An Overview Of Fish Species Found In Cozumel
By Tom Seest
Cozumel boasts an incredible diversity of marine life. Divers here can expect exciting encounters with giant green moray eels and nurse sharks alike!
There is an abundance of smaller marine species, which makes photography both challenging and rewarding, including two varieties of blenny fish that make an ideal subject for underwater macro shots.
This photo was taken by Los Muertos Crew and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/fish-parts-on-ice-10039862/.
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Cozumel’s whale shark population is one of the most beloved marine animals, particularly since tourism has expanded. Unfortunately, however, these endangered sharks face numerous threats, such as bycatch within fisheries or direct fishing methods directly targeting these sharks; and vessel strikes.
This species is a ray-like pelagic fish found globally, including in tropical and temperate ocean waters like those found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. As a filter feeder, this species feeds on small fish such as flounder and sole as well as plankton and crustaceans for sustenance.
Slow-moving, deep-diving fish capable of swimming up to 240 meters (790 feet). It features a sleek body and long snout with several prominent ridges of hard tissue known as keels lining each side, providing support for special spongy tissue which lines its gill slits for filtering food out.
Whale sharks use suction to push water from their mouth out into the surrounding seawater, drawing in prey. This active suction is activated by pressure against their large four-foot wide mouth.
Once it captures its prey, a shark quickly consumes it by inhaling water through 20 giant pads that line its throat, each featuring hundreds of tiny holes to trap food particles before draining away excess fluids.
Although its filters filter out most food, whale sharks do occasionally consume larger pieces that they can swallow whole, such as krill or Christmas Island red crab larvae. According to researchers, whale sharks have the capacity to consume up to 46 pounds of plankton every single day!
Female whale sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that they carry eggs within their bodies for reproduction. Once fertilized, these eggs will eventually develop into young, which are born within her womb before she gives birth – an extremely rare occurrence among whale sharks!
The whale shark is an endangered species that is protected in many countries around the world and not hunted by humans; however, their populations have been steadily decreasing due to bycatch and vessel strikes. Luckily, many conservation groups are working to protect these marine animals by monitoring their populations using satellite tags.
This photo was taken by Valeria Boltneva and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/sushi-in-box-10297212/.
The blue marlin is an aquatic predator found worldwide, found predominantly in oceanic environments. These powerful predators possess a long bodies with sharp teeth and sharp bills, which allow for highly effective hunting, and deep forked tails which give them incredible speed and maneuverability in water environments.
Blue marlins are among the most prized deep-sea fish. Long recognized for their strength, speed, and lethal bill, blue marlins have long been prized as apex predators that can bring great reward when caught both commercially and recreationally with various methods such as bait or live bait fishing.
Sea urchins can be caught all year, though warmer waters tend to attract them. They are known as highly migratory species in the oceans, traveling thousands of miles in search of food sources.
At the surface, blue marlins feed on smaller fish such as mackerel and tuna; when swimming at greater depths, they eat squid as well. Their bill can often move side-to-side, stunning their prey before swimming back around to swallow it whole.
Female tigers tend to be larger than their male counterparts and can sometimes grow up to 12 feet in length. Their distinctive, silvery white underbelly contrasts beautifully with their metallic blue dorsal side, which features a distinct dark blue stripe above the lateral line.
The blue marlin is an uncommon species, yet widespread throughout the oceans. Native to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, its habitat includes tropical waters with warm waters that occupy between 10 meters to 200 meters depths where its life can often be spent within its water column.
Although they prefer tropical waters, it can be challenging to catch one in these locations. Large specimens can weigh over 2,000 pounds – an impressive catch that would make an unforgettable souvenir!
They possess a special blood vessel structure that enables them to rapidly heat their brains and eyes for improved hunting capabilities, making them more efficient hunters. Furthermore, their senses are sharpened so they can quickly respond to prey movements as quickly as possible.
This photo was taken by Rafael Silva and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/fish-and-man-with-hat-10464151/.
Toadfish (frogfish) are among the most colorful and exotic fish species seen on Cozumel, found beneath coral heads and providing divers with an exciting way to get closer to marine life.
These fish are predators, feasting upon small fish, crustaceans, squid, and other prey. Expert at camouflaging themselves against predation attempts by passing predators, they often remain motionless until something close enough comes along and bites them.
Toadfish are known for producing low guttural mating calls, which resound throughout the water and give rise to their signature grunting noise that gives them their name.
A toadfish belongs to the Batrachoididae family and features large, broad heads with wide mouths. Most commonly found near shore, although some inhabit rivers.
Toadfish are found throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia’s waters; some species can even be poisonous.
Fish have venomous spines on their first dorsal fin that can be extremely painful if bitten or scratched, similar to what bee or wasp stings cause.
These fish feature two swim bladders to produce sound when swimming; males often do this to attract potential mates.
Toadfishes can reach 22 inches in length. Their bodies tend to be bulky, with large heads that feature strong teeth.
Their dorsal and pectoral fins feature bright yellow coloring, adding to their overall appearance. Furthermore, these fish possess whiskers resembling catfish scales for added flair.
Scientists love them, and some have even taken them into space!
There are various species of toadfish belonging to the Batrachoididae family. Of particular note are oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau), orange toadfish (Opsanus beta), and smooth toadfish (Tetractenos glaber).
Their dens are typically far back into coral structures to allow them room to flee from threats if needed.
This photo was taken by Rafael Silva and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/smiling-man-with-hat-over-fish-underwater-10464854/.
On a dive in Cozumel, snorkelers often encounter coral fish – one of the most colorful and fascinating marine organisms they will come across on reefs.
Coral fishes are large, hardy fishes commonly seen in the Caribbean Sea. These members of Cnidaria (an order of marine corals that rely on photosynthesis to provide nourishment for themselves and other organisms in their ecosystems) live within its waters and depend on photosynthesis as a food source.
There are various species of coral, each with their own distinctive characteristics. A staghorn coral is particularly cold-sensitive and typically grows slowly; they also possess incredible strength to hold up well in rough waters.
Coral fishes can also be quite diverse in their feeding habits; some primarily feed on corals while others will eat both coral and other organisms.
Corals that can produce their own zooxanthellae as a source of nutrition can avoid having to depend on outside sources for sustenance, such as plankton. This allows them to feed without needing other sources like plankton as sources for sustenance.
As coral polyps develop, they secrete a cup-like structure for themselves that houses walls and floors known as basal plates – which allow the polyps to float in water while providing shelter and protection for their coral host. Their skeleton also comprises thin septa that provide structural integrity and shield them from possible damage.
Calcareous septa are constructed of CaCO3 and are placed into living coral colonies to elevate polyps. This process makes them taller and stronger while also helping prevent them from sinking to the ocean floor.
This trait is especially beneficial to the spotted drumfish, which begins its life as a juvenile before developing into a large fish with white spots on its back and fins.
These fish can often be found swimming near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and have proven highly effective at combatting coral bleaching>. By targeting diseased parts of corals with these fish, they may slow its progress or prevent it from spreading further.
This photo was taken by Ihor Lypnytskyi and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/senior-man-standing-and-fishing-in-park-pond-9851049/.