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Gafftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus)

Gafftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus)

This amazing looking fish is a gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus). It is an Atlantic Ocean catfish which lives in coastal waters off of North America from the Caribbean up through the Gulf of Mexico north to the mouth of the Hudson. As you might guess from its intimidating Fu Manchu mustache and barbed flavor savor, the gafftopsail catfish is a formidable predator which eats crustaceans and smaller fish. The fish has a sinister forked tail, a wavelike hump, and a jaunty dorsal spine looks like a sail (and gives the fish its common name). Additionally like most saltwater catfish, the gafftopsail catfish has several venomous, serrated spines.

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The largest gafftopsail catfish ever caught weighed an impressive 4.5 kg (10 pounds), but generally the fish are much smaller. They usually measure about 43 cm (17 inches) in length. Male gafftopsail catfish are solicitous fathers. When the female lays her eggs, the male fertilizes them and collects them in his mouth. He carefully protects the eggs until they have hatched, and thereafter his young take shelter from predators inside his mouth until they are old enough to set out on their own.

Bagre_marinus

Plotosus lineatus

The Striped eel catfish (Plotosus lineatus) lives in the reefs of the Indo-Pacific ranging from the Red Sea to Australia up to Japan.  The Plotosus genus of catfish are notable for abandoning freshwater (where catfish evolved and where the majority of catfishes live) in favor of the oceans.  Plotosus lineatus is entirely oceanic: the species makes its home in the colorful and dangerous  world of the coral reef. Young Striped eel catfish live in schools which can be composed of hundreds of fish however older individuals lose their schooling instinct.

The catfish grub through the sand for tiny invertebrates, shrimp, and minnows. They possess electrosensory organs which allow them to sense the prey’s nervous system beneath the sand. Although they are very endearing walking along the sand on their little whiskers, you should not pick them up!  These catfish have venomous spines on both sides of their body.  The poison is acutely painful but not always lethal for adult humans.

A river of baby catfish on the reef

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