The Beacon

Video: Spangled Emperor Fish Dazzle the Great Barrier Reef

A school of spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus). (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons / Bill & Mark Bell)

When you think of the Great Barrier Reef, you probably think of vibrant corals, glowing clams, and free-swimming sea turtles. But in this slow-motion video, one free diver catches the elegant beauty of spangled emperor—a fish you may have overlooked.

While freediving through the Great Barrier Reef, diver Matthew Nitschke decided to capture his experience swimming freely among a large school of spangled emperor. Using a GoPro, Nitschke filmed the fish as they swam above corals and around fellow marine creatures. Nitschke later slowed down the footage to 45 percent of real speed, giving a unique look at spangled emperors.

The spangled emperor—also known as the north-west or yellow snapper—can mainly be found in the northern waters of Western Australia. As reef dwellers, these spangled emperors stay in shallow coral reefs and seagrass beds, feeding on echinoderms, mollusks, and crustaceans. Spangled emperors sport golden-bronze coloring with vibrant blue strips on their face and pale blue speckles on their scales. But don’t expect to always find them with this color scheme—the fish have an extraordinary ability to change color depending on their biological state. When spangled emperors are caught or frightened, for example, they produce vertical brown bands across their body. The spangled emperor can live for an impressive 30 years and grow to more than two feet long.

Watch the video below for a glimpse into a spangled emperor school:


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