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Lizardfish eating a goby in Komodo National Park

Snorkeling with piscivores in the coral triangle

It happens. It’s unfortunate, but it happens and it is necessary. Most reef fish, many predators themselves, become the prey. Fish that specialize on other fish are called piscivores. In the last two trips, I have been lucky enough to capture the capture, and consumption of this brutal but natural event. In the first case, a line-cheek wrasse (Oxycheilinus digramma) capturing what appears to be a toby. What alerted me to this event was the wrasse, with the toby in its mouth, banging the toby against a rock. This was probably in an attempt to render the toby limp so as no longer able to struggle. What I found interesting is that tobys possess Tetradodoxin, a fairly powerful toxin that is used to defend them against an attack. The idea being that once captured, it would release the toxin that would promote the predator to immediately release the toby. The release of the toxin would also ‘teach’ the predator that future attacks on this particular species would not be wise. In this situation, however, perhaps this was the first attack by the wrasse upon this species of toby. Perhaps this was the wrasse’s learning experience. Following the wrasse for as long as I could (about 30 seconds) it appeared not to have let it go during this period. I wonder if the wrasse has some type of immunity to the toxin that allows it to be one of the few predators of the toby…

Close-up of a line-cheek wrasse with a toby in its mouth

A closer look…

In the header photo, a lizardfish has captured a goby. Lizardfishes are ambush predators, often siting motionless on the bottom waiting for a small fish to swim nearby where it will suddenly lunge with a lightning speed to capture its prey. Lizardfish are mottled in appearance that allows it to camouflage on the bottom and may bury themselves in the sand to completely hide. This rare photo has been something I have been hoping to capture for many years and finally, the right place at the right time, though the goby may not feel the same way!