Juvenile reef fishes of Belize
After being away from the Caribbean for 20 years, I was incredibly excited for the return. Ironically it would be to Belize, the last place I had been in the Caribbean prior to moving the Indo West Pacific. Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesomaerican Barrier Reef (or Mayan Barrier Reef). My personal goal for the trip was to see the variety of colorful and amazing juvenile reef fishes, especially from the angelfishes, damselfishes, and the highlight, a juvenile spotted drum that can be found in the Caribbean Sea.
It is not exactly clear as to why many young reef fish possess gaudy colors, patterns, or shapes. Perhaps it is a form of aposematic coloration, where the bright colors serve as warning to all predators that the potential prey item may be toxic. Or it could be some sort of camouflage, or simply a phenotypic display as a function of some other type of genetic combination that codes for a specific behavior. No matter the case, the end result for us is the chance to see rarer and more colorful versions of common reef fishes that we are excited to see on any given Caribbean reef.
We will be visiting Belize again in 2018! I am already excited to see many more of the reef fishes of the Caribbean.