Tag Archives: Unicornfish

Orangespine Unicornfish

An Orangespine Unicornfish in the waters off Hawaii

This brightly-colored fish is fairly common in shallow waters. Those orange spines at the base of the tail are reputed to be very sharp, though I have no desire to field test that. One would have to be unlucky or unwise to be on the receiving end of them. They’re intended for use in encounters with other fish.

Oddities in the water

A manta ray in the waters off Hawaii

Today marks the start of the last week of this month’s Becky’s Squares challenge theme of ‘Odd.’ See more responses here. The ocean is full of oddities so I thought I’d include a few here.

Above: A Manta Ray encounter is always something special, but there’s no getting away from their odd appearance. This one has the added wrinkle of one of its cephalic flaps being damaged.

Top left: Bluespine Unicornfishes not only have a horn protruding from their foreheads, they have dayglow blue scalpels at the base of the tail and an array of expressions that are mostly odd.

Top right: Who knows how many scorpionfishes I’ve swum past? Masters of disguise, I could stare at a spot where one is perched and not see it. Even when I do see one, it’s not always clear that it’s not just a rock, as this Titan Scorpionfish illustrates.

Bottom left: Nudibranches are inherently odd looking, and this Clumpy Nudibrach is no exception. It suggests to me some top chef’s idea of an exotic entrée, but one that keeps sliding off the plate!

Bottom right: Blennies are indisputably odd, but absolutely endearing. The Hawaiian Zebra Blenny is no exception and, in addition, has an uncanny ability to launch itself into the next tidepool if someone disturbs it.

Big and small bluespine unicornfish

Adult bluespine unicornfish, such as the one above, are liberally trimmed with blue on their fins, spines, and tail streamers. They also have a horn jutting from their brows. Juveniles are also tinged with blue, but while they have blue spines, they don’t yet have tail streamers and they don’t have a horn. Once they grow a horn, their cuteness will disappear and they will acquire the grumpy look of most unicornfish.

Yellow chub and orangespine unicornfish

The yellow chub in this photo is actually a gray chub, but a few individuals, such as this one, can be yellow, white, or multicolored. This one is something of a regular at one spot on the North Kohala coast.

The orangespine unicornfish is seen in many places along the coast and always has a grumpy look. In this case, it looks like it’s upset that the chub has swum into its territory.

Orangespine unicornfish

Orangespine Unicornfish

Orangespine unicornfish, like most unicornfish, tend to look a little grumpy. If they actually get grumpy, they have sharp orange spines at the base of the tail fin that they can use to express their displeasure. This doesn’t mean they’re a dangerous fish, just one not to provoke, which is a good attitude to have to any creature.

Bluespine unicornfish being cleaned

Bluespine Unicornfish and cleaner wrasse

Bluespine Unicornfish being cleanedThe bluespine unicornfish must be a contender for any ‘Grumpiest Looking Fish’ awards. This one though was enjoying the attention of a small yellow and blue Hawaiian cleaner wrasse.

Cleaner wrasses establish territories where other fish come to be cleaned, removing mucus, dead tissue, and parasites from their customers. This service is obviously valued by other fish. They will line up to be cleaned, waiting their turn. Often times, their expressions are quite blissful during the process. But most significant, cleaner wrasse perform their services on bigger fish, including predators, without becoming prey.

Bluespine unicornfish

Bluespine Unicornfish

On any given day, I’d rather be snorkeling. There’s always something interesting to see in the water here.

This fish is a bluespine unicornfish, a name which is pretty self-explanatory. The blue spines by the base of the tail are very visible as is the prominent horn. Not all unicornfish have horns.

The horn helps make the bluespine unicornfish look permanently grumpy, which is perhaps why these fish tend to lead solitary lives. They also tend to be wary around snorkelers, maintaining their distance or easing away when approached. This one, however, appeared more curious and made a couple of closer passes before disappearing.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, ‘I’d rather be…