Creature Feature: Yellowfin Goatfish

yellownfin goat fish-john cooney

Photography by John Cooney

You know about the catfish. Maybe you’ve heard of the dogfish.  If exotic creatures are your thing, you might even know about the lionfish.  But have you ever heard of a goatfish?

Yellowfin goatfish (Mulloidichthys vanicolensis) are an island fish known to the native Hawaiians as weke ‘ula.  There are 10 species of goatfish that are native to the reefs of Hawaii.  All species of goatfish, including the Yellowfins, possess a distinguishing set of barbels.

What are barbels, you may ask? Barbels are whisker-like sensors, usually located around the mouth. Yellowfin goatfish barbels are located under the jaw and are used for finding food by touch as well as taste. Their food consists of benthic organisms (you may recall that benthic refers to bottom dwellers) such as worms and crustaceans. Males will also flaunt their barbels, in much the same way as human males employ the use of Axe body spray, to attract a mate (though with arguably greater success).

Yellowfin goatfish are quite petite, measuring anywhere from 9-12 inches at maturity. Goatfish live by rule of safety in numbers, so they will be found swimming in schools. They’ve even been known to swim along with blue-striped snapper. Goatfish are able to change color, though they can occasionally be spotted collectively forming a blue line to camouflage.  By day, they congregate in their schools, resting while still on the alert for predators. At night they descend to the bottom and use their barbels to find food.  Once they do, they will dig in the sand, snout first, to scarf their meal.

References:

Edited by K.C. O’Shea
Photography by John Cooney
http://www.waikikiaquarium.org/experience/animal-guide/fishes/goatfishes/goatfishes/
http://www.fishbase.org/summary/5984
http://eol.org/pages/995076/overview

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