Habitat – Tropical seas (reefs and shallows)
Niche – Ambush predator
Favorite Food – small fish like wrasses
Length – up to 3 feet
Status – locally common
Among the residents of the warm waters of the Caribbean, trumpetfish are both conspicuous and anything but. Relatives of seahorses and pipefish, their flattened tube-like bodies are truly bizarre to behold, provided you can find them. Most of their lives are spent hiding on the seafloor or drifting in the currents as inconspicuous as a piece of seaweed.
Trumpetfish are ambush predators, using stealth are trickery to remain unseen until the moment of strike. They often hover vertically alongside sponges, thin corals, and gorgonian weeds, swaying in tune with the currents. Other times they’ll swim alongside large fish in order to cloak themselves from schools of wrasses on the other side. If an unsuspecting fish gets too close, the trumpetfish will dart at it, flaring its mouth open like the end of a trumpet. Like other fish that hunt by ambush, they suck in a volume of water with lightning speed during an attack, vacuuming small fishes into their mouths.
Trumpetfish are still locally common in many parts of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, but like any resident of a reef system, they’re vulnerable to even slight disruptions. Something like a giant oil slick could have unwelcome consequences for these and thousands of other species living in the warm waters off the Americas.
*filmstrip photo provided courtesy of JennyHuang on Flickr Creative Commons