~ Barracuda ~

Barracuda are long, slender, and predaceous marine fish. They have small scales, a large mouth with fanglike teeth, and a protruding lower jaw. The tail fin is forked, and the two dorsal fins are widely separated. There are 18 different species of barracuda. Barracudas make up the family Sphyraenidae and are classified in the genus Sphyraena.

This fish is found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. Smaller species swim in schools, but larger species are solitary and very territorial. The northern sennet, which ranges from Bermuda to the Gulf of Mexico, averages about 18 inches long. The great barracuda, found on both sides of the Atlantic in tropical waters and in the western Pacific, can be as large as 6 feet long. The California barracuda, which is valued as a food fish, winters off Mexico. But when spawning season begins the fish moves north into more temperate waters, where the larvae feed on plankton. Barracuda attacks on humans are rare, but because of their menacing appearance they are feared by swimmers in some places.

The larger, solitary species of barracuda tend to be very curious of swimmers, divers and snorkelers. While snorkeling in the Virgin Islands the creator of SharkFriends had first hand experience with a couple of very large and very curious barracuda near a small island outcrop....

Her story: "While swimming around the end of the island I had the feeling I was being followed. I turned slowly in the water and found myself not more than 2 feet away from a very large barracuda. I would estimate that he was about 4 to 5 feet in length. As I looked at him, all he did was hover in his position and look back at me. As soon as I treaded forward a bit, he followed. When I stopped moving forward so did the barracuda. At a specific point he stopped following and disappeared and I found myself meeting up with yet another barracuda who was just slightly smaller than the previous fish. I realized that at the point where the last fish broke off his swim behind me and where the new barracuda began his pursuit was the line where their two territories met. It was amazing to note how precise these fish were about staying within their own boundaries. As I snorkeled in different locations I attempted to note the behavior of the barracuda to see if they reacted in the same way as the first two I had encountered. Each and every time I found barracuda I could tell where each fishes territory started and ended and how each fish respected the boundaries of the next barracuda's territory. The first barracudas I encountered were intimidating to say the least, especially when seeing their teeth up close and personal. After studying them first hand, I realized that they are more curious than they are aggressive. As long as I made no sudden moves towards them, or threatened them, they showed no aggressive behavior towards me. It was a great learning experience!" (Note: Unless you are an experienced diver or trained biologist do not try this yourself.)

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