Blue Heron Juveniles

Short Bigeye juvenile Ned DeLoach
A tiny Short Bigeye, found on a night dive at the Blue Heron Bridge.
Short Bigeye Ned DeLoach
Short Bigeye adults are normally found in deep water.

Ned just posted a lot of his images from the past few years’ dives at the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach Florida over on our other blog, MarineLifeBlog.  It includes several juvenile fishes, so I thought I’d post a couple of them, along with photos of what they look like as adults. Some juvenile fishes look just like miniature versions of the adults; the Great Barracuda and Bandtail Puffer come to mind. Others, like many damselfishes and angelfishes, look very different from the adults. This can be confusing for fishwatchers because just when we learn to identify a fish, we are presented with the challenge of its juvenile phase. Our answer to frustrated students of fishwatching is to look at the bright side: it keeps things interesting and challenging. Our dives at the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach Florida have offered the opportunity to see many juveniles – the tidal flow through the nearby inlet seems to bring in many species from the nearby Gulf Stream and the bridge structure provides shelter. The first photo above is a juvenile Short Bigeye, Pristigenys alta, found by Ned on a night dive at the bridge. The adults live in deeper water so they aren’t seen as often. Ned shot the photo of an adult, off Jacksonville, Florida at about 120’.

Juvenile Crevalle Jack Caranx hippos Ned DeLoach
A tiny Crevalle Jack takes shelter in Ken Marks’ hand.
Crevalle Jack Caranx hippos Ned DeLoach
An adult Crevalle Jack (Caranx hippos) in open water.

Crevalle Jacks, Caranx hippos, are pelagic fish that occasionally make a pass over the reef but are usually seen out in the blue. This juvenile Crevalle was found at a depth of about three feet and seemed quite content to seek shelter in the hand of our friend, Ken Marks. The photo of the adult was taken in open water.

Juvenile Red Lionfish Ned DeLoach
An invader takes up residence at the Blue Heron Bridge
Adult Lionfish Ned DeLoach
The invasive Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans, now common along Florida’s coast

This is one juvenile we would rather not see at the bridge, or anywhere in the western Atlantic. The Red Lionfish, Pterois volitans has become a successful marine invader, spreading up and down the east coast of the U.S., to Bermuda, the Bahamas and all the way around the Caribbean. We found this tiny fish on a piece of wreckage in 15 feet. After everyone had a chance to photograph it, I captured it with a discarded can that I found on the bottom and a friend turned it in to a local shop that was collecting specimens for REEF’s Invasive Lionfish studies. Unfortunately, divers in Florida (and Bahamas & Caribbean) can see adults frequently these days.

In 2007, REEF (the Reef Environmental Education Foundation) launched the Invasive Lionfish Program in partnership with the National Aquarium. If you want to learn more, click here to go to that web page. In 2009, I posted a short video about their work for the REEF YouTube channel. You can watch it by clicking here.