Snappers have pretty classic fish shapes, with sloping heads and forked tails. Their mouths are large, with prominent canine teeth used for feeding on other fish, gastropods and crustaceans. They feed primarily at night, though they do school around divers who offer fish bits. They tend to live in shallow to medium depths.
|Bluestripe Snappers are almost constant companions to divers on the outer reefs of the Society Islands of Tahiti and Moorea. They have yellow bodies with 4 neon-blue stripes. Living on coastal reefs, in lagoons, and outer reefs, they can be found anywhere from 1 to over 250 meters! (Moorea, Fr. Polynesia)|
|Blacktail Snappers are pale silvery white to yellow with black tails, and distinctive yellow pectoral, ventral and anal fins. They are found in many habitats, from lagoons to outer reef, in 1 to 75 m. (Society Islands, Fr. Polynesia)|
|The Humpback Snapper (left, above) has a higher arching nape and back, giving it a more sloping head than the blacktail snapper. It is also more reddish in the body, with orange around the pectoral fin and yellow tail lobes. Here, it swims with a bluestripe snapper (we balanced the color a bit too far towards red, giving the blue stripes a pink tinge). (Fr. Polynesia)|
|Sweetlips are closely related to the snappers but are smaller, with less prominent mouths. They are sometimes called grunts because of the sound they make -- rubbing two plates together in the jaw. Here, the Diagonal Banded Sweetlips cruises above the reef, adding an unmistakable flash of color with its bright yellow fins and tail, and bold diagonal stripes. We saw these fairly often on the reefs of New Caledonia. (New Caledonia)|
Coral breams (aka Sea Breams or Emperors) family Lethrinidae have a shape similar to the snappers, but their mouths are smaller, not extending past the eyes. Most are solitary and tend to hang out just above the sand waiting for prey. Despite the grandiose name of "Emperor" the fish are far less dramatic than other reef fish. Of interest, though is that they can change color within seconds from a sandy-gray base to mottled pattern.
This was taken in Vava'u, Tonga, on a September dive. Sometimes it's hard to identify a fish from a photo - the colors vary so much depending on the source of light, the depth, and the reflection on scales. But Michael Brogan of the University of Washington, a former ichthyologist in the Gulf of California with a broad familiarity with Indo-West Pacific reef fishes wrote to say:
"It looks to me like your mystery fish is a fine Monotaxis grandoculus or the Big-eye Emperor. This is a member of the family Lethrinidae, a close relative of the snappers (Lutjanidae). You've probably seen many other kinds of Lethrinids on your wonderful travels (there are about 40 species), but most the other species aren't as deep-bodied, they have more pointed snouts, and smaller eyes. A few are more colorful. The Big-eye Emperor (or 'Mu' as they call them in Hawaii) has a unique look among the family members. Emperors are also known as Sea Breams."
The Big-Eye Emperor, Monotaxis grandoculus is known in our ID book as the Humpnose Bigeye Bream and we didn't recognize it. We appreciate Dr. Brogan's input! To show some of the various colors this fish can take we've included the adult (above) and the sub-adult.
|The Humpnose Bigeye Bream Monotaxis grandoculus (sub-adult) is a well-camouflaged fish swimming over sand banks and between coral heads. As the fish matures it will lose its first and last bar. These fish are solitary or in small groups in most coral habitats to 100 m. (Fr. Polynesia)|
|Striped Large-Eye Breams (aka Gold-Striped Emperor in the Indian Ocean) are easily identified by their bright yellow blotch at the end of the dorsal fin, and the yellow blotches on the pectoral fins. They can be solitary, but we often saw them in large school on the reefs of Moorea. (Society Islands, Fr. Polynesia)|
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