Marine life of

#World's » #Butterflyfishes

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Butterflyfishes mostly range from 12 to 22 cm (4.7 to 8.7 in) in length. The largest species, the lined butterflyfish and the saddle butterflyfish, grow to 30 cm (12 in). The common name references the brightly coloured and strikingly patterned bodies of many species, bearing shades of black, white, blue, red, orange, and yellow. Other species are dull in colour. Many have eyepots on their flanks and dark bands across their eyes, not unlike the patterns seen on butterfly wings. Their deep, laterally narrow bodies are easily noticed through the profusion of reef life. The conspicuous coloration of butterflyfishes may be intended for interspecies communication. Butterflyfish have uninterrupted dorsal fins with tail fins that may be rounded or truncated, but are never forked.

Generally diurnal and frequenting waters less than 18 m (59 ft) deep (though some species descend to 180 m (590 ft)), butterflyfishes stick to particular home ranges. These coralivores are especially territorial, forming pairs and staking claim to a specific coral head. Contrastingly, the zooplankton feeders form large conspecific groups. By night, butterflyfish hide in reef crevices and exhibit markedly different coloration.

Butterflyfishes are pelagic spawners; that is, they release many buoyant eggs into the water, which become part of the plankton, floating with the currents until hatching. The fry go through a tholichthys stage, wherein the body of the postlarval fish is covered in large, bony plates extending from the head. They lose their bony plates as they mature. Only one other family of fish, the scats express such an armored stage.

  1. Teardrop butterflyfish

    Chaetodon unimaculatus

    Darren J. Bradley (C) All rights reserved

  2. Vagabond butterflyfish

    Chaetodon vagabundus

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  3. Yellowhead butterflyfish

    Chaetodon xanthocephalus

    kaschibo (C) All rights reserved

  4. Copperband butterflyfish

    Chelmon rostratus

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  5. Longnose butterflyfish (adult)

    Forcipiger flavissimus

    brian.gratwicke (CC: BY)

  6. Longnose butterflyfish (juvenile)

    Forcipiger flavissimus

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  7. Big longnose butterflyfish (juvenile)

    Forcipiger longirostris

    Andrea Izzotti (C) All rights reserved

  8. Pyramid butterflyfish

    Hemitaurichthys polylepis

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  1. Brown-and-white butterflyfish

    Hemitaurichthys zoster

    Derek Keats (CC: BY)

  2. Pennant coralfish

    Heniochus acuminatus

    Ye Choh Wah (C) All rights reserved

  3. Threeband pennantfish

    Heniochus chrysostomus

    Cliff (CC: BY)

  4. False moorish idol

    Heniochus diphreutes

    Rich Carey (C) All rights reserved

  5. Phantom bannerfish

    Heniochus pleurotaenia

    iliuta goean (C) All rights reserved

  6. Singular bannerfish

    Heniochus singularius

    Dan Exton (C) All rights reserved

  7. Horned bannerfish

    Heniochus varius

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  8. Sixspine butterflyfish

    Parachaetodon ocellatus

    orlandin (C) All rights reserved

  1. Longsnout butterflyfish

    Prognathodes aculeatus

    Peter Leahy (C) All rights reserved