Where When How N/D 2017 - J/F 2018 : Page 99
Under the Sea The Slender Fileﬁsh One Of THe smAller And most beautiful treasures to be found on our reefs is the tiny slender ﬁleﬁsh. divers will need a keen eye and some patience to ﬁnd this little one, but those who like to scour the reefs for our smaller residents will often be re-warded with a sighting of this master of camouﬂage. As the name suggests, the slender ﬁleﬁsh belongs to the ﬁle-ﬁsh family – a family group that comes in all sizes, shapes and colours. The larger members of the family, such as the scrawled ﬁleﬁsh can reach sizes of 36 inches and have a scrawled irides-cent blue pattern marking their bodies. Other common members found on our reef include the white spotted ﬁleﬁsh, or-ange spotted ﬁleﬁsh, and we are occasion-ally fortunate enough to ﬁnd unicorn or orange ﬁleﬁsh. These members range from 8 -18 inches and have unique body shapes, patterns and colour phases. The slender ﬁleﬁsh is the smallest of our ﬁleﬁsh family here on our Turks and Caicos Island (TCI) reefs, clocking in around 1-2 inches long. no matter their size, shape or coloura-tion, all ﬁleﬁsh have an elongated front dor-sal spine that can be raised and lowered in response to threats, excitement or courtship rituals. The spine can be locked in place with a shorter, second spine behind it. fileﬁsh, along with triggerﬁsh, also form a ‘super family’ called leather jackets, named for the rough texture of their skin. lore has it that ﬁshermen would use the skin of these ﬁsh as sandpaper when they found one of them on their lines. Being particularly shy, the best way to ﬁnd one of the smallest, furtive ﬁleﬁsh is to take your time looking through the soft corals in the 10-60 ft. depth range. Hanging vertically amongst the stalks of gorgonian coral, slender ﬁleﬁsh can be almost impos-sible to see. A reticulated pattern covers its body, however this little ﬁsh can change its colours, patterns, and shadings dramatically to blend in with the soft corals it inhabits. This allows it ample cover from predators and divers alike. Unlike other members of its ﬁsh family, it is usually a solitary creature and divers will rarely ﬁnd a pair of slender ﬁleﬁsh on the same soft coral. If you’re lucky enough to spy a slender ﬁleﬁsh, you’ll notice their elongated snout and head, with a slender, diamond-shaped body that tapers back to a small, fan-like tail. An extendable belly appendage called a dewlap may or may not be visible extending underneath what we may think of as the ‘chin’ of ﬁsh. In juveniles the appendage is often retracted, but in adult ﬁsh it is often visible, making the ﬁsh appear larger than they are. Combined with the locking, front dorsal spine that crowns its head, this could be a mechanism used to discourage a po-tential predator. Once you ﬁnd a slender ﬁleﬁsh, don’t take your eyes oﬀ of it for too long. In the second you take to turn around to point out your discovery to your dive buddy, that little, slender, shy ﬁsh will have moved on to another branch of coral and miraculously changed its patterns to disappear before your very eyes. I STORY BY JAYNE BAKER -PHOTOS BY MICKEY GOPIGIAN -FLAMINGO DIVERS Visit the Turks & Caicos Islands at www.WhereWhenHow.com NOV/DEC/JAN/FEB 2017/2018 • • • • • 99
Under The Sea Slender Filefish
One Of THe smAller And most beautiful treasures to be found on our reefs is the tiny slender filefish. divers will need a keen eye and some patience to find this little one, but those who like to scour the reefs for our smaller residents will often be rewarded with a sighting of this master of camouflage.
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