Saturday, April 8, 2017

Atlantic Tarpon (fish)

While looking at green sea turtles in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, we saw a school of fish swimming around them. I've been trying to identify them and have tentatively decided they are tarpon, although I do not have any certainty in that identification. 

The tarpon has a bluish or greenish back and has shiny silvery scales that cover most of its body. They have large eyes with adipose (transparent) eyelids. They have broad mouths with prominent lower jaws that jut out farther than the rest of this face (it is this last characteristic which is hardest to identify in my pictures).  
Tarpon swimming around a green sea turtle. 
It is found along the western Atlantic coast from Virginia to Brazil, throughout the Caribbean, along the Gulf Coast and along the eastern Atlantic coast from Senegal to Angola. 
They are able to go between fresh and saltwater. The young are usually found in the ocean, near the surface. As they grow they inhabit salt marshes, tidal pools, creeks and rivers. As adults, they usually return to the ocean, although some stay in fresh water. 

They have a unique swim bladder that helps them breathe. The respiratory surface is coated with blood capillaries with a thin epithelium over the top. They must surface for air and will die if they cannot. 
They follow baitfish schools and feed on week or dying fish. I believe they were following the sea turtle to feed on the errant fish fish pieces that were being fed to the turtle to attract it. 

They are bony and their meat is not desirable. But they can get up to 8 feet in length and are fighters when caught on a fishing line, so they are considered a great game fish. 

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