Do you remember the first time you snorkeled or dived in warm tropical waters? I certainly do! What struck me the most was the vibrantly colored reef fish, with their eye-catching stripes, polka dots and patterns. Blue tangs, striped grunts and vibrant parrotfish schooled around me as I swam in total amazement. I was hooked for life!
Over the years, I honed my fish ID skills by pouring over fish charts and the Humann & DeLoach Reef Fish ID books (required reading, IMO). And as an underwater photographer, I frequently reference the Fish ID books when I’m unsure of a species that I’ve photographed. One aspect of fish ID that I’ve consistently found fascinating is the dramatic change in appearance of certain reef fish as they undergo the maturation process.
Here are a few examples of common reef fish in their juvenile versus adult phases.
Parrotfish and wrasse have a unique classification of life phases. The adult phase is referred to as the initial phase. There is then an additional phase composed only of sexually mature males called the terminal phase.
What other reef fish display dramatic differences in appearance from phase to phase? Extra points for links to your photos!