Hey, the Grateful Dead called. They want their psychedelic fish back.
Its flamboyant colouration is the primary reason why Drew M., an interpreter at the Aquarium, chose the picturesque dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus) for May’s Staff Pick of the Month.
“The first thing that surprised me about this animal was its pigmentation. The blues, oranges and greens on its body were like nothing I had seen on another animal at the Aquarium.”
Drew says that whenever he’s in the Tropic Zone gallery, he likes to keep an eye out for this small fish (it’s roughly the length of your finger). He says trying to spot it is like playing Where’s Waldo? because it takes some mad scanning of the exhibit to search it out.
It seems counterintuitive, but the colours and psychedelic patterns on this fish actually help it hide (which may be one of the reasons why Drew has to work so hard to spot it). Those colours and patterns break up the outline of the fish, and can make it hard to see in a colourful, busy coral reef. This is called disruptive colouration.
Picturesque dragonets are found in the reefs of the Indo-West Pacific: the Philippines, eastern Indonesia and northwestern Australia. At the Aquarium, there are two currently on display: one in the bright corals exhibit, and another in the banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) exhibit.
Aside from the way it looks, Drew also appreciates the way it moves, saying it tends to hover as it moves among the corals.
“Its fins flutter in the current like a hummingbird’s wings.”
Drew, he’s such a poet.
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.