Thursday, August 14, 2008

Garibaldi: free from harassment, free to harass

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Order: Perciformes (perch-like)

Family: Pomacentridae (Damselfishes)

This is the garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus), one of the few damselfishes which are found in central Californian waters. It ranges from Monterey to southern Baja. It can be easily distinguished from the other damselfishes by its bright orange color. The garibaldi is the Californian marine state fish, and as such it is a protected species. It is illegal to capture these guys, so they are generally free from human harassment.

On the other hand, this fish is reputed to be rather territorial, willing to chase away any other fish (including other garibaldis) from its area, except during the breeding season. The males make and maintain a nest filled with red algae, and the females visit the nests sites to evaluate which are the best. Females will lay their eggs in the nest of their choice, and the males will take care of them until they hatch. When the young garibaldi settle out of the plankton, they posses bright blue spots. Reportedly, these spots help to protect them from harassment from the adult garibaldis (Love, 1996).


Sam W. Heads said...

Wow... that's a very orange fish!

Eric Heupel said...

I understand they have actually been known to "attack" divers when guarding a nest.

A number of damsel species males in Belize charge me as I observed them in their algal gardens and algae covered conch shell nests. They are fun to observe (looking at guarding behavior)

Brine Queen said...

I've heard that too, and I don't doubt it during mating season. But I've got pictures of a whole bunch of them hanging out, and they didn't seem too interested in attacking each other or me.