Pretty or Purposeful? Coloration in Reef Fishes (Draft 1)

This stingray seems to be flying at Molasses Reef, Key Largo, Florida.

This discussion topic submitted by Corey Ullman ( at 10:49 PM on 3/30/02. Additions were last made on Friday, May 10, 2002.

Often the fist thing one notices when visiting the world of the coral reef is the amazing variety of colors and patterns of the fish that live there. The question is, why all the variation? What advantages do the various combination bring to their owners? I hope to address these and other questions relative to fish coloration in a unit for my biology I students. This unit could fit one of two places in the curriculum. It could easily be used as a component of either the evolution unit or an ecology unit.

A. Counter Shading
Which fish are counter shaded (dark on top and light on the bottom) and why?
B. Solids vs. Patterns
Is there an advantage for some to be solid colors while others are striped
or spotted?
C. Eye Spots
What are the theories behind eye spots and the advantages they give to
their owners?
D. Warning Coloration
Some fish want to be seen--how do they send their warning messages?
E. Camouflage
Other fish blend so well they are lost to their predators--how do they
match textures and colors?
F. Color Changers
How do these color magicians instantly change their colors?

A list of references will be completed and posted shortly.

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