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Unusual Reef Fishes

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Trunkfish (Lactophyrs triqueter)
Smooth Trunkfish
(Lactophyrs triqueter)

Trunkfishes are members of the boxfish family. They get their name from their modified scales, which form a bony armor of plates that enclose their body. They can easily be identified by their triangular shape. The smooth trunkfish grows to about 12 inches in length, and is commonly found in the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)
Spotfin Lionfish
(Pterois antennata)

Lionfishes are among the most beautiful fish species on the coral reef. But as is often the case in nature, this beauty is actually a warning of danger. The sharp spines of the lionfish are coated with a poisonous mucous and are capable of delivering a painful sting. The venom of some of the larger species is strong enough to kill a man.

Dragon Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniorus)
Dragon Wrasse
(Novaculichthys taeniorus)

This highly usual member of the wrasse family has a foreboding appearance, but is actually quite harmless. The strange horns and spines are nothing more than an elaborate bluff. This is an adult with its brown and white markings. The juveniles of this species are actually bright green in color. The colors fade to brown as they mature.

Flying Gunard (Dactylopterus volitans)
Flying Gurnard
(Dactylopterus volitans)

Sounding more like a circus act, the flying gurnards are easily recognized by their large, wing-like pectoral fins. Contrary to their name, they do not actually fly. Their large fins help them to swim low over the sand as they search for food. Flying gurnards are found in the shallow water reefs along the eastern coast of North America, from Massachusetts to the Caribbean.

Leopard Moray Eel (Gymnothorax tesselatus)
Leopard Moray Eel
(Gymnothorax tesselatus)

The moray eel is one of the largest eel species. They are efficient predators feeding mainly on fish. Moray eels have razor sharp teeth and are capable of inflicting a painful bite. Larger species can remove the fingers of careless divers. In spite of this fact, these eels are usually timid in the wild. Some can even be hand fed by careful divers.

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