The Beacon

Blog Tags: Cool Ocean Animals

Creature Feature: Reef Lizardfish

This good-looking creature is a reef lizardfish. (Photo: Colby Bidwell) 

You won’t find land-dwelling lizards scampering about coral reefs, but you might do a double-take when you see the reef lizardfish. Also known as variegated lizardfish, these strange reef-dwellers look surprisingly like lizards. They’re found in coral reefs throughout Indonesia and along the coast of India and northern Australia.

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Thursday Trivia: Japanese Spider Crab

japanese spider crab

Japanese spider crab. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

The Japanese spider crab is the largest crab in the world thanks to its long legs, which can span up to 13 feet. It is also one of the longest-lived crabs, living as long as 100 years.

The Japanese spider crab lives in the cold deep waters off the Pacific coast of Japan, where it scuttles along the seafloor scavenging for food, typically dead organisms and occasionally living kelp and algae. Japanese spider crabs scavenge alone and are not known to communicate; their sensory systems are less sensitive than those of close relatives since they don’t hunt.

These crabs are dark orange or light tan and most adults do not camouflage beyond occasional sponges, as they are large enough that they have few predators. Because the Japanese spider crab’s legs are long and weakly jointed, they are often lost to predators and fishing gear. But amazingly, these crabs can survive missing up to three legs, plus these limbs regrow when the crab molts.

There is little population data for this species, but reported catches are declining. Japanese spider crabs are protected during their breeding season.

Learn more about other fascinating creatures in our marine life encyclopedia!

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Thursday Trivia: Sharksucker

nurse shark with sharksuckers

Sharksuckers hitch a ride with a nurse shark. [Image via Wikimedia Commons.]

Imagine a fish with a suction cup on the top of its head – that’s basically what a sharksucker, or remora, is. This fish isn’t a very strong swimmer, so to get around it hitches a ride with a shark, large fish, whale, sea turtle, stingray, or even a ship.

As an added perk, the sharksucker gets to munch scraps from its host’s meals, in addition to the small fish it catches itself. The shark neither suffers nor benefits from its relationship with the sharksucker (tweet us with the term for this type of relationship, and you could win a cool tote bag!) 

Sharksuckers are found throughout warm waters, either attached to a host or swimming freely over corals, where they help keep reef fish clean. These fish can grow up to about a yard long.

Some fishermen have developed a clever use for sharksuckers: they tie line around the fish’s tail, then release it. The sharksucker looks for an animal to attach itself to, then the fisherman reels the pair back in.

Otherwise, sharksuckers are not popular targets for fishermen. In fact, the main risk they face is shrinking populations of sharks and other large marine animals to host them.

You can learn more about sharksuckers from Oceana’s marine wildlife encyclopedia.

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