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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sea Things #28: Dragon Wrasse (Rockmover)

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

This is the Dragon Wrasse, also called a Rockmover or Rockmover Wrasse. It has a scientific name, too: Novaculichthys taeniourus. We saw quite a few of them in Hawaii, and they're found in most of the tropical Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean.

This is an example of a fish that looks very different as a juvenile than it does as an adult. The above photo is an adult Dragon Wrasse (looking less like a dragon than a rockmover - we'll get to that part in a second). A juvenile Dragon Wrasse looks a little more dragon-like:

Juveniles will kind of float around in sandy areas, eating little crustaceans and getting bigger, ready to turn into adults.

Once they've reached maturity, they look (or act) more like their "Rockmover" name. These guys will hang out in rocky areas or edges of reefs, picking up rocks and dropping them again. I mean big rocks. Rocks that are clearly two or more times their size. Even underwater, you can clearly hear them moving the rocks around if you're near them. They'll poke around under the rocks, look for things to eat, and eat whatever they find. They eat all kinds of little crustaceans - crabs, shrimp, etc. Does it have a shell? No problem, the Rockmover will pick it up and smash it up against a rock to break the shell and get to the delicious little critter inside.

I could sit and watch them for an entire dive, they're that interesting. They get to be about a foot long, and I'm sure there's a diver signal for them, but I failed to truly learn the diver hand signals for a lot of the Pacific fish.

Rockmovers get taken frequently from Hawaii's reefs to be sold to aquarists. I dislike this, and continue to believe that tropical fish belong in the ocean, not in someone's house.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

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