Category: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS May 2011

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gasterosteiformes (sea horsespipefishes)
Family: Syngnathidae  (seahorses, the pipefishes, the pipehorses, and the leafyruby, and weedy seadragons all have fused jaws)

Genus/species: Hippocampus ingens

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Their color is variable and can change their body color, depending on the environment. Body colors include maroon, yellow, and muddled brownish-green. adults have thin close set scrubby lines along the head and body.
The tail prehensile and flexible and able to coil around seagrass and other objects.

Length up to 12 inches long.

DISTRIBUTION:HABITAT: Southern California to Peru including the Galapagos Islands. Found on temperate reefs clinging to sponges, branching coral, sea-whips and inhabits weed beds, usually at depths of 1—20 m (3.28-65 ft).

DIET IN THE WILD: Small shrimp, mysids and other plankton. Seahorses lack teeth and jaws instead suck prey through their tube-like snouts.

REPRODUCTION: H. ingens males and females perform a mating “dance” by bobbing up and down together lasting for three days. Finally, a male will display his empty breeding pouch, which the female will fill with eggs using her ovipositor. Males carry fertilized eggs in a brood pouch for 2-3 weeks up and then releases up to 1000 hatched individuals.

LIFESPAN: Estimated range is 3-5 years. The Pacific Seahorse’s camouflage abilities are its best defense to avoiding predation.

PREDATORS: Pacific Seahorses are also known to be associated with flotsam as it has been collected at the surface and from the stomachs of the Pacific Yellowfin Tuna and Bluefin Tuna.

Declines result from targeted catch, incidental capture, and habitat degradation from coastal development. Once caught, H. ingens are used throughout Latin America for curios, occasionally in traditional medicine, and in the live aquarium trade. The vast majority are exported internationally for use in traditional medicine.

REMARKS: Academy individuals were captive raised in the Cabrillo Aquarium, Cabrillo, CA.


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California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Water Planet 2017

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Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Pomacanthidae (Angelfishes)

Genus/species: Holacanthus passer

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Bodies of both males and females are a dark blue with a vertical band of white behind the pectoral fins, and yellow tails. The pelvic fins of the male are white while the females are yellow. Juveniles are primarily yellow with iridescent blue edged fins, blue stripes toward the posterior of the body with orange around the eyes. Rays of the dorsal and anal fins taper down and end in long filaments. Max size: 30–35 cm (12-14 inches).  Like all angelfish, have a blunt snout and a large strong spike at the anterior most bone of the operculum.

Photo below take 2011 Galapagos Islands

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropical reefs of the eastern Pacific from the coast of Peru north to the Gulf of California and as far west as the Galápagos  Islands.  Commonly found around shallow rocky and coral reefs at depths of 3 to 27 m( 10 to 89 feet). 

DIET IN THE WILD: Sponges, tunicates, sessile invertebrates, zooplankton and graze on benthic micro algae. Feed during the day, are lethargic at night.

California Academy of Sciences specimens below.

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Pentaceraster cumingi  (Oreasteridae)  

DISTRIBUTION: Mexico along the Pacific side of Baja California south of Magdalena Bay, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the Mexican mainland south to Guatemala and the Galápagos Islands. 

HABITAT:  found over sandy bottoms to 500 feet.

APPEARANCE: red, orange to blue green body with wide red spines reaching a maximum of just over 1 foot in size.

DIET: Micro-fauna in the substrate, benthic algae, and other echinoderms.  

Mouth and tube feet on ventral surface (photo below).


Cirrhitichthys falco (Cirrhitidae) Hawkfishes 

DISTRIBUTION: Western Pacific, from the Philippines to Japan, Samoa, the Barrier Reef, and New Caledonia; as far east as Hawaii and the Galapagos.

HABITAT: Shallow coastal to outer reef flats. Typically 
rest at the bases of coral heads, perched high enough to see prey and predators.

APPEARANCE: Small, up to 2.5 inches (6 cm). The body is white with red-brown spots that run diagonally along the body. They have small tufts of bright yellow on the tips of their dorsal fin ray.

DIET: Feed meaty foods including marine fish, crustacean flesh, Mysid Shrimp and frozen preparations daily.



Gymnomuraena zebra (Muraenidae) Morays

DISTRIBUTION: Indo-Pacific including the Galápagos Islands. Habitat: Sandy and rocky-bottomed substrates. In reef crevices and beneath ledges of exposed seaward reef flats and seaward slopes from 2–40 m.

DIET: Primarily crabs. Also preys on other crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins. This species’ close-set, pebble-like teeth are used to crush its hard-shelled prey.

APPEARANCE: Length to 1.5 m. Easily recognized by its zebra striping; usually dark brown to black with numerous narrow white bars encircling head, body and fins.  Snout very blunt.

DIET: Primarily crabs.  Also preys on other crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins. This species’ close-set, pebble-like teeth are used to crush its hard-shelled prey.     



Thalassoma lucasanum (Labridae)  Wrasses  

DISTRIBUTION: Tropical marine waters from the central Gulf of California to the Galapagos Islands.

HABITAT: Shallow reefs at depths of about 48 m as well as near-bottom substrate.

APPEARANCE: Distinctive yellow and red lateral stripes with the less common larger males displaying a blue head with a broad yellow vertical stripe behind the head. It has a cigar-shaped with a pointed snout, thick lips, a protractile mouth and protruding canine teeth. Max. length: 15 cm. Diet: carnivore.

Galapagos Exhibit


Chaetodon kleinii (Chaetodontidae) Butterflyfishes

Distribution: Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa (south to Coffee Bay, South Africa, to the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to New South Wales, Australia and New Caledonia. Eastern Pacific: Galapagos Islands

Habitat: Deeper lagoons, channels and seaward reefs.  Solitary or  occasionally in groups.

APPEARANCE: Compressed body. White band on caudal peduncle. Adult posterior body brown to yellow. Head white, eye transversed with a black vertical stripe. Colors highly variable among populations.

DIET: Primarily corals (esp. Sarcophyton spp.), also algae and zooplankton.

Reproduction and Development: Form pairs during breeding Oviparous and nonguarders.

Location: Galápagos Exhibit    Wordpress Shortlink

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Zanclidae (Moorish idol)

Genus/species: Zanclus cornutus

DISTRIBUTION:  Indo-pan-Pacific. Southern Gulf of California south to Peru including the Galápagos Islands.

HABITAT: Hard substrates from turbid inner harbors and reef flats to clear seaward reefs as deep as 182 m. Usually in small groups of conspecifics, occasionally in schools of more than 100.

APPEARANCE: Length to 23 cm. Discoid body, tubular snout, dorsal spines elongated into a very long white whip-like filament. Z. cornutus has a broad vertical white, black, white-yellow black, yellow banding. Tail black with white margin

DIET: Primarily sponges. Also consumes tunicates and algae.

REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT:  It has a long larval phase and settles at a large size (6 cm), resulting in its very wide geographic distribution.

REMARKS: Z. cornutus was the icon of the Golden Gate Park Steinhart Aquarium. Gill, the leader of the tank fish in Finding Nemo, with the voice of Willem Dafoe, is a Moorish Idol.

Photos taken at the California Academy of sciences.


Bodianus diplotaenia  Labridae (Wrasses)  

DISTRIBUTION:  Range includes Isla Guadalupe and the Gulf of California to Chile including the Galápagos Islands. 

HABITAT: Common around shallow reefs but have been recorded to depths of at least 76 m. (250 ft.). 

APPEARANCE: Females are usually reddish in color and tinged with yellow with two dark stripes.  Dominant males are identified by the fleshy lumps on their heads, their coloration is grayish tinged with red and with a yellow bar near the mid section. The tips of all fins except the pectoral are long and filamentous. Adults from deep water (76m/250 feet) are bright red with the yellow mid-body bar. At .8 m (2.5 feet) and 9 kg (20 lb.)  the Mexican hogfish is the largest shallow water wrasse in the Gulf of California.   

REPRODUCTION: Starts life as a female, later becoming a functional male.  Sex change may be due to local social conditions, but it may also have a genetic component.

REMARKS: Like other wrasses, B. diplotaenia is diurnal and inactive during the night.  At night it sleeps in cracks and crevices of rocks and caves. 

Location: Galápagos Islands  8/22/11


Scarus ghobban, family Scaridae (Parrotfish)

DISTRIBUTION: Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and Algoa Bay, South Africa to Rapa and Ducie islands, north to southern Japan, south to Perth, New South Wales. Eastern Pacific: Gulf of California to Ecuador and Galápagos Islands.

HABITAT: Adults inhabit lagoon and seaward reefs in slopes and drop-offs, often solitary but may sometimes occur in small groups.

APPEARANCE; The teeth of Parrotfish are fused together to form beak-like plates in both jaws, hence the name Parrotfish. They have a single uninterrupted dorsal fin and large cycloid scales. S. ghobban Is dimorphic.  The females are bright orange with five blue vertical stripes from head to tail. The males are teal with tinges of orange/pink and purple lines radiating behind the head. S. ghobban’s  common length is 30.0 cm.

Female (below)

DIET: Scrapes and eats algae from rocks.  Not displayed at the California Academy of sciences because it is known to feed on Pavona and Porites corrals..

REMARKS: Maximum reported age: 13 years.

Female Scarus ghobban  top,  female Mexican Hogfish (Bodianus diplotaenia) bottom.

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