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Unusual Reef Fishes

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For millions of years, the seas have been a virtual laboratory for the process of evolution. The results of nature's experiments can be found throughout the world's seas. Perhaps nowhere else on Earth has so many strange and unusual adaptations taken place. The coral reef is a showcase for these bizarre creatures. Fishes here have developed many different shapes and abilities. There are fishes here that do not even look like fish. There are the eels, long skinny fish that look more like snakes. There are pufferfish that actually expand like balloons to avoid being eaten by predators. There are the seahorses, which are one of the most unusual fish designs on the reef. And believe it or not, it is actually the male seahorse that gives birth to the young. There are even seahorses that look like seaweed. Camouflage has evolved into an art form here on the coral reef. There are fishes that look like rocks and fishes that look like plants. Even experienced divers can be fooled by some of these ingenious disguises. The art of poison has also reached new heights on the reef. Many undersea residents have developed strong poisons as a means of protection. Some species carry enough venom in their bodies to kill several men. Below is a listing of some of these strange and unusual residents of the coral reef.

Long-spined Porcupinefish (Diodon holacanthus)
Long-spined Porcupinefish
(Diodon holacanthus)

The members of the porcupinefish family have evolved an interesting means of defense. When threatened by a predator, they fill their bodies with water until they swell like a balloon. This makes them too large for the predator to swallow. Porcupinefishes also have the added protection of a spiny covering on their body.

Sharpnosed Puffer (Canthigaster solandri)
Sharpnosed Puffer
(Canthigaster solandri)

Pufferfishes comprise another group of inflatable fishes. The sharpnosed puffer is one of the most beautiful of the puffer species. It is shown here in its natural state. Besides the beautiful colors and spots on this species, there is a large black spot near the animal's back fin. This resembles an eye and helps draw the attention of predators toward the fish's tail and away from its head.

Stonefish (Synanecja horrida)
(Synanecja horrida)

The Stonefish is without a doubt one of the ugliest fish in the sea. This fish gets its name from its stone-like appearance. This excellent disguise allows it to blend in with the background as it waits for its prey, small fish, to wander close enough to gobble. In addition to its gruesome looks, the stonefish has sharp, venomous spines that contain enough poison to kill a man.

Anglerfish (Antennarius ocellatus)
Oscellated Frogfish
(Antennarius ocellatus)

Frogfishes get their name from their grotesque, almost frog-like appearance. Their strange looks help to camouflage them as they wait to catch their prey. Frogfishes have a specially modified dorsal spine with a fleshy growth at the end. They lie motionless and use this spine like a fishing rod. When a curious fish gets too close, it is swallowed up instantly by large, powerful jaws.

Scorpionfish (Scorpaena intermiss)
Mushroom Scorpionfish
(Scorpaena intermiss)

Scorpionfishes are characterized by their bizarre appearance and the numerous spines that cover their bodies. Similar to the lionfish, these spines contain venom strong enough to cause a very painful wound and even more serious injury to those who may have allergic reactions. The strange appearance of the scropionfish helps conceal them as they wait to ambush their prey.

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