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Wildlife Fact File - Fish - Pgs. 41-47

Wildlife Fact File - Fish - Pgs. 41-47


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Published by ClearMind84
Sunfish, American Paddlefish, John Dory, Puffer Fish, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Porcupine Fish, Hammerhead Shark
Sunfish, American Paddlefish, John Dory, Puffer Fish, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Porcupine Fish, Hammerhead Shark

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Published by: ClearMind84 on Jan 23, 2013
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Lepomis, Elassoma, etc.
Sunfish are some of the most familiar freshwater fish. They belong
to a family that was originally found only in North America but
has now been introduced in Europe and other parts of the world.
Length: 1 ~ - 1 5 in., depending on
the species.
Sexual maturity: Usually 2 years.
Breeding season: Late spring to
early summer.
No. of eggs: Many thousand.
Hatching time: 2-10 days, de-
pending on the species as well
as the temperature.
Habit: Mainly solitary. Territorial
during the breeding season.
Diet: Insect larvae, crustaceans,
and other small aquatic animals.
Lifespan: 7-8 years.
The family Centrarchidae contains 32
species of sunfish, crappie, and bass.
They are native only in North Ameri-
ca, but some have been introduced
in other parts of the world.
Bluegill , Lepomis macrochirus:
Can be identified by the large dark
spot at the rear of its dorsal fin.
The breeding male has an orange-
red breast and blue on hi s head
and back.
Ear flap: Has a black
mark in most sunfish
species. The coloring
is used for display.
Range of sunfish.
Found in most freshwater areas in the eastern half of North
America, from southern Canada to the Gulf Coast, and in
California's Central Valley.
Sunfish are abundant in freshwater habitats throughout their
range, except in places where industrial pollution has destroyed
the envi ronment.
Dorsal fin: Characterized by
many stout spines, espe-
cially toward the front.
Pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus:
Distinguished by its larg.e size and
Ul e wavy blue lines on the side of
the male's face.
0160200931 PACKET 93
Sunfish are abundant in most freshwater habitats in
eastern North America. The common names of different
species do not always include the word sunfish. Two
familiar sunfish are the pumpkinseed and the bluegill.
The warmouth and the flier are two other sunfish.
Sunfish occur throughout the
eastern half of North America
in weedy ponds, slow-moving
streams, and marshes. A few
species have specialized require-
ments. For example, the black-
banded sunfish lives only in very
acid water in East Coast pine bar-
rens (sandy plains with pines).
During most of the year, sun-
fish forage by themselves for
crustaceans and insects. But in
late spring, during the breed-
ing season, several species form
what seem to be nesting colo-
nies, with the males crowding
together in suitably warm, shal-
low water. During the long pe-
riod of inactivity that comes
with winter, a few species gath-
er in small schools.
A number of sunfish species
are fairly brightly colored dur-
ing the breeding season. The
males are usually more colorful
than the females, and they use
their hues to warn rivals away
while creating and defending
their nesting territories. The fe-
males have no need for bright
colors. They visit the nests only
briefly to lay eggs, showing no
further interest in the raising of
their young. Unlike the aggres-
sive males, the females seldom
engage in any sort of combat.
All species of sunfish feed most-
lyon aquatic insects and crus-
taceans. Many vary their diet
with mollusks and small fish of
other species. At the height of
summer, when oxygen levels in
the water are low and animal
life is scarce, a number of sun-
fish supplement their diet with
the leaves and juicy stems of
aquatic plants.
Left: The female bluegill and non-
breeding male lack the bright colors
of the breeding male.
• The Everglades pygmy sun-
fish is the smallest member of
the sunfish family. It is never
more than one and one-half
inches long.
• The redear sunfish is very
fond of snails and has special
teeth for crushing them. As a
result, many people call this
fish the "shellcracker."
• The black-banded sunfish is
not only native to the East but
also common in much of that
area. But when streams and
The pumpkinseed and some
other sunfish may prey on the
young of their own species. The
result of this cannibalism is that
there are often fewer adults in
a pond. But because these sun-
fish have already eaten many of
the fish that might have com-
peted with them for food, they
are usually well fed and larger
than other sunfish species. They
lay more eggs than they might
otherwise. Enough young sur-
vive to maintain the population.
ponds need restocking, the
new fish are imported from
Germany, where this sunfish
is an introduced species.
• The Sacramento perch is the
only member of the sunfish
family not found in eastern
North America. It is native to
California's Central Valley.
• Because they are attractive
and easy to keep in captivity,
sunfish- especially brightly
colored species-are popular
aquarium fish.
When the water starts to warm
up in the spring, the male blue-
gill, like most male sunfish, pre-
pares a nest in shallow water
near the shore. He uses his tail
to fan away dead plant matter.
After he has exposed a saucer-
shaped area of sand that is two
to three feet in diameter, he is
ready for the visit of females.
A single female may deposit
as many as 38,000 eggs, and
frequently more than one fe-
male lays her eggs in a nest.
The male fertilizes the eggs be-
fore they drop into the sand.
Left: The pump-
kinseed is larger
than the bluegill
and is less likely
to be found in
open water. It
prefers to stay in
weed patches or
near underwater
logs. It has wavy
blue lines with
orang ish patches
and a bright red
or orange spot
on the back of
its ear flap.
Left: The redear
sunfish is wide-
spread in the
South. It is simi-
lar to the blue-
gill but can be
distinguished by
the reddish or
orangish patch
on its ear flap.
One of the local
names for this
fish is "stump-
knocker. II
The bluegill's eggs hatch in
less than a week, but the eggs
of some other species may take
up to 10 days. The male guards
the small fry (young) for a few
days before they drift away to
begin life on their own.
Pygmy sunfish-tiny, colorful
species that live in swamps and
marshes in the Southeast-do
not have the strength to sweep
away dead vegetation for their
nests. Instead, the male uses this
material to build a nest. He then
guards his nest and eggs much
as his larger relatives do.
It is easiest to see sunfish dur-
ing their breeding season in
late spring or early summer.
At this time t he male guards
his nest in the shallow water
of a slow-moving stream or
pond. The nest is usually a
circular area of white or yel-
low sand swept clean of de-
bris. If you watch t he nest
long enough, its owner will
appear, ready to drive away
fish that might eat the eggs.
"" CARD 42
Po/yodon spathu/a
The American paddlefish was thought to be a shark when it was
discovered in the 18th century. This strange freshwater fish has a
paddle-shaped snout that is about one-third its total length.

Length: Up to 7 feet.
Weight: Up to 200 pounds.

Sexual maturity: 7-8 years.
Breeding season: February to May.
No. of eggs: Several hundred.
Hatching time: 5-10 days.
Habit: Solitary except during the
egg-laying season.
Diet: Insect larvae, planktonic crus-
taceans, and various other small
aquatic animals.
Lifespan: Up to 30 years.

The only other member of the fami-
ly Po/yodontidae is the Chinese stur-
geon, Psephurus g/adius, which lives
in the Yangtze River.
Found in the drainage systems of the Mississippi and Missouri
rivers, ranging west as far as Montana and south to the Gulf
Coast of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
The American paddlefish is declining in most of its range be-
cause of fishing and the effects of dams, the channelization of
rivers, silting, and pollution.
Gill cover: As its name suggests,
this large flap covers the gills. It
extends from behind the eyes .........
back into a point.
Tail : The primitive nature of the paddle-
fish is evident in the way the backbone
extends into the upper lobe of the tail. In
most modern fish, the backbone does
not go into the tail.
snout that gives the fish
its name may be 2 feet
or more in length. It is
covered with hundreds
of taste buds, and these
sense organs may help
the fish find food.
0160200891 PACKET 89
The paddlefish is found only in deep water in the interior ...
of the United States. It is one of the most ancient fish,
having survived from the Age of Dinosaurs. But today
its existence is threatened by overfishing, pollution,
silting, and other consequences of human activities.
The American paddlefish is an
ancient, smooth-skinned rela-
tive of sturgeons. It lives in the
drainage basins of the Missis-
sippi and Missouri rivers and
their tributaries-in the central
United States from the Great
Lakes south to the Gulf Coast.
The paddlefish prefers deep,
slow-moving, and fairly clear
water with gravel on the bot-
tom. In addition to rivers, it is
found in bayous, lakes, and res-
ervoirs. Within its range, this
fish is fairly common in places
where the water is clean. But in
many areas it is threatened by
pollution from industrial chem-
icals and household sewage. In
some places its movement to
and from its breeding grounds
is blocked by dams. Paddlefish
have declined most drastically
in areas where silt has covered
the gravel beds that they need
for spawning.
The paddlefish is also called
the spoonbill and the spoonbill
cat. It is clearly distinguished by
its long, paddle-shaped snout,
but scientists are not sure about
the function of this projection.
It is covered with taste buds, so
it may help the fish in locating
its food.
Above: As the American paddlefish
swims along with its huge mouth
open water-carrying oxygen and
food-rushes in over its gills.
Right: The paddlefish prefers clear
water and disappears if there is too
much silt.
During most of the year, pad-
dlefish are solitary. But in the
spring-from February in the
South to as late as May in the
North-these fish gather over
gravel beds in deep water. The
females release their eggs, and
the males fertilize them. The
eggs then sink into the gravel,
where they adhere to the first
thing they touch.
Within five to ten days, the
eggs hatch. The young quickly
The paddlefish is rarely seen.
It is difficult to find because
it inhabits deep ri vers and
bayous. However, once in
a while, near the surface of
a calm pool, you may spot
this strange creature swim-
ming in large circles, with
its mouth wide open. It has
come up from cooler, deep-
er waters to gather some of
the many small planktonic
animals that flourish in the
warmth of sunlight.
start swimming about, search-
ing for tiny animals to eat.
The transparent young pad-
cllefish does not show any sign
of the paddle-shaped snout at
first, but this distinctive feature
begins to appear within two or
t hree weeks. If there is a good
supply of food, the young fish
develops rapidly. It may reach a
length of about one foot in its
first year and grow to two feet
in its second year.
The paddlefish is a filter feeder.
It moves around with its huge
mouth wide open in order to
strain tiny swimming and float-
ing crustaceans and the larvae
of aquatic insects from the wa-
ter. While the fish is swimming,
its gills are held open. Its long
"gill rakers" catch anything that
flows past. Before long, the pad-
dlefish has gathered a throat
full of food. It pauses, swallows
• The paddlefish lays its eggs
on the bottom of deep rivers.
As a result, scientists did not
find its young and begin to
study them until 1933.
• The paddlefish has a skele-
ton made of cartilage rather
than bone. Because of this, it
was thought to be a variety of
freshwater shark when it was
discovered in the 1700s.
• The paddlefish may reach
what it has collected, and then
begins foraging again.
Other fish are not part of the
adult paddlefish's normal diet.
Occasionally, however, they are
taken in by accident. They are
then swallowed along with all
the other food the paddlefish
has strained out of the water.
Below: The gill cover of the paddle-
fish provides protection for its gills,
which are very delicate.
seven feet in length. Its closest
relative, the Chinese sturgeon,
is much larger. According to
unauthenticated reports, this
fish may reach more than 20
feet in length.
• When a paddlefish hatches,
it has teeth. The young fish at
first preys on other fish, using
its teeth. But it eventually loses
its teeth and becomes a fi lter-
feeding adult.
Zeus faber
The John Dory's rather grumpy expression comes from its
upward-slanting lower jaw. This jaw is actually the fish 's greatest
asset because it can extend forward to gulp up unsuspecting prey.
Length: Average, 10-16 in. Female
can reach 28 in. Larva, )4 in.
Weight: Average, 5-7 lb. Female
can reach 18 lb.
Spawning season: March to May
in the Mediterranean Sea. Varies in
other waters.
Habit: Sol itary or in small schools.
Mainly an inshore fish, sometimes
found close to the seabed in shal-
low water.
Diet: Small fish as well as marine
Of the 10 species of dory in the
family Zeidae, only the John Dory
inhabits European waters. The Pa-
cific John Dory, Z. japonicus, is a
close relative.
Range of the John Dory.
Eastern Atlantic waters, from the coasts of Norway and Scot-
land, to the Mediterranean and Black seas, and south along
the coast of Africa as far as the Cape of Good Hope.
Although fished in northern Europe and the Mediterranean,
the John Dory is not in danger of serious depletion. It is quite
rare in the heavily polluted North Sea, however.
Coloring: The
main color varies
considerably from
fish to fish. Usually dark
yellow or olive brown, of-
ten with lighter yellow or
white mottling or with wavy
lines and a metallic sheen. The
large blotch on each side varies
from dark yellow to dark brown with
a light, often golden, circle around it.
Fin rays: Long, stiff
spines in dorsal and
posterior anal fins.
movement, the fish
can open its mouth
wide and swing its
lower jaw forward to
engulf prey.
Body: A flattened,
oval shape with a
double set of large
spiny scales along
the back and under-
side. When the fish
is stalking prey,
this oval shape
is an advantage
as it presents
a thin out-
line if seen
0160200811 PACKET 81
The John Dory is found in the Mediterranean Sea
and Atlantic waters off the coasts of Europe and Africa
as far south as the Cape of Good Hope. There are many
stories about this colorful, somewhat grotesque-looking
fish. Some of these tales are legends about the John Dory's
unusual name. Others are myths about the origin of the
large, round spot on each side of the fish 5 body.
The john Dory generally lives
close to the shore, at depths of
30 to 160 feet. In shallow water
it may live near the seabed, but
in deeper water it stays near the
The john Dory feeds on small
fish like sand smelts, sardines,
sprats, and young herring. It
also eats cuttlefish and squid.
Although it swims slowly, the
john Dory is an efficient preda-
tor. Because of its laterally flat-
tened shape, this fish is able to
weave in and out of the reeds,
surface. This fish is not a strong
swimmer, and it moves slowly
among rocks and weeds. It is
usually solitary but sometimes
joins a small school.
stalking its prey without being
spotted from the front. Then,
with a quick jerk, it speeds for-
ward, opens its protruding jaws,
and engulfs its victim, drawing
it in with an inflow of water.
This strategy of slow stalking
and sudden movement is usu-
ally successful.
The john Dory breeds during
the spring in the Mediterranean
Sea and during the summer in
more northern waters. It rarely
breeds in the parts of its range
that are farther north than the
Irish Sea; instead, it migrates
south to warmer waters.
The female does not attach
her eggs to a rock as many fish
do. Instead, the eggs float freely
on the waves. Each egg is kept
Left: The pattern of wavy lines on
the John Dory's body camouflages
the fish against rocks.
Right: The long, spiny rays in the
John Dory's dorsal fin look almost
like stiff feathers.
• According to legend, Saint
Peter once took a gold coin
from the mouth of a john Do-
ry to give to the tax collector.
The dark spots on each side
of the fish are said to repre-
sent the apostle's fingerprints.
The john Dory is sometimes
called Saint Peter's fish as a
result of this story.
buoyant by a tiny bubble of oil
inside it. After hatching, the lar-
vae drift in open water and feed
on plankton.
A young fish usually leaves the
area where it hatched but comes
back yearly to spawn. As the fish
ages, however, it tends to re-
main near its spawning ground.
Right: With only its bulging eyes
sticking out, the John Dory is hard
to spot head-on.
II "Dory" is derived from the
French name for this fish, do-
ree (meaning "golden"). The
English called it the dory until
t he 1 700s, when a French pi-
rate nicknamed john Dory be-
gan attacking English ships at
sea. Fishermen were soon call-
ing the fish the john Dory, and
t he name stuck.
The john Dory belongs to a very
large group of fish called spiny-
finned fish. Most fish have rays
(structures like bones) in their
fins to provide strength. Spiny-
finned fish have very strong fin
rays called spines. Some of these
fish also have spines running
along the body.
Nine or ten long, heavy, fan-
like spines emerge from armored
scales at the base of the john Do-
ry's dorsal fin. There are three or
four similar spines in the posteri-
Left: The John Dory's lower jaw is
hinged, so it can swing forward.
or anal fin. A double set of large,
spiny scales runs around the bel-
ly and back, making the fish hard
to attack.
The john Dory appears oval-
shaped when viewed from the
side. But from the front, this tall,
narrow fish looks like a thin strip
with large eyes bulging out at
the sides. Its body has a metal-
lic sheen and a dark blotch sur-
rounded by a pale ring on each
side. The fish has a large head
and an upward-slanting lower
jaw, which it can open wide
and extend far forward.
Puffer fish have an unusual but effective defense against their
enemies. They inflate themselves with water or air like balloons
so that they become almost impossible to swallow.
Length: Largest (the smooth
puffer), over 3 feet.
Eggs: Released along with sperm
near seabed.
Larva: Free-swimming in open wa-
ter for up to 3 months.
Habit: Solitary. Usually slow swim-
mers in sheltered fresh, brackish,
or salt water.
Diet: Hard-shelled crustaceans and
mollusks; also worms and corals.
There are more than 100 species of
puffer fish in the family Tetraodon-
tidae. Other groups in the order
Tetraodontiformes include the por-
cupine fish, trigger fish, box fish,
cowfish, and oceanic sunfish.
Range of puffer fish.
Found throughout the world in tropical fresh and salty waters.
Puffer fish live primarily on coral reefs but may be swept into
temperate waters by ocean currents.
Although they are regarded as a table delicacy in Japan, puffer
fish have very little economic value and are not threatened by
direct exploitation.
Oceanic puffer fish: One of the
faster-swi mming species. Dark blue
on top. gray underneath, with black
spots on sides. Tiny spines buried in
Skin: Tough and
often prickly.
the throat and belly. Lives near the su"r ~- ~ ~ ~ = ~ ! ! ' ~ ; = !
face of warm seas worldwide. ....
Band-tail puffer
fish: Dark brown
on top, pale below,
with large dark
blotches. Slender,
and anal fins set
fairly far back on
the body. Puffer
fish do not have
pelvic fins.
Marbled puffer
fish (inflated):
Marbled brown
on top with
pale belly.
0160200981 PACKET 98
Puffer fish are the enemies of coral reefs, because they have
extremely powerful jaws that are capable of crunching
through the rocky coral heads and devouring the soft
polyps within. These fish are apparently immune to the
venom that is contained in the stinging tentacles of corals.
In fact, a puffer fish possesses its own poison-which
is one of the most virulent of all natural toxins.

Puffer fish are found throughout
the tropics in oceans as well as
in fresh and brackish water. Be-
cause they are poor swimmers,
most species live in coastal shal-
lows among weed beds or coral
reefs that provide shelter from
strong currents.
Most fish propel themselves
through sinuous body and tail
movements. But a puffer fish
sculls through the water, wav-
ing its large dorsal and anal fins
from side to side. It steers with
its tail and paddles with the pec-
toral fins near its head.
Although not fast, this meth-
od provides great maneuver-
ability. With a flick of its fins, a
puffer fish can move up, down,
forward, or backward, slipping
into a rock crevice at any sign of
danger. If no cover is available, it
resorts to the defense tactic that
gives it its name.
At the slightest alarm, a puffer
fish blows itself up by drawing
water into a sac that is joined to
its stomach and retaining the
water with muscular valves. If it
is pulled out of the water, it fills
the sac with air. Even if a preda-
tor manages to swallow a puf-
fer fish, its triumph is short-lived,
since the puffer possesses a le-
thal nerve poison.

Many puffer fish are very terri t o-
rial. Each male stakes a claim on
an area of the reef and defends
it vigorously against fish of the
same species. The female may
defend a smaller territory, but
this may be contained within a
male's domain. In this way one
male may control and breed
with several females.
The male and female release
sperm and eggs near the sea-
bed. They rely on currents to
Left: Instead of fleeing from a pred-
ator, a puffer fish gulps water and
inflates itself in defense.
• A puffer fish has the same
poison as the blue-ringed oc-
topus, one of the most dead-
ly marine animals. Despite
this, puffer fish flesh is a deli-
cacy in Japan known as fugu.
The cook is specially trained
in removing the poisonous
parts, but cases of fatal fugu
poisoning occur.

bring them together for fertiliza-
tion. Some species attach the
fertilized eggs to rocks. Others
- like the common puffer fish, a
Southeast Asian freshwater spe-
cies-have the males guard the
fertilized eggs until they hatch.
The tiny larval fish that hatches
from the egg is able to inflate its
body in defense almost as soon
as it emerges. It swims into open
water, drifting for several weeks
before settling on a reef.
Right: Many puffer fish have bright
warning colors, clearly advertising
that they are poisonous.
• The oceanic puffer fish is a
stronger swimmer than most
puffers and can attack fast-
moving prey such as squid.
But currents may still sweep it
north into European waters.
• Puffer fish that are inflated
with air are often attacked by
birds as they float on the sur-
face of the water.
The family name of puffer fish-
Tetraodontidae-means "four-
toothed." These fish's teeth are
fused into four plates, two in the
upper jaw and two in the lower.
Each plate has a sharp edge and
anvil-like crushing surface. The
combination allows puffer fish
to bite through hard substances
such as shell, bone, and rock.
Puffer fish's primary prey are
hard-shelled animals that live on
the seabed, including mollusks,
crustaceans like crabs, and echi-
noderms such as sea urchins.
Left: Most puffer fish are too slow
to catch swimming prey, but they
may feed on drifting injured fish.
Left: The four
tooth plates
that make up
a puffer fish 5
" beak" are very
tough. The fish
can gnaw its
way through
shell, bone, or
even coral rock
to find food.
These creatures rely on their ar-
mor for protection, and many
are not very mobile. They can-
not escape even a slow-moving
puffer fish, which can crunch
through their shells.
A puffer fish can also devour
a coral reef, gnawing through
the hard coral rock and the soft,
anemonelike polyps. Using its
grindstone teeth, it pulverizes
chunks of coral, reducing the
coral to a sandy pulp--which it
then swallows. After digesting
the edible bits, the puffer fish
ejects the rest. It appears to be
immune to the venom released
by the coral's stinging cells.
Scy/iorhinus caniculus
The lesser spotted dogfish is a harmless bottom-living shark
that feeds on easy prey such as crabs and whelks. It tracks
them down with the aid of its highly developed senses.
Length: Usually 2 - 2 ~ ft. Some-
times 3 ~ ft.
Weight: Up to 4 lb.
Sexual maturity: At a length of
about 20 in.
Mating season: Mainly fall.
Fertilization: Internal.
Eggs: 18-20, each contained in a
horny protective capsule.
Development time: 5-11 months.
Habit: Mainly bottom-dwelling.
Solitary or in schools.
Diet: Small, slow-moving seabed
animals, especially mollusks and
There are about 60 species in the
dogfish family worldwide. Close
relatives include the swell shark,
Cephaloscyl/ium ventricosum.
Range of the lesser spotted dogfish.
Found in coastal waters of the eastern Atlantic from Scandi-
navia to northwestern Africa, including the North Sea, Irish
Sea, English Channel, and Mediterranean.
The lesser spotted dogfish is common throughout its range
and is not thought to be threatened.
Female: Once mating is complete,
she will swim into shallow water
to begin laying eggs.
Male: When mating, he coils his
body around the female and inserts
one of his claspers (reproductive or-
gans) into her cloaca (genital open-
ing). He injects sperm via the clasper
so that internal fertilization can occur.
Skin: Covered with thou-
sands of tiny toothlike
scales called dermal
0160200861 PACKET 86
The lesser spotted dogfish seems to have changed very little
over millions of years. This is probably because it was so
well suited to its way of life that further evolution was not
necessary. This dogfish possesses an acute sense of smell
as well as a unique system of electrical sensors--features
that enable it to detect prey with deadly accuracy.
~ H A B I T S
The lesser spotted dogfish is a
primitive small shark. This dog-
fish has changed very little since
the Mesozoic era over 65 million
years ago. Other sharks evolved
into specialized forms, but this
species kept the form and prob-
ably the habits of its ancestors.
Many sharks are swift ocean
hunters, but this fish swims very
slowly along the seabed, sniff-
ing for food among rocks and
weeds. It is most common in
shallow water down to 500 feet,
and it frequently comes inshore
to feast on the rich food supplies
near the low tidemark. Young
dogfish tend to live closer to the
shore, and newly hatched fish
are even found in rock pools,
stranded by the receding tide.
The lesser spotted dogfish is
common throughout European
waters. It frequently swims in
schools, often of one sex.
Right: The lesser spotted dogfish is
the most common shark species in
European waters.
To breed, most fish eject huge
numbers of eggs or sperm in-
to the water and rely on chance
to bring them together. Only a
very small fraction of the fertil-
ized eggs develop into mature
fish . In contrast, the lesser spot-
ted dogfish produces only 18
to 20 fertilized eggs and goes
to great lengths to ensure that
both eggs and young survive.
During mating, the male uses
one of his claspers (reproductive
organs) to inject sperm into the
female's cloaca (genital open-
ing). This ensures that the eggs
are properly fertilized. The mat-
ing act involves much maneu-
vering by the male as he coils
Left: The lesser spotted dogfish uses
its keen sense of smell to find prey
on the seabed.
• The filaments on the lesser
spotted dogfish's egg capsule
may be up to three feet long
when extended. But they curl
up to less than six inches.
• As the dogfish embryo de-
velops, it makes swimming
movements inside its capsule.
his long body around his mate.
Following a gestation of sev-
eral weeks, the female produces
her eggs, each contained in a
rectangular capsule with coiled
filaments extending from each
corner. The filaments get en-
tangled in seaweed, anchoring
the capsule for 5 to 11 months,
while the embryo develops in-
side. During this time, the em-
bryo obtains nourishment from
the large yolk sac.
When it hatches, the young
dogfish is approximately four
inches long and almost fully de-
veloped, but it still carries the
remains of the yolk sac. Before
long it can hunt for itself.
Right: The embryo can be seen
through the capsule's translucent
walls. It feeds off the large egg yolk.
This pumps water-and thus
oxygen-through the perme-
able walls of the capsule.
• This dogfish's skin is cov-
ered with thousands of tiny
toothlike structures called der-
mal denticles. They make the
skin rough like sandpaper.
The egg capsules of the lesser
spotted dogfish often wash up
on the beach. Known as mer-
maid's purses, they are pale
brown, flexible, and almost
clear when fresh. They darken
and get more fragile with age.
The lesser spotted dogfish gen-
erally feeds on the seabed. It
searches for slow-moving prey
such as crabs, shrimp, bottom-
dwelling fish, marine worms,
and sea snails. Although most
sharks have sharp teeth, this
species has small, thick teeth
that are specially adapted for
crushing the shells of mollusks
and crustaceans.
Like all sharks, the lesser spot-
ted dogfish has an acute sense
of smell. This sense is especially
The egg capsules produced
by different members of the
dogfish family vary. The egg
capsule of the nursehound is
four inches long, for example,
twice as long as the capsule of
the lesser spotted dogfish.
valuable in the shallow waters
that the fish prefers, where the
currents and waves stir up sedi-
ment from the bottom, making
the water almost opaque.
This dogfish also has electri-
cal sensors on its snout. At very
short distances, they can detect
the minute voltages generated
by the nervous systems of prey
animals. So even if the water is
cloudy and the scent trail poor,
the dogfish can find prey with
its electrical sensors.
Diodon, Chilomycterus, etc.
Porcupine fish are slow-swimming inhabitants of the coral seas.
They defend themselves from their enemies by their startling
ability to turn themselves into balls of bristling spines.
Length: Usually about 1 ft. Can
reach up to 3 ft.
Spines: Up to 2 in.
Details are unknown, but the fish
probably shed eggs and sperm in
open water. The eggs hatch into
well-developed young.
Habit: Solitary. Usually inhabit
coral reefs.
Diet: Mollusks, hard corals, and
marine worms.
There are about 15 species of por-
cupine fish, including the spotted
porcupine fish, Diodon hystrix; the
balloonfish, D. holocanthus; and
the bridled burrfish, Chilomycterus
antennatus. All are closely related
to the 118 or so puffer fish species
in the family Tetraodontidae.
Range of porcupine fish.
Found throughout the world in tropical waters. They live main-
lyon coral reefs but are sometimes swept into temperate wa-
ters by ocean currents.
Although some species are regarded as a food delicacy in Ja-
pan, porcupine fish have very little economic value. They are
not threatened by direct exploitation.
Bridled burrfish, Chilomycterus
antennatus, is shown here.
Deflated: When in no danger,
the fish swims with its spines
relaxed and flat against its
Coloration: Most species are
pale with dark markings.
Inflated: When
disturbed, the fish
pumps its stomach
full of water until it
reaches full capacity.
Spines: Modified scales.
Fixed in some species
and movable
in others.
Fins: Small and weak. Porcu-
pine fish are poor swimmers
and cannot swim against cur-
rents. However, they are agile
and can maneuver into any
position while hovering
in one spot.
Head: Blunt and rounded.
Beaklike mouth contains a
solid tooth plate in each jaw
that can bite through coral
rock and mollusk shells.
0160200841 PACKET 84
Swimming along weakly with their spines relaxed, porcupine
fish may look like easy prey to large marine predators. But
looks can be quite deceptive. Porcupine fish are actually
extremely dangerous. Even formidable hunters such as
sharks and barracudas have been found dead with
puffed-up porcupine fish stuck in their throats.
Porcupine fish are natives of
the coral seas, although they
can be found in warm waters
worldwide. These fish are weak
swimmers, so if one strays into
a strong ocean current, it may
be swept along for quite a dis-
tance. Sometimes it even turns
up on the coast of Europe, far
from its tropical home.
Its poor swimming ability al-
so means that a porcupine fish
cannot flee from attack. Instead,
it uses the same defense meth-
od as a puffer fish. It inflates it-
self into a floating sphere that
is covered by fearsome spines.
Up to two inches long, these
spines bristle just like the quills
on a porcupine.
The spines make porcupine
fish almost impossible to swal-
low. Even if a predator succeeds
in devouring one of these fish,
the internal damage inflicted
by the spines is often fatal.
In addition to its spines, a
porcupine fish possesses pow-
erful toxins in its skin and liver.
These poisons help protect it
from predators.
Right: When swimming in safe wa-
ters, a porcupine fish's spines lie flat
against its body.
• The inflated skins of porcu-
pine fish are dried and sold as
curios in the Far East. Some
are turned into grotesque lan-
terns with electric light bulbs
on the inside.
• On some Pacific islands the
dried skins of porcupine fish
The spawning habits of porcu-
pine fish have never been stud-
ied, but they probably resemble
those of puffer fish. These close
relatives eject eggs and sperm
into the water in large quantities
and rely on close proximity to
bring about fertilization.
The eggs of puffer fish hatch
on the seabed. The tiny but well-
developed young are able to in-
flate their bodies almost as soon
as they emerge.
Left: Even a partially inflated por-
cupine fish is a difficult target for a
marine predator.
Right: Porcupine fish puff up by
swallowing water until they be-
come perfect spheres.
were once used for making
war helmets.
• The spines of porcupine fish
are actually highly modified
scales. They have "roots" that
interlock at the base, forming
a flexible armor that is similar
to spiny chain mail.
Left: One of the
15 or so species
of porcupine
fish is the bal-
loonfish or
spiny puffer
fish. This spe-
cies is marked
with distinctive
black patches.
Porcupine fish are among the
few fish that feed on coral, un-
deterred by its hard limestone
armor. They nip off its branches
and then crush the coral to a
gritty pulp before swallowing.
Porcupine fish digest the cor-
al's soft, edible parts, but the
pulverized limestone may ac-
cumulate in their stomachs be-
fore being ejected. One fish had
a pound of crushed coral rock
in its digestive system when it
was caught.
These fish also eat mollusks
like oysters and clams, crunch-
ing the thick shells with ease.
Hammerhead sharks are named for the unusual shape of their
heads. These predators hunt fish by smell and taste as well as
by sensing tiny electrical changes produced by their prey.
Length: Average, 13 ft. But some
species can grow to 20 ft.
Weight: 1 ton.
Sexual maturity: Thought to be
10-15 years.
Mating season: Probably spring
and early summer.
Gestation: Up to 20 months.
No. of young: Up to 40.
Habit: Feeds alone at night. lives
in schools during the day.
Diet: Fish and invertebrates.
lifespan: Thought to be 30 years
or more.
There are 8 species of hammer-
head shark in the genus Sphyrna.
They include the great hammer-
head, the scalloped shark, and the
smooth hammerhead.
Range of hammerhead sharks.
Found in oceans all over the world except for very cold regions.
Hammerhead sharks are rarely found where water temperatures
are below 68°F.
It is difficult to establish any population figures for hammerhead
sharks because they are migratory. However, these fish are not
thought to be endangered.
Great hammer-
head, Sphyrna
Forward edge
of hammer is
straight in the
Scalloped ham-
merhead, Sphyrna
/ewini: Small sec-
ond dorsal fin,
black tips on
pectoral fins.
Scalloped head.
/ '
Head: T-shaped. Eyes located at
hammer tips, with nostrils set
slightly farther in.
Smooth hammer-
head, Sphyrna
zygaena: Over 12
feet long. Head
lacks central in-
0160200961 PACKET 96
Hammerhead sharks are generally about 73 feet long.
However, some species can grow as long as 20 feet. The
flattened heads of these strange-looking fish are thought
to act like natural hydrofoils, stopping the sharks from
pitching and rolling from side to side as they swim.
~ H A B I T S
Like most sharks, hammerheads
keep moving in order to breathe
because they cannot draw water
over their gills. They create a cur-
rent over their gills by moving
forward. As water flows through
them, the gills extract oxygen.
Some sharks spend most of
their lives lurking in the depths,
but hammerheads regularly sur-
face. Their head shape may help
them rise through the water.
Hammerhead sharks feed only
at night. During the day, when
they are at rest, they tend to
form schools of up to 100 indi-
viduals, most of them females.
The eight species live world-
wide, but the scalloped ham-
merhead is the most common.
All the species migrate in large
schools twice a year. At the be-
ginning of summer, they move
from the equator to cooler wa-
ters. They make the return jour-
ney when winter sets in.
• The cells of a hammerhead
shark's retina contain guanine
-a silvery substance that may
help it to distinguish shapes
in dim light.
• Hammerhead sharks have
Although hammerhead sharks
swim in schools during the day,
they hunt alone at night. They
feed primarily on invertebrates
and fish, with a preference for
stingrays. These sharks use their
strong teeth to tear larger prey
apart but do not chew. Instead,
they swallow big chunks of food
whole and break them down in
their stomachs.
With its eyes set at either end
of its elongated head, a ham-
merhead shark has fairly poor
vision. This might seem a disad-
vantage for a predator. But this
shape may increase a hammer-
head's senses of smell and taste
and its electrosensitivity.
Left: In some parts of the world,
hammerheads are killed for their
meat and liver oi/.
Right: If a hammerhead shark is
threatened, it uses its sharp teeth
to defend itself.
been reported to devour their
own species.
• There is no single accepted
theory to explain the charac-
teristic head shape of a ham-
merhead shark.
Hammerhead sharks complete
their mating in summer. The fe-
males carry the soft-shelled eggs
internally. The embryos are ini-
tially nourished by the egg yolk
and later by the mother, since
the yolk sac connects directly to
her bloodstream.
Depending on the size of the
female, there can be up to 40
Left: The scal/oped hammerhead is
easier to distinguish than many of
the other species.
Left: The eyes
head shark are
positioned at
opposite ends
of its flattened
pups (young) in a litter. Before
they are born, the pups have
soft teeth that cannot damage
the egg. The "hammer" flaps
on their heads are folded back
to streamline them for birth.
When a pup is born, its egg
tears open and the umbilical
cord, connecting the pup to the
yolk sac, breaks. The pup comes
out headfirst. It has a scar on its
underside much like the navel
ofa mammal.

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