Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2021




Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4






Order : Beryciformes
Species : More than 80 species in 3 genera.
Maximum Length : Different species have a maximum length ranging from 8 to 50 cm.

Squirrelfishes comprise a group of around 80 or so species which make up part of the family Holocentridae (the family which also includes the Soldierfishes).

Most squirrelfishes are orange or red in colour, with pale or silvery stripes. Their body shape is relatively elongate, and laterally compressed. Their fins are of moderate size, and their tail fins are deeply forked. Sharp, venomous spines are present near the gill openings (see Fig 4).

Squirrelfishes are nocturnal in habits, and thus have relatively large eyes. By day they retreat into crevices in coral reefs or hide beneath ledges, where they are protected from predators, but by night they emerge to feed on nocturnal invertebrates, such as small shrimps and crabs, and small fishes.

They can produce grunting or clicking sounds which may be used for communication, for example to alert others to the presence of predators, or may serve as a territorial signal.

Squirrelfishes occur in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, but are particularly diverse and widely distributed in the shallow waters of Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.

Figs 1 and 2 : Sargocentron sp. from the western Pacific Ocean, emerging from a coral crevice at night.

Fig 3 : The same fish retreats back into a crevice. Another squirrelfish is hiding in a crevice on the left of this image.

Fig 4 : A close-up view of the head reveals the presence of two sharp spines on the operculum (gill cover), and a short spine on the pre-opercle below.

References : F3

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