurnard of the family Dactylopteridae. This flying gurnard inhabits the Indo-Pacific Oceans at depths to 100 metres (330 ft). Their name is derived from the French word ‘gurnard’ meaning to grunt, for the grunting sound this fish makes.

The oriental flying gurnard is up to 40 centimetres (16 in) in length and is usually a grayish brown color with dark markings. The fish has huge, round pectoral finshaving many dark markings and a bright blue edge. The pectoral fins are normally held against the body, but when threatened the fins are expanded to scare predators which include sea breams and mackerel. The flying gurnard uses its pelvic fins to walk along the bottom of the ocean. The oriental flying gurnard feed on bony fish, bivalves, and crustaceans.

 Pictures: Sulawesi, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

golden trevally [Gnathanodon speciosus]

00 Golden Trevally, Gnathanodon speciosus

The golden trevallyGnathanodon speciosus (also known as the golden kingfishbanded trevally and king trevally), is a species of large marine fish classified in the jack and horse mackerel family Carangidae, and the only member of the genus Gnathanodon. The golden trevally is widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging from South Africa in the west to Central America in the east, extending to Japan in the north and Australia in the south. The species predominantly occupies inshore waters where it inhabits both reef and sandy substrates. The golden trevally is easily distinguished from its relatives by its fleshy, rubbery lips and unique colouration, which ranges from bright yellow with black bars as a juvenile to a golden-silvery colour as an adult. It is known to grow to 120 cm in length and 15 kg in weight. The golden trevally schools as a juvenile, often closely following larger objects including sharks and jellyfish. The species uses its protractile jaws to suck out prey from the sand or reef, and consumes a variety of fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Spawning aggregations gather at night at different times of the year throughout its range.

 Pictures: Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Pygmy Seahorse [Hippocampus bargibanti]

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a pregnant male

The pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, is a seahorse of the family Syngnathidae in the western central Pacific. It is tiny, from few millimeters to 2.4 cm. There are two known color variations: grey with red tubercles (on gorgonian coral Muricella plectana), and yellow with orange tubercles (on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana).

This species is known to occur only on gorgonian corals of the genus Muricella, and has evolved to resemble its host. The tubercles and truncated snout of this species match the color and shape of the polyps of the host gorgonian, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. The camouflage is so effective, the original specimens were discovered only after their host gorgonian had been collected and placed in an aquarium.

The pygmy seahorse is found in coastal areas ranging from southern Japan and Indonesia to northern Australia and New Caledonia on reefs and slopes at a depth of 10-40 m.

Well-camouflaged pygmy seahorse on a gorgonian coral Muricella plectana. See this image to identify the pygmy seahorse. On the lower portion of the abdomen, males have a brood pouch in which the female lays her eggs. They are fertilized by the male, and incubated until birth. (text source: Wikipedia)

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Denise’s Pygmy Seahorse [Hippocampus denise]

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Denise’s pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise, is a species of fish in the Syngnathidae family. It is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. Its natural habitat is coral reefs. The pygmy seahorse is undoubtedly one of the most well camouflaged species in the oceans, being very difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it lives in. The camouflage is so effective that the species wasn’t actually discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a lab.

Large, bulbous tubercles cover this species’ body and match the color and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. Two color morphs exist – pale gray or purple individuals scattered with pink or red tubercles are found on the similarly colored gorgonian coral Muricella plectana, and yellow with orange tubercles are found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana. It is not known whether individuals can change color if they change hosts.

The seahorses combine the unique characteristics of several different animal species such as the head of a Horse, using its tail,(grasping) like a monkey, it carries its young in a pouch like a Kangaroo, has a bony external skeleton like an insect and the independent eye movement of a Chameleon making this one of the most spectacular of any fish species. Other distinctive characteristics include a fleshy head and body, a very short snout, and a long, prehensile tail. This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring from few millimeters to 2 cm in height. The male carries eggs and young concealed within the trunk region. They are the only creature known where the male gives birth to young live ponies.

The male Seahorse courts the female by attaching his tail to a “hitching post” next to the female and vibrates his tiny Dorsal Fin rapidly to attract her attention. Eventually, she will respond to his advances by extending her “egg tube” slightly and grasping his tail twirling and spinning towards the top of the water while delivering her eggs into the males expanded open pouch. They swim in an upright position with their tails down and their heads up. Their dorsal fin moves them forward and the pectoral fin controls steering and turning. Very little is known about their life cycle. They are thought to eat the same zooplankton as the seafans that they inhabit and they seem to prefer seafans to other family members, as there are normally few other inhabitants on a pygmy’s seafan.

Seahorses are found all over the world and inhabit coral reefs and sea grass beds. They are Widespread in the Western Pacific, including in waters around Indonesia, Malaysia, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Vanutu. (text source: Wikipedia)

Pictures: Misool Islands, Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia by Sami Salmenkivi

Red Saddleback Clownfish [Amphiprion ephippium]

Red saddleback anemonefish or clownfish, Amphiprion ephippium, is a clownfish that lives in the Indo-Pacific area. They are considered small even for a clownfish, but are very aggressive toward other animals, especially to other types of clownfish. They don’t have the typical stripe. (text source: Wikipedia)

Picture: Andaman & Nicobar, India by Sami Salmenkivi

Needlefish

Needlefish is the family (Belonidae), but information on the different species cannot be found. But if you do know more, feel free to assist.

Needlefish (family Belonidae) are piscivorous fishes primarily associated with very deep marine habitats or the bottom of the open sea. Some genera include species found in marine, brackish, and freshwater environments (e.g., Strongylura) while a few genera are confined to freshwater rivers and streams, including Belonion, Potamorrhaphis, and Xenentodon. Needlefish closely resemble North American freshwater gars (family Lepisosteidae) in being elongate and having long, narrow jaws filled with sharp teeth, and some species of needlefish are referred to as gars or garfish despite being only distantly related to the true gars. Needlefish are in fact members of the Beloniformes and therefore most closely related to flying fish, sauries, and halfbeaks.

Picture: Pulau Redang, Malaysia by Sami Salmenkivi